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Lycoming professor named new WSYO conductor

August 26, 2012
By MATTHEW PARRISH ( , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Lycoming College Assistant Professor of Music William Ciabattari is involved in the local music scene in many ways - he's a tuba player for the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra, a bass trombonist for the recently formed Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra, and band director of the concert band and the jazz ensemble at Lycoming College.

Now, he can add conductor of the Williamsport Symphony Youth Orchestra to that list.

Ciabattari was recently named the director of the band, which features middle school and high school students from the area and operates under the umbrella of the WSO.

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The musician-conductor said that he's thrilled to take on his new role.

"I'm excited for two reasons: I love orchestral music and I enjoy working with young people," he said. "It's the opportunity to make music with students, to help them imagine themselves on a higher level and then to help them achieve it."

He should feel right at home with the group, considering that he's worked with several of the students in the past.

"I've interacted with them from time to time," he said. "I know some of the winds more than the string players. I know a small number of students from other things ... by and large, the response from the students has been very positive."

Ciabattari said that while he does have a lot of ideas for how he wants to lead the WSYO, he respects the work of his predecessors too much to come in talking about making big changes.

"I don't want to indict my colleagues - all of them before me are good musicians and I respect them," he said. "But I will say that the vision I bring is similar to the one I have at Lyco and the vision that I have in our collaboration with the WCJO and the WSO. Everything I'm involved with in this community centers around making a positive impact in the community - not just creating a musical experience but having a meaningful community impact, making the lives of the people in the community better."

One new idea he has is to organize a collaboration with a local ballet school.

"I envision the possibility of collaborating with dance instructors and other musical groups in the area," he said. "I'm open to a lot of possibilities to connect the Youth Orchestra to other things going on in the community."

Last year, the WSYO collaborated with the Uptown Music Collective to present orchestral rock concerts and Ciabattari said that while the UMC-WSYO performance probably won't happen again this year, he's excited about offering more diverse shows.

"Every audience doesn't have only one flavor of ice cream they like," he said. "By throwing a lot of different styles out there, it spreads our tentacles a little further - it reaches out to the audience."

Ciabattari also wants to reach out to the community in a different way - by inviting more students to be part of the orchestra.

"It's open for auditions for all the instruments," he said. "I have at least 25 that have already contacted me to set up auditions. I'm hoping we get another 30 or 40 fresh new people who have never done it before. That's the unpredictable part of it. I have no idea who's going to express an interest."

Auditions will be held Sept. 16 and 23.

Interested musicians or parents should email for more information.

The first concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 in Clarke Chapel, Lycoming College.

The first program the students will perform, the fall concert, will feature two movements from Beethoven's sixth symphony, "Rites of Tamburo" by Robert W. Smith, George Gershwin's "An American in Paris Suite," a song by Pietro Mascagni and a piece by Duke Ellington.

"It will be a mix of a really serious, core classical repertoire with a contemporary piece that was written in the last five years," Ciabattari said. " 'The American in Paris Suite' will be the Reader's Digest version. The full piece is really hard - it's more than we'd want to tackle. The abbreviated version's a pretty good one."

He said that the spring show is still being worked out.

"I need to see what we have going before I start dropping names of pieces for next semester," he said. "I want to establish a relationship with the students."

When asked about how he's going to balance his new position as conductor of the WSYO with everything else he's involved in - teaching, performing, directing - Ciabattari said, "I don't know yet.

"When it comes to making music itself, I don't have to do immense preparation for how music should be made," he said. "The extra preparation is simply learning the new pieces."

He also said that every group he's involved in is part of one exciting arts community.

"All the groups are great components to a vibrant community, a sophisticated community - the food, the restaurants, the culture. But it needs support to survive and everyone's always worried about where the money's going to come from. I wish someone would get inspired not from fiscal motivations but from artistic ones. Money crushes everyone's spirits. If you abandon the arts when the financial outlook isn't good, that's like saying that you only love your spouse if your circumstances are good. You have to love it, so then you can weather the bad time. Do we really love the arts? We need to proclaim the marriage to the arts and its value and just go for it. And stop being pessimistic. I wish I had all my time to devote to getting people excited about the arts."



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