Robert Vodnoy, Conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of Sarasota, Joins the Club

Robert Vodnoy, Conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of Sarasota, Joins the Club

Robert Vodnoy brings almost 50 years of conducting experience to the Chamber Orchestra of Sarasota, which he founded in 2017.
They have grown from one concert a season to five, and Bob joins the club this week to tell us about the inception, growth, and planned upcoming season of his chamber orchestra, which begins on Thursday, December 1.
You might also be able to answer the question, "Just what in the world IS a 'chamber orchestra!?'"
All that and more on this episode of the Suncoast Culture Club Podcast. Come along and join the club!

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Robyn Bell: I am pleased to welcome to the podcast today, a fellow conductor who has over 40 years of experience, which we will hear all about, and who in 2017 founded the Sarasota Chamber Orchestra, one of the few professional chamber orchestras in the state of Florida. So Robert Vodnoy, welcome to the club.

Robert Vodnoy: Well, thank you. It's nice to be here, Robyn. 

Robyn Bell: Now Robert, my dad's name is Robert, but he goes by Bob. Is that the same for you? 

Robert Vodnoy: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Bobby, 

Robert Vodnoy: only when I was little. Yeah. . 

Robyn Bell: Yes. Same for him. He hates to be called that now. So you've been at this conducting thing for 40 years? But as I tell people in America, Like major in conducting as an undergraduate student. So you had to start some other place as a musician. Tell us about the young lad, Bobby, and how you got into this whole stick waving business, like from the start. 

Robert Vodnoy: Sure. So actually 2024, so only two years from now we'll actually be my 50th season. I made my professional debut in 1975. It was an audition concert. The Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra. 

Robyn Bell: Were you a musician of any point at that? Were you a piano player? Violinist? What? How did you get, How did you start?

Robert Vodnoy: I went to the Interlock and Arts Academy in high school. Which was a high school arts boarding school. It's where the national music camp is near Traverse City, Michigan. 

Robyn Bell: Yes, I know of it well. Yeah. So what did you play? 

Robert Vodnoy: I was violinist. 

Robyn Bell: And So you started violin though? Like elementary school, middle school,

Robert Vodnoy: Like I went about six. 

Robyn Bell: And did your parents say, Bobby, you're gonna play violin? Or did you like, I wanna learn to play the violin.

Robert Vodnoy: I started on piano. Okay. My mother was a piano teacher. 

Robyn Bell: There you go. 

Robert Vodnoy: And I started with my mom and see, I, I actually don't have a childhood memory of this, but Oh, what I believe the story is that my grandmother. Had turned their largest house into a, a house and a boarding rooms upstairs. And she had a border who was a violinist in the South Bend Symphony, and she offered him, Low rent if he would give her grandson violin lessons. 

Robyn Bell: That being you? 

Robert Vodnoy: That being me? I actually can remember climbing up the outside stairs to the second story of the scary old house with my little violin, maybe five or six years old.

Robyn Bell: And so we're talking about Indiana and then you mentioned interlock in Michigan. Mm-hmm. . So you're a good Midwesterner? 

Robert Vodnoy: Correct. Actually I was born in South Bend. and went to school first at Inter Locken, and then I went to the North Carolina School of the Arts. Which I'm actually a I was a student there the year it opened, so I was there when Victoria, Janine. Was there.

Robyn Bell: So you are an inaugural student?

Robert Vodnoy: I am an inaugural student. And so, Even at interlock and when I was still in high school, I was already conducting. 

Robyn Bell: Okay, but you were primarily a violinist first?

Robert Vodnoy: You know, I never wanted to be anything but a conductor. 

Robyn Bell: Really? 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. I just always wanted to be a conductor.

Robyn Bell: Do you remember your first experience where you saw someone conduct, you go, Mm, that's what I wanna do.

Robert Vodnoy: I sure do. About, probably about my third violin teacher was Edwin Hayes. Edwin Hayes was a concert violinist from Australia. He came on tour. And so we're talking in the twenties. And became a violent teacher there. Married the boss's daughter. Okay. , and eventually inherited the South Ben Symphony as its conductor, and he conducted it for many, many years. So I remember going to, well to lessons with my teacher, Edwin Haes, and to go see him conduct, and we're talking about concerts with. Nathan Mil Stein, and I mean, Ben Claron, some really great people. Yeah. That's in the fifties. And so I guess it just seemed natural to me. He was a violinist and he was a conductor and he was short. And I'm short. Okay. , 

Robyn Bell: you're not so short . 

Robert Vodnoy: He was shorter than me. He was so small for your violin and people who were listening that he played a seven eights gorier violin.

Robyn Bell: Wow. He couldn't play a full size. 

Robert Vodnoy: he was too little. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. So you're in North Carolina, the School of the Arts. Arts and, and then what? Where'd you go next? 

Robert Vodnoy: Then I went to the University of Hartford Hart College of Music. And I'm still, not a conducting major. By the time I finished at Hart, I finished a bachelor's and Master's in composition. . 

Robyn Bell: Okay, so you're a composer. 

Robert Vodnoy: Mm-hmm. Well, I'm someone who writes music. Yeah. Yeah. I'm a composer, 

Robyn Bell: so I say I'm a Decomposer. . 

Robert Vodnoy: But When I went to the North Carolina School of the Arts, we had a summer program in Italy. At the La Damia Kija. So I went two summers and I studied with a fabulous conductor named a Piro Belu.

Robyn Bell: And this would've been, you would've been like high school age 17, 18? 

Robert Vodnoy: No, no. By the time I got to Italy, I would've been a freshman in college. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. Freshman in college. 

Robert Vodnoy: Right.

Robyn Bell: Got it. 

Robert Vodnoy: And, and so, The first year I was in Italy studying with Piro. I conducted the Mozart 29 and the next year I conducted the Bram second symphony. And it was a fantastic orchestra. I mean, you had kids from Juilliard and it, we would, we could play anything. 

Robyn Bell: It makes your job as a conductor very easy. 

Robert Vodnoy: It makes it actually very scary. when your concert master is somebody named Ron Wild Techo, who eventually becomes a concert master. Of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. 

Robyn Bell: You better know your stuff up there. 

Robert Vodnoy: You it on the podium and you're like, Oh, these people know so much more than I do. Yeah. Yeah, so, so from the School of the Arts, I went to Hart College or I also took conducting lessons and paring off was leading a reading session and it was only two of us in the conducting class. My friend and I, we went to him and said, Listen, you get to conduct all the time and we never get the orchestra. So he said, Well, there's two pieces scheduled. One of them is Brom's fourth, and my friend was faster than me. Oh, 

Robyn Bell: I'll do it. I'll do it. 

Robert Vodnoy: He said, I always know Brom fourth . So he said, Okay, you got it. And he looked at me and said, I know this is difficult, but the other piece is Mueller first. He said, You don't probably don't know mall. I said, Oh, on, on the contrary, I know Muller first very well. I played it under Thor Johnson at Inter Locken. I played it in Italy under pure Baluchi. I was always the offstage conductor for the trumpets. So, 

Robyn Bell: Well, that's perfect for you.

Robert Vodnoy: I'm ready. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Robert Vodnoy: And he, scoffed and he said, Okay, you can start. But when it falls apart, I'll take over. It never fell apart. 

Robyn Bell: Good for you. 

Robert Vodnoy: It never fell apart. Although at the end he finally pushed me off the podium cuz he wanted to conduct the big corral at the end. 

Robyn Bell: Conductor ego, I will do the one with the corral 

Robert Vodnoy: I got. So he called me into his office and he said There's restarting the Monta School in Maine. Mm-hmm. and I have a, 

Robyn Bell: The Piermont, 

Robert Vodnoy: the Piermont School. Yes. Monta had died a few years before that. They're reopening it and I have a benefactor here in Hartford who will pay a full scholarship to a student from Hart I'm giving it to you. 

Robyn Bell: Nice. 

Robert Vodnoy: You can go for as long as you want. So I went to the won Do school for four. And that brings us up to 1972. In 1972 I went to Indiana University. And I mean, when I was there, there were five orchestras. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. Wow. 

Robert Vodnoy: As conductors, we had our own orchestra. 

Robyn Bell: But that kind of brings you full circle back to Indiana. Right,

Robert Vodnoy: right. So I am a born again Hoosier. Yeah. . So I was at IU for three years got almost all the doctorate finished, and then I started auditioning and I got hired in 1975.

Robyn Bell: And that was your first paid conducting gig? 

Robert Vodnoy: Correct. 

Robyn Bell: Where, where was that? 

Robert Vodnoy: That was the southwest, Michigan Symphony in St. Joe. Mm-hmm. in Benton Harbor, Michigan. And then for the next 20 years, I also conducted the Northwest Indiana Symphony. . And then in 2005, I retired from that orchestra in Michigan and became the orchestra director at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where I stayed for 13 years and retired as a tenured full professor. And while I was in South Dakota, I had another orchestra, a community orchestra out there. And in 2000 I started. Summer festival orchestra in Indiana called the Whiting Park Festival Orchestra, which I still have. 

Robyn Bell: Nice. So you spend your summers there doing that festival orchestra,

Robert Vodnoy: correct? Correct. I have the, I have the perfect life. I have a winter season in Florida and a summer season in Indiana.

Robyn Bell: Nice. And so when did you locate to Venice? 

Robert Vodnoy: My wife retired a little ahead of me. So 

Robyn Bell: also a musician? 

Robert Vodnoy: No. 

Robyn Bell: No. Okay.

Robert Vodnoy: My wife is a retired French and Spanish teacher. So she retired and so she was down here for part of the season in my last year at Northern so I came every vacation. I came to Florida and then I retired and so we, we were renters for a year in Venice and we found a condo in 2019 and so 

Robyn Bell: living the good life.

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah, it is, It's, it, 

Robyn Bell: it's,

Robert Vodnoy: it's wonderful. 

Robyn Bell: And a beautiful day here today. I mean, just, it's November 1st when we're recording this and it is just gorgeous. 

Robert Vodnoy: It is. And when you think about the fact that when I was in South Dakota Mm. When I woke up at, let's say 6 30, 7 o'clock in the morning, cuz I wanted to get ready for the lectures that were coming for the day. The temperature would be maybe minus 25. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, thank you. . You can keep that. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: You've earned it, Bob. 

Robert Vodnoy: Thank you. 

Robyn Bell: You have earned it. So then here comes along 2017. And here comes the founding of the Chamber Orchestra Of Sarasota.

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Tell me how that came into your head and, and how it was given birth. 

Robert Vodnoy: So in 20, 16. My wife was already down here just, just for a few months. So I came down. And when I was here, my sister is Lauri Vodnoy Wright. I know you know Laurie. 

Robyn Bell: Yes. I do know Laurie. 

Robert Vodnoy: And Lauriei said you know, you should found a chamber orchestra here. 

Robyn Bell: So it was her idea. 

Robert Vodnoy: Absolutely. And my first reaction, and as a conductor, you will know that my first gut reaction is, do you have any idea how much work that is? and I at that time, 

Robyn Bell: Laurie, just be quiet.

Robert Vodnoy: No. Yeah. And, and you have to, I mean, I was a full-time professor in South Dakota, and I had an orchestra in Indiana. So I said, Why do you think I need three orchestras? Yeah. And she said, You're, you're asking the wrong question.

Robyn Bell: Mm. 

Robert Vodnoy: And I said, What's the right question? She said, The right question is, what are you gonna do when you retire? 

Robyn Bell: She's right about that. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. And I thought, well, of course we conductors don't actually retire anyway. 

Robyn Bell: No. Well musicians in general, I mean, 

Robert Vodnoy: yeah. We just don't, You just find a way to keep doing it.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Robert Vodnoy: So I said that's a good point. . And so in the summer of 17, we had a little cocktail party, 

Robyn Bell: and of course she had already, she already had a lot of contacts in the music world down here. 

Robert Vodnoy: That's, that's what she said. Mm-hmm. , she says, I know everybody. 

Robyn Bell: That's true. Yeah. Yes, she does. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. So, so we had a little cocktail party at in Sarasota. And Now she thought no one would come. It was the middle of summer, but surprised, lots of people came. Nice. And I told 'em what I thought we could do, and they all got excited. And so we did one concert the first year and then maybe one concert the second year. Then we started adding concerts and then the pandemic came along.

Robyn Bell: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Robert Vodnoy: And then we, we actually ended up adding concerts on top of. Because we got, we had an N PTF grant, so we did one free concert and we did the other ones shorter programs. And so we got through the pandemic and now this year, . Well, this year we're doing five concerts. Wow. So it's like a tiger by the tail, you know?

Robyn Bell: Yeah, yeah. It's really, it has really grown. And you know, you and I can sit here and we can toss around this word, chamber music, Chamber music, chamber music. And when I taught music appreciation, I always kind of had a specific definition to try to get someone who maybe wasn't a musician, but what in the world is this Chamber music? So what is your definition of chamber music? 

Robert Vodnoy: What people most think of when they say chamber music is a string quartet or violin sonata, or maybe a piano quintet, a chamber orchestra, as I'm sure you know, means an orchestra, which is, I would say, large enough that it needs an conductor, but small. That it is most at home in a smaller hall with, maybe a smaller audience. So there's more a sense of intimacy and it has its own particular repertoire. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, I, yeah, cuz I tell people all the time, you know, used to music was funded by the church or by the palace. Church or castles, that's who paid for music.

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Way back in the day. And these kings and queens and princes and princesses and dukes and Duchess, they would have dinner parties and you know, afterwards they go, Let's go into this particular room, what they called a chamber. And it was big enough for musicians, but also for people to. Sit, maybe dance or whatever. And this term, you know, playing in someone's chambers, their bedroom chambers is exactly what you might think. It has just stuck with us for hundreds of years. This word chamber, we understand it as musicians, but if you're up from the outside world, it kind, 

Robert Vodnoy: it doesn't make sense. 

Robyn Bell: Blow your mind. It doesn't, it just makes any sense at all.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. 

Robert Vodnoy: So, so um, with the chamber, or. We really run on the small end around 12 or 13 people, and the largest we've ever been is around 21, 22. Up to about. 26 to maybe 30 or so, 

Robyn Bell: and mostly string players you would add in some of the wind and percussion if the repertoire called for it.

Robert Vodnoy: Right? Yeah. And, and that's partly a historical mm-hmm. Evolution because the little Baroque orchestras were almost all strings over the few wins. And then early classical orchestra as. So you got a couple obos and a couple horns, and then by the time you get to Mozart, well, you got the wins and pairs and mm-hmm. horns. And if it's a military ish or full sound, you got the trumpets in Timoni, right? And along comes Beethoven. Here comes those trombones. And, and 

Robyn Bell: just over time the, the Symphony orchestra, as we know it, has grown and grown and grown. Length of their literature in personnel, in size, in concert hall. But the chamber orchestra as we know it, it's really, I mean, there's composers still writing for the chamber orchestra for certain, but it is really a historic ensemble.

Robert Vodnoy: Oh, I think you, you can find Right up to the last minute, right up till now. Composers who write for what they imagine to be a small ensemble, we played a premier last year of a work by Michael Shelly. Scored for just strings. We played it comfortably with the 12 or 13 string players. You know, there's leeardis O dot, which is seven people. There's le oi, which is maybe 18 or 20, shaumburg Chamber, Symphony, et cetera. There's lots, the pleasure for me mm-hmm. is that, so Sure. I've been conducting for. What's coming up now in 50 years, but really until I got to this chamber orchestra, I conducted the full symphony orchestra repertoire.

Robyn Bell: 50 to 60 players. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and ballet and opera too. Mm. But so, you know. All the Beethoven symphonies, all LeBron symphonies. All the Schumann symphonies. All the Straus Stone poems. Yeah. The great Turski ballets, you know, 

Robyn Bell: Well, let's talk about money, Because a lot of this is budget driven. You know, if you're a composer and you wanna get your music performed, you can't afford, to hire a full symphony orchestra to play it, but maybe you can afford to pay 12 or 13 players to play your music. Sure. I'm gonna ask you from your end, cuz you started orchestra from scratch. It's a professional group and that in mind means everybody gets paid. Yeah. So you had to have some sort of funding to make this happen. So tell us about how not only has the orchestra grown in your offerings and your services, but also how did you start budget wise and, and how have you grown that?

Robert Vodnoy: Well . So orchestras as all not for profit to use that term. Mm-hmm. performing organizations, but it's the same for museums and for ballet companies, whatever. 

Robyn Bell: Sure. 

Robert Vodnoy: You've got earned and contributed income, so our earned. Is ticket sales. Mm-hmm. advertising sales. We have a program book and people buy some advertising space. We don't have a gift shop, so I'm not selling mugs and t-shirts 

Robyn Bell: Right. Yet. 

Robert Vodnoy: But yet That's right. Yet. So that's the earned coming. It might be. 40 to 50% of the budget. So where's the rest of the money come from? Okay, so We have an opportunity grant from the Arts and Cultural Alliance and we have concert sponsors. So those are either individuals or in some cases businesses who like the program or, or the orchestra or see it as a good place for them to invest. So,

Robyn Bell: and you have to go out and cultivate those things yourself? 

Robert Vodnoy: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: You have a team. Wow. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: It's a big deal. Yeah, 

Robert Vodnoy: it is. Yeah. So we've had a lot of different concert sponsors over the years. This year we have several individuals who are sponsors and a couple of businesses as well. And then the rest of it is individual contributions. which we get by. Fundraising emails. People can go online to buy our tickets and there's a donation line there where they can add money if they want. There's a Facebook page. There's a giving just all of the various ways that arts organizations raise money because this is a hybrid funding model. It's not government supported. And that's it. It's a public, private partnership. 

Robyn Bell: Sure. And you have been able, from its inception in 2017 till now, 20 22, 20 23 season to grow all of those ticket sales grants and donation to make a viable season of five concerts.

Robert Vodnoy: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Yes. It's amazing. It's amazing. So let's, 

Robert Vodnoy: I actually, I think so too. 

Robyn Bell: It is truly, 

Robert Vodnoy: I, I look at it and I go, how do we 

Robyn Bell: look what you've done? It's like you've, you have a, this little baby and now it's almost a teenager 

Robert Vodnoy: close. That's right. 

Robyn Bell: In dog ears. 

Robert Vodnoy: In dog ears, right. , . 

Robyn Bell: That's how I like to talk about it. Okay, so before we talk about this specific season coming up and your upcoming concert in December, tell us how do you go about what is your timeframe and your thought process on programming for the group? How do you pick the selections, the guest artists, things such as this. 

Robert Vodnoy: Well some of it's serendipity. For example, the piece we premiered last year by Michael Shelly. Well, I've known Michael for 30 some years. He's the composer in residence of Butler University. I premiered a piece of his a while back, and during the pandemic he called me up and he said, I'm gonna write five new pieces next year and give them away.

Robyn Bell: How generous. 

Robert Vodnoy: All I expect is that if I offer it, you're gonna play it. 

Robyn Bell: Cause it's really all composers want. I mean, they wanna make money, but they want their music played. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. Yeah. And, and he's, he's a VMI composer, so we pay royalties of course. . So I said, And he said, What are your parameters? And I said, 15 minutes long. Just strings. I know we can do. and he came back and said, Okay, it's just strings, but it's 18 minutes long. 

Robyn Bell: Well, okay. Close enough. 

Robert Vodnoy: Close enough. Yeah. Well of course when I said 15 I figured I have safety in the offer. 

Robyn Bell: Right, right. 

Robert Vodnoy: So that was serendipitous. We did another piece last year written by William Dawson Jr. Who lives down in Fort Myers. Oh, very good composer. Same thing. He was coming to concerts, a friend of Laurie's actually. And he said, I, I've got a song cycle. I'd like to write. Would you like to do it? I said, Yes. So that's kinda the serendipitous thing. 

Robyn Bell: It's, and I would imagine a lot of, of just connections you've had over the last 50 years of musicians you've worked with, or people that you've maybe heard in other concerts, like, Oh, I'd like to do a program with this person.

Robert Vodnoy: Sure. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Robert Vodnoy: We're gonna do a concert in March. So 2023 is the 75th anniversary. Of the founding of the state of Israel. It's also my 75th birthday, but so I, I just thought, you know, that would be a good idea. Why don't I do a concert with all Jewish composers. So then you follow your nose. So I thought, well, let's see. At the same time, I don't want to do a religious concert. I want to do A program that's a broad appeal. So, well I picked a block concert grosso for strings and piano oblig gado. Partly also because I know Ann Stevenson Moe, and she's a lovely pianist and I thought this would be a great piece to do with her. And then I thought, well, I gotta have some box office names here cuz we gotta have people see the concert. They wanna, they gotta see some names. They know 

Robyn Bell: they do. Yeah.

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. Well, I picked one of those early Mendelson string symphonies. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, the symp nets. 

Robert Vodnoy: The Symp nets. And so we're doing number 10. I like that one very much. I think it's makes good kind of overture. And then I thought, Gershwin would be a good composer. There's a lovely lullaby by Gershwin. Mm-hmm. and get a little jazz element into it. And then I thought, well, you can't do a, concert. about celebrating Israel without having some Israeli composers. Do I know any Israeli composers? Hmm. No, I don't. But there's that magic thing, you know Google? 

Robyn Bell: Oh, yes. Yeah, I've heard of this. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yes. So I Google and first thing I know, I found the Israel Composer's League, and I went there and I started looking through and I, I, on the search engine, I said, Okay, the piece has to be. under 10 minutes long and it needs to be strings. I can have a few winds and the site has to have a PDF score so I can see it. Mm-hmm. and it's gotta have recording a recording. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. So you can hear it. Mm-hmm. . 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. And so, well that got me the list from hundreds and hundreds down to a. A manageable number and I started listening to pieces and I found a piece by Boris Lunberg called Hasidic Dance, and it's terrific. And I found a piece by New Barian, which is a trumpet concerto. 

Robyn Bell: Yes. And are these, These are contemporary pieces. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Well, and actually, well we're going to Israel next week. And 

Robyn Bell: are you gonna meet these composers?

Robert Vodnoy: I am. 

Robyn Bell: How cool.

Robert Vodnoy: I be corresponding with both of 'em. And I have family that live in Israel, so I don't have a language problem.

Robyn Bell: Mm-hmm. .

Robert Vodnoy: So I have a translator there. And 

Robyn Bell: Perfect. 

Robert Vodnoy: The trumpet concert has not been played in the United States, so it'll be a US premiere. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, very nice. Very nice. And and who do you have soloing on that with you? 

Robert Vodnoy: Robert Smith, the principal trumpet of the Florida Orchestra.

Robyn Bell: Oh, that's not so bad. Up in Tampa. And we have another connection there with Tampa because I know here at the SCF Music Program, our cello majors, a lot of them transferred to USF because they wanna study with the teacher there in Tampa. Scott Clarksdale. I notice he is performing with you on your upcoming concert on December 1st, along with my friend the harpist Josephina Sierra. So tell us about this concert coming up December 1st. 

Robert Vodnoy: It's called Happy Holidays for a lot of people starting the holiday season off with music. Is kind of a tradition. It's how we started as an orchestra so I thought this year I, well first of all, there is seems to be an unending supply of Baroque Concerto, Groos. Our concerto grocery that are Christmas concertos. And of course there would be because all those borough composers either worked at a court or a church and so they had a Right. And for you listeners out there, what makes something a Christmas concerto? One thing it has to have a pastor. 

Robyn Bell: Yes, the pastoral, yes, 

Robert Vodnoy: it has to be a pastoral and usually the last movement which is be be unusual for a broke concerto grosso, because that makes the last wound slow when it should be fast.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Robert Vodnoy: So I found all these broke Christmas concertos that I didn't know, we're gonna do the, the, the one that's the most famous this year. The, the uh, Arch Angelo Corelli Christmas 

Robyn Bell: Control. I've done it with the pops. It's great. 

Robert Vodnoy: It's a wonderful, wonderful piece. Wonderful piece, wonderful piece. So we're doing that. I heard Jess Pina play. A year or so ago on a concert.

Robyn Bell: Isn't she just an amazing, HARs? 

Robert Vodnoy: Amazing. And 

Robyn Bell: we are so lucky here. I mean, her and Anne Hobson Pilot and all these wonderful HARs are like here in our area. It's amazing. 

Robert Vodnoy: So I went to Josephina. I said, Hey, you wanna play the Chamber of Orchestra? Well, she said, I don't know. I'm very busy and 

Robyn Bell: Oh yeah, she just wrote an album and, Yeah. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. And I but I was thinking of the um, five variants of DI as a Lazarus by Ralph on Williams. She said, . Okay. . 

Robyn Bell: I'll do that one just for you. 

Robert Vodnoy: Okay. Just, yeah. And then I thought, well, gosh, we gotta have a harpist and only one piece that seems like a waste.

Robyn Bell: Mm-hmm. .

Robert Vodnoy: So I found a piece by a British composer named Grandville Banach called Homa Deal. It's for cello and. And strings. So that gave you 

Robyn Bell: perfect 

Robert Vodnoy: an opportunity for Scott to have a solo. And, 

Robyn Bell: Is he, is he your principal cellist. 

Robert Vodnoy: He's at principal cello. Yeah. I'm very, very honored that Scott Yeah. Makes the time and his busy, busy schedule for us. So this is in a duet for cello, harp, and strings. And then I like to do holiday concerts, but. Not all Christmas to have Sure. Something that, that fits nicely in the season, but is just a wonderful piece. So this year we're gonna do GREs Holberg Suite.

Robyn Bell: Oh, that's a great one. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. Wonderful. Just wonderful piece. 

Robyn Bell: This, those, the color of the string sounds that he puts in there. Really nice. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Great choice. 

Robert Vodnoy: And so that's on the program. And then I, I thought, well, we should have a couple of the seasonal pieces. So arrangement of slave ride for strings. And Christmas wishes you probably. Sure. You know that one too? 

Robyn Bell: Yes. Yeah. 

Robert Vodnoy: And that can be played with just strings and piano. Yeah. So that's the program. 

Robyn Bell: Very nice. Sounds wonderful. And it's gonna be December 1st, and your orchestra kind of moves around for its performances. You perform in three different places.

Robert Vodnoy: We'll be playing the December and March. At First Presbyterian Church of Sarasota, the one that's on Oak Street right near downtown. And this'll be our first year there. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Robert Vodnoy: Oh, what a beautiful,

Robyn Bell: Oh, I know. Yeah. 

Robert Vodnoy: What a beautiful environment. It reminds me, except for the fact that it's a church. It reminds me of Symphony Hall in Boston. 

Robyn Bell: Mm. Oh yeah, I would agree. Yeah. Mm-hmm. .

Robert Vodnoy: So we're there for December and March. In February, we'll be at St. Bono's Episcopal Church on Siesta Key. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Robert Vodnoy: We played there for the first time last year.

Robyn Bell: And what's the program for the February concert?

Robert Vodnoy: That program is called Virtuoso. And I'm very proud of the fact that the a pianist named Joseph Kinga, who's at Palm Beach University. 

Robyn Bell: Palm Beach Atlantic, 

Robert Vodnoy: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Yes. Okay. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. So Joseph has played with us twice before we started a little project together. There are arrangements of Beethoven piano concertos where? Strings and piano. 

Robyn Bell: Oh wow. 

Robert Vodnoy: They're 19th century arran. It's not like contemporary guy. Yeah. It's a court composer named Viens Lochner. He was the music director, Manheim, and he did these arrangements for piano and strings and they're terrific, actually. Very. in 19th century style, as great as they are, it's not like the, the shamberg arrangements of the Brams Piano Court. You know, there's arrangements of the, of the piano quartets by Shamberg where there's like a bass clarinet and five piccolos and xylophone, you know?

Robyn Bell: So bring in the S band. 

Robert Vodnoy: Well, it's, it, it, it just sounds like Sheinberg. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, But this just sounds like beeth. we did two of them. We did the fourth and the fifth concerto, and then he went and submitted the recording of the fifth concerto to the American Prize and one third place.

Robyn Bell: Outstanding. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yes. And so I thought, well, Have gotta reward that. Mm-hmm. . So I did wanna do another Beethoven concerto cuz it takes up the whole, you know, they're 40 minutes long, it takes up the whole program. Yeah. But I've always loved the f minor Bach concerto. Hmm. I have a little, I'll, I'll come back to that in a minute, but I love that concerto. So I asked him if he wanted to do that and he said, Sure. So we're gonna do that. Then a Mozart divert. and then two Serenades. One by Carl Nielsen, The little suite. Mm-hmm. . Terrific. Terrific piece. And one by Leos So those two suites, which are not too familiar to the audience. So you got Bach and Mozart, and then Two , pretty much early 20th century. Suites. 

Robyn Bell: Great. And that'll be at St. Bonafos. That's the February concert. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: All right. And you, do you have two more? You said you have five? 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah, we are a very sharp listener. 

Robyn Bell: Well, you don't like to brag. 

Robert Vodnoy: Keep me, keep me on track. Yeah. So in January, We will be playing in Venice. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, good.

Robert Vodnoy: At, at the Vpac. 

Robyn Bell: At the Vpac, 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Now that's not chamber orchestra size hall, but I guess you're gonna make it work. 

Robert Vodnoy: Well, I have a trick. 

Robyn Bell: Okay, 

Robert Vodnoy: so our principal bass player is Chris Reilly. 

Robyn Bell: Yes. And he is the orchestra teacher at Venice High School.

Robert Vodnoy: Sure. And so I went to Christopher and I said, Hey, how about let's do a side by side. So 

Robyn Bell: brilliant, 

Robert Vodnoy: your orchestra and my orchestra, and we'll play some pieces alone. And I'll conduct, And then you play a piece with your orchestra, you conduct . And then we'll put some pieces together and I'll conduct the two orchestras combined. So, 

Robyn Bell: Cause he has to play bass. 

Robert Vodnoy: He has to play bass. That's, that's exactly right. 

Robyn Bell: You don't want you playing bass . 

Robert Vodnoy: No. Yeah. So, So we're gonna do William Grant stills. Dons Panama. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. I love still's music. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. That's a very wonderful piece. 

Robyn Bell: Mm-hmm. , all of his music's great. 

Robert Vodnoy: Mm-hmm. . And then we're gonna do there's an arrangement of Schindler's List. Which is arranged for violin duet. So I thought this would be 

Robyn Bell: maybe your concert master and his concert master, but hey, we're on the same wavelength here. Bob's. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. And then to start that section of the program, I met a young conductor. This is, this is how long we got here. Hours and hours.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. I get paid by the hour my dad says.

Robert Vodnoy: All right. So when I was at the University of Hartford, I played in the Hartford Sy. Which is a pretty, was a per even then It was, it's a pretty big orchestra. We played at Carnegie Hall every year. Yeah. So my stand partner was a woman named Haa Leard, and Hania at that time was the graduate assistant at u University of Connecticut stores. And I was a graduate a. She was in violin. I was a grad assistant in theory at University of Hartford. So there we were stand partners, two grad assistants. And at the end of the third year that I played in the orchestra, I said, Well, I'm going to go to Indiana University and study conducting. And she said, Well, I'm leaving and then I'm joining a small orchestra. You might have heard. I said, Which one is that? She said the The New York Phil Harmonic. . 

Robyn Bell: Silly girl. 

Robert Vodnoy: Silly girl. Yeah. So she played in the New York Phil Harmonic for by I think 30 years. And she has a son. Her son is named Yif. Siegel. And he was the assistant conductor of the Naples Philharmonic. 

Robyn Bell: Well, lookie here. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: I, I see a plan coming together. 

Robert Vodnoy: Well, it's more serendipity than that. You ask how we get pieces on programs. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Robert Vodnoy: So the Warsaw Fellow Harmonic was on tour. And I knew that Hania had recorded the two Shanuki concert, those with the Warsaw film. So we're still in touch. I emailed her and I said, I'm gonna go here, the concert. It's a long time ago now, but did, did anybody in new orchestra, you know, and she wrote back and said, Well, not anymore, but I know the conductor. He was the conductor of the Naples, Phil. And so I went to the concert and I managed, Have you ever tried to get backstage at the Van Weasel? 

Robyn Bell: Oh, actually I have, Yes. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah, it's pretty tricky. Yeah. But I got backstage and I met him and then he said, Are you gonna come? to my last concert in Naples, cuz he retired from Naples. I said, Oh sure, . So then I wrote Hania back and told him I met him and that I was going to Naples and she said, Oh, my son will be there, you can meet him. And so I met Janni and he and I hit it off well. And he's a conductor. He just got the Salina Symphony in Kansas. And he's a. So I told him what I was doing and he said, I've got a piece. You want to do it? I said, Sure. So we're nice. This is a, a piece he wrote for young orchestras. So 

Robyn Bell: yeah. And again, all the way back to your days at Hart with your stand partner and still through that connection, finding music to put on a concert for today, you know?

Robert Vodnoy: Exactly, exactly. 

Robyn Bell: It's pretty amazing. Okay. Tell us about your last concert. 

Robert Vodnoy: Just to re recap, so we have our happy holidays in December. We're doing this concert in Venice in January, which is called Making Music Together. Virtuoso Night in February. At Bonis. And then celebration the program of Jewish composers. And then we're gonna repeat that concert. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. Okay. So five concerts, four programs.

Robert Vodnoy: Right.

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Robert Vodnoy: And we're repeating it at actually Temple Beth Israel on Long Bke. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, that'll be perfect. And you know that that particular community will really love this performance and that the theme of all of that, that, you know, it speaks to them. That's great. Yeah. Really good programming. Let me ask you this real. Say you have an opening in your orchestra or you need an an additional player or two. Mm-hmm. , do you audition players to be in the orchestra or is it just through you and Laurie kind of knowing who's good in invitation style? 

Robert Vodnoy: It's really invitation style. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Robert Vodnoy: We we're, we're not that big. 

Robyn Bell: Mm-hmm. 

Robert Vodnoy: and we have a fairly stable. Um, core group. Core group. 

Robyn Bell: Yep. 

Robert Vodnoy: So if a vacancy occurs, we ask around, think around mm-hmm. and we try somebody, and then there might be one or two vacancies in the course of a year, maybe three. And so people that we really like working with, we just invite 'em to come back. 

Robyn Bell: Nice. All right. And, and so how do people go about getting tickets to any of these performance? 

Robert Vodnoy: So um, the Chamber Orchestra of Sarasota has a website and you could go on the website now and there's information about all the concerts.

Robyn Bell: Can they buy a season pass or just one? Mm-hmm. . Okay. And what, what's the price range of your tickets? 

Robert Vodnoy: Tickets are $35. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. And you could sit anywhere open seating cuz they were at churches. 

Robert Vodnoy: That's right. 

Robyn Bell: Well, some, yep. 

Robert Vodnoy: Right. So on the website, The, the bar at the top. There's a bunch of dropdown menus and kind of over far to the right, there's a little button that says Buy tickets, and you click on that. There's information right on the front page about each of the concerts. And there will shortly be program notes for every concert. 

Robyn Bell: Nice. That's a lot to put together. That's right. Instead of, instead of preparing for lectures for academia, you now prepare your program notes for.


Robert Vodnoy: Correct. . 

Robyn Bell: I love it. 

Robert Vodnoy: That's right. 

Robyn Bell: I, You know, I should do that. I just stand up there and talk. Nobody wants to hear me. Well, congratulations Bob Vay, you are now officially part of the club. If people wanna follow your career or your orchestra, you said you have a website. Where would they find you? What is that website? 

Robert Vodnoy: . It's chamber orchestra, So all one word, and without the of chamber orchestra 

Robyn Bell: Good. 

Robert Vodnoy: But if you just go in Google and 

Robyn Bell: you'll find it.

Robert Vodnoy: Chamber Orchestra, Sarasota. Yep. Well, it'll give you us. It might also give you the Sarasota Orchestra and several other 

Robyn Bell: states. You gotta sift around a little bit. Sure. 

Robert Vodnoy: But It's pretty clear. 

Robyn Bell: Yep. And we, we'll put a link also in our show notes, so people that are listening to this, if they're looking, they can just click right to it. Super simple. Don't even have to go to Google. 

Robert Vodnoy: Right? So, so you, when you go to the website, you could just go to buy tickets and then there'll be a drop down menu. Tickets are $35 for each concert. If you buy all. , then they're $90. So there's a, 

Robyn Bell: Oh, a discount.

Robert Vodnoy: Discount. 

Robyn Bell: Or two for 180. That's a good deal. So I'm just kidding. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yes, you can do you well when there's qu you can put a two in there. And there's also an opportunity to donate to the orchestra while you're doing that.

Robyn Bell: Excellent. Excellent. Have 

Robert Vodnoy: optional. 

And let me also say that there is I do a weekly newsletter 

Robyn Bell: and you can subscribe to that. It'll come in your e email in. 

Robert Vodnoy: Correct. 

Robyn Bell: Awesome. 

Robert Vodnoy: So, so if you happen to, I dunno, the easiest way to get the newsletter would probably be to go to 

Robyn Bell: sign up on the website, 

Robert Vodnoy: go to the website, and then under contact you'll get the orchestra's email address. Just send me a note that says, I want your newsletter. And give your, 

Robyn Bell: and you get it. 

Robert Vodnoy: Yeah. And then I'll add you to the, to the list. And then it comes out it comes out on Tuesday. 

Robyn Bell: Excellent. Well, it is amazing to me how chamber music and the concept of chamber music has been passed down through the centuries. You don't talk to a musician alive that wouldn't rather play in a small, tight chamber ensemble over a, a huge symphony orchestra. They just love it cuz it's so musically rewarding for the player and for the audience. I hope your programming and audience reach continues to expand and expand. It's been amazing what you've been able to do here, and I wanna thank you for joining me today. Bob, best of luck to you and your group. 

Robert Vodnoy: Thank you. It's been a pleasure talking to you, Robyn