Maestro Gerardo Edelstein helps WSO continue to grow

PHOTO PROVIDED Maestro Gerardo Edelstein, shown above, is heading into his ninth season with the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra

When he first took over as music director and conductor of the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra back in 2010, Maestro Gerardo Edelstein inherited the organization during a low point in its history, when it was facing a period of artistic stagnation. Now, heading into his ninth season with the WSO, the innovative and charismatic conductor has helped the orchestra rebrand itself as one of the premier musical organizations in the county.

“With the help of an excellent staff, a wonderfully-supportive board and an incredibly-talented group of musicians, we started rebuilding what I call the ‘gem of Williamsport,’ “ Edelstein said, noting how proud he is of the orchestra’s accomplishments.

Along with increasing the size of the orchestra’s string section and covering the principal sections with outstanding musicians, which allow the WSO to perform the larger standard orchestral repertoire at a higher level, Edelstein has also been able to draw in national and international soloists to collaborate with WSO. These are all things that haven’t gone unnoticed by local symphony fans.

“Our audiences continue praising our programming and we had record attendance in many of our concerts,” he added. “It is my goal to invest the next (several) years in audience development, more collaborations with different arts organizations and to continue improving the overall artistic level of the orchestra.”

As one of the most accomplished musicians in the area — if not the entire state — it should come as no surprise Edelstein has been able to help the WSO grow in the ways that it has. It would be a drastic understatement to say he has some experience working with big music ensembles.

A native of Argentina, Edelstein has conducted symphonic music, opera and choral works all over the world. Not only is he the former principal conductor of the Jerusalem Oratorio Choir and Orchestra in Israel, he has also guest conducted with many other organizations, including: the Israel Sinfonietta and Israel Kibbutz Orchestra, the Czech Republic’s Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, the Kharkov Philharmonic in Ukraine, Agrentina’s Tucuman Symphony Orchestra and Choir, the Houston Chamber Orchestra, Houston Ballet, San Antonio Metropolitan Ballet and the Pennsylvania Chamber Chorale and Orchestra. He also previously worked with the Richmond Symphony in Virginia, serving as assistant conductor, associate conductor and music advisor.

Currently, Edelstein serves as director of orchestral studies at Penn State University and is the conductor of Penn State’s Philharmonic and Chamber orchestras. He is also director of the Music at Penn’s Woods Summer Orchestra Festival.

Though being involved with so many musical endeavors presents plenty of challenges, Edelstein wouldn’t trade his busy schedule for anything.

“It is always difficult for a musician to juggle the many different jobs they are involved with,” he said. “Our profession is different from others because we are involved with music pretty much 24 hours (a day), and when we are not performing we are teaching or we are practicing or dreaming about the next concert.

“I find my jobs very enjoyable and rewarding to the point that I don’t relate to them as ‘work,'” he added.

Like many who hold his position, American-born conductor Leonard Bernstein is one of the biggest influences for Edelstein, who says that seeing Bernstein rehearse and perform live is one of the biggest highlights of his musical career. He also credits the amazing teachers he has had in his life for helping him achieve the level of success he has had.

“I have been blessed to study with amazing teachers in four countries, and I am very grateful for what they taught me,” said Edelstein. “I got to work with very inspiring conductors who also influenced my choice to become a conductor.”

Edelstein believes that being the conductor of an orchestra means much more than just possessing musical integrity and striving for a higher artistic level.

“(A conductor) needs to be integrated in the community, interacting with and educating the audience, and listening to what people have to say,” he said. “I have been working on all of these aspects for the past eight years and I know there is still more work to do.”

Though he isn’t sure exactly how much longer he would like to stay in his role as conductor, Edelstein did say he would like to retain the position for as long as he thinks he can make positive contributions to the WSO.

“It is a joy working with (members of the orchestra),” he said. “The majority come from very different places, ages and backgrounds, and I am always amazed at what they can do in very limited rehearsal time.

“I feel fortunate to share the stage with the WSO musicians and making music with them is the highlight of my day,” added Edelstein.

He also loves performing for the orchestra’s dedicated base of local fans, who he said stack up great against all the other audiences he has played for around the world.

“They are terrific,” said Edelstein. “We are very lucky to have such a supportive audience here in Williamsport. I love to interact with them after the concerts or when I am stopped at the grocery store or in a coffee shop and get a compliment about how well the orchestra is doing.”