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Since its beginning as the Erie Bayfront Orchestra in 1978, the Erie Chamber Orchestra has sustained the vision of its founder and longtime Music Director Bruce Morton Wright of making the tradition of concert music available to all music lovers free of charge. Comprised of the area’s finest professional musicians, the Erie Chamber Orchestra’s season grew progressively and created several musical traditions. In 1981, the orchestra began a series of tribute concerts for the Martin Luther King Day celebration. Following nine years later was the annual presentation of Menotti’s Christmas opera, “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” part of a holiday concert season that included a much-loved singalong program. Soon, the versatility and enterprise of Wright’s orchestra led to the creation of Erie Opera Theatre, with the Chamber Orchestra, and to the Orchestra’s appearance in the pit for Lake Erie Ballet’s presentation of “The Nutcracker.” The Orchestra also formed the nucleus of the Bemus Bay Pops orchestra that plays to ten thousand people on Chautauqua Lake during the Labor Day weekend. When Wright succumbed to multiple myeloma in 2011, the orchestra faced a crossroads. It responded in 2012 with the appointment of Steven Weiser in the new position of general manager and Matthew Kraemer as only the second music director in the Orchestra’s history.
Recognized for his “musical sensitivity” and “energized sense of interpretation”, conductor Matthew Kraemer is quickly gaining notice for his inspired performances and versatility. The Buffalo News noted recently, “He presents a tall, dignified and stately podium presence with a quite clear beat, a good sense of shaping melodic lines, and an all business attitude that focused on the music without any histrionics.” Appointed Music Director of the Butler County Symphony and the Erie Chamber Orchestra in 2012, he has reinvigorated both ensembles with innovative programming and elevated artistic standards. His active guest conducting schedule has included appearances with many of the nation’s finest orchestras, including the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Columbus, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Nashville, North Carolina, Saint Louis, Spokane, and Virginia, as well as Canada’s Mississauga Symphony and Hamilton Philharmonic and in Europe with the Vidin Philharmonic and the Orquesta de Cadaqués. Recent and future guest conducting engagements include the Rochester Philharmonic, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Elgin Symphony, and Syracuse’s Symphonia. In two short years as Music Director of the Erie Chamber Orchestra, the ensemble has flourished artistically. The orchestra is experiencing a rapidly expanding audience base and increased community support, all while maintaining its 36-year mission of providing exceptional classical music free of charge to northwestern Pennsylvania. The Butler County Symphony is experiencing a similar resurgence in artistic output and community support, attracting new subscribers and offering education concerts at no expense to the county’s elementary schools.
Mr. Kraemer recently completed a highly successful, five-year tenure as associate conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic, where he regularly led the orchestra on each of its concert series, including Classical, Pops, Family, education and community engagement programs. A passionate advocate for new music, he has performed the works of many living composers during his career. He has led composer readings and workshops with several orchestras in the United States, in addition to leading the BPO’s Earshot partnership with the American Composers Orchestra in Buffalo for three consecutive seasons. Increasingly recognized for his committed advocacy of music education and his devotion to young audiences, he has created numerous arts education programs and has taught at several music festivals both in the US and abroad. The Buffalo Philharmonic’s award-winning education concerts grew exponentially under his leadership, expanding to reach over 40,000 students throughout western New York. He played an integral role in the creation of the orchestra’s successful live broadcast concerts with Time Warner Cable, as well as implementing new collaborations with many organizations in the Buffalo community.
Prior to his appointment in Buffalo, he served for three seasons as associate conductor of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Recipient of the distinguished Herbert von Karajan Conducting Fellowship and the Bruno Walter Career Development Grant, Mr. Kraemer served a residency with the Vienna Philharmonic at the 2006 Salzburg Music Festival. Equally at home in the ballet pit, he has led fully-staged productions with Virginia Ballet Theatre, Ohio Ballet, First Coast Nutcracker, Neglia Ballet, and Todd Rosenlieb Dance. He has served as conductor for Broadway superstar Idina Menzel’s numerous engagements nationwide and has collaborated with many other leading artists, including Philippe Quint, Jennifer Koh, Elmar Oliveira, Rachel Barton Pine, David Kim, Awadagin Pratt, Richard Stolzman, Wu Man, Bela Fleck, Mark O’Connor, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Ben Folds, Chris Botti, the Indigo Girls, Wynona Judd, and Natalie Merchant, among many others. He conducted the Buffalo Philharmonic to considerable acclaim when internationally renowned superstar Lang Lang performed Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto at Kleinhans Music Hall in July, 2011. An Indiana native, Mr. Kraemer studied conducting in Vienna, Austria with Salvador Mas Conde and was twice a fellowship conductor at the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen. He has additionally participated in the National Arts Center Conductor’s Program in Ottawa, Canada. His conducting teachers include David Zinman, Robert Spano, Stanley DeRusha, and Jorma Panula. Mr. Kraemer is a graduate of Butler University and the University of Nevada, where he assisted former Cincinnati Symphony concertmaster Phillip Ruder. An accomplished violinist in his own right, he was a member of the Nightingale String Quartet. Fluent in German and French, his principal violin teachers include Phillip Ruder, Herbert Greenberg, Davis Brooks, and Larry Shapiro. When he is not performing, Mr. Kraemer enjoys cooking, running, and reading. He and his wife Megan reside in Buffalo with their son Gabriel.
Mr. Wright was an Instructor of Fine Arts and the Music Director at Gannon University until July 2011 when he passed away. He was the Director/ Conductor of the Erie Chamber Orchestra, the successor to the Erie Bayfront Orchestra which he founded in 1978, and the Director/ Conductor of the Erie Opera Theatre, which he founded in 1983. Mr. Wright was tremendously active within the Erie Community. He was a past board member of the Martin Luther King Center and Perseus House, a center for delinquent youths. Since 1978 he was active on the board of directors of the Arts Council of Erie. He served on the Minority Panel of the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts and the Erie Philharmonic Orchestra Board, and the Association of Pennsylvania Orchestras' Panel of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Mr. Wright also served on the board of the Erie Civic Authority, Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity, the Pennsylvania State Council on Arts Education, and the Florence Crittenton Home. In 1997 he was among the graduates of Leadership Erie and recently served on the Board of Villa Maria Center and the Arts Board of the Glenwood YMCA. A performer and supporter of the Arts throughout his entire life, Bruce Morton Wright was a tremendous advocate for furthering the arts in Pennsylvania and Erie County. He will be forever missed by his countless friends and colleagues.
The support of the late Mr. Clarence E. Beyers was critical in the founding of the original Erie Chamber Orchestra. Although he was a generous contributor to many other organizations, he had a special fondness for the Erie Chamber Orchestra, which he called "his orchestra." It is through his continuing support provided by the Clarence E. Beyers Music Fund as well as the support provided by Gannon University that the Orchestra is able to present these concerts.
Professor George started teaching at Gannon University in 1973 where she is an Associate Professor of Music. Professor George has served as Chair of the Fine Arts department for six years, founding Director of the Schuster Gallery, the Creative Arts Program and the Alumni Recruitment Program at the university. Professor George holds an undergraduate degree in Music Education from Daemen College (1966), and a Master of Music Education (1970) from S.U.N.Y. at Fredonia with doctorate studies at Case Western Reserve University. She was one of 28 American Ambassadors selected to be in the first group of music educators to travel to China in 1988 to serve as a teacher and consultant in music education to the music educators in China. Her paper was one of six accepted for presentation to the Chinese Music Educators at the University of Beijing and in Inner Mongolia and was the only paper requested by the Chinese for publication in their National Chinese Music Educator publication. In 2008, she was the first music education major chosen as a Distinguished Alumna of Daemen College. Professor George has published several articles in local, state and national journals, serves on three publishing review boards, committees at the university, including President of the Faculty Senate for 2009-2010, and on various boards of directors locally and nationally. Professor George was honored by her colleagues at Gannon University she received the Distinguished Faculty Award for 2010.