Special to The Star
The Meridian Star
Meridian Symphony Orchestra embarked on a new era Saturday night, introducing a new music director – Maestro Peter Rubardt – and a new season of music.
While the conductor is most visible during orchestra performances, there are other "principal" players. Among the instrument groups and within each group of instruments, there is a generally accepted hierarchy. Every instrumental group (or section) has a principal who is generally responsible for leading the group and playing orchestral solos.
Of the 70 members of the Meridian Symphony Orchestra, 17 are known as principal players: Jenny Gregoire, Concertmaster; Brian Cheesman, Principal Percussion; Sarah Crocker, Harp Principal; Charles Gates, Principal Trumpet; Jorge Iván González, Principal Second Violin; Sharon Lebsack, Principal Flute; Hsiaopei Lee, Viola Principal; Heild Lucas, Principal Horn; Marcos Machado, Double Bass, Principal; Patricia Malone, Principal Oboist; Wilbur Moreland, Principal Clarinetist; Laura Noah, Principal Timpanist; Richard Perry, Principal Tuba; Alexander Russakovsky, Cello Principal; Theresa Sanchez, Principal Keyboardist; Clifton Taylor, Principal Trombone; and Jon Wenberg, Bassoon Principal.
Following are the bios of MSO's new music director, concertmaster and principal players:
Maestro Peter Rubardt
Peter Rubardt, MSO's newly appointed music director, is also in his 16th season as music director of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, where his tenure has been distinguished with artistic excellence on the stage and passionate support from the audience and the community.
Rubardt initiated pops concerts, family concerts, and a series of chamber orchestra concerts in area churches, broadening the base of support and increasing the orchestra’s recognition throughout the community. He played a central role in the successful renovation of the orchestra’s home, the historic Pensacola Saenger Theatre, and spearheaded the organization’s recent endowment campaign. In addition to his work in Pensacola, Rubardt’s recent debuts include the Fort Worth Symphony, the El Paso Symphony Orchestra (followed by an immediate reengagement), the Meridian Symphony Orchestra, and Japan’s Yamagata Orchestra.
Prior to his appointment in Pensacola, Rubardt served four seasons as associate conductor of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, which followed three seasons as resident conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. He has also conducted the Utah Symphony, Louisiana, Rochester and Las Vegas Philharmonic orchestras, the Louisville Orchestra, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the Richmond Symphony, Japan's Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra, Century Orchestra Osaka, Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra and Kansai Philharmonic Orchestra; among many others. From 1991-96, he served as music director of the Rutgers Symphony.
A native of Berkeley, Calif., Rubardt holds a doctor of musical arts degree in orchestral conducting from the Juilliard School. A Fulbright scholar in 1984, he studied piano and conducting at the Vienna Academy of Music, and pursued further studies at the Tanglewood Music Center and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute. He has participated in the master classes of Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, André Previn and Herbert Blomstedt, and his major teachers have included Otto-Werner Mueller, Sixten Ehrling, Michael Senturia and David Lawton. In 2005 he was selected by the American Symphony Orchestra League to perform in the National Conductor Preview with the Jacksonville Symphony.
Rubardt has served on the faculties of the Juilliard School, Rutgers University, and the State University of New York at Purchase. He has received awards and degrees in music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the University of California at Berkeley. Rubardt has recorded for Pantheon Records International.
He resides in Pensacola with his wife Hedi Salanki, a professor of music at the University of West Florida, and their two children.
Jenny Grégoire, Concertmaster
Violinist Jenny Grégoire serves as concertmaster, having received this appointment in September 2005. The concertmaster is the violinist who occupies the first chair of the first violin section of an orchestra. Responsibilities include presiding over the tuning of the orchestra onstage prior to a performance, making entrance after the musicians are seated, dictating the bowings for strings, playing violin solo passages in a composition, and leading the entire orchestra with emotion, accuracy, and excellence–a positive influence on colleagues.
A skilled artisan, Grégoire also serves as the concertmaster of the Gulf Coast Symphony. Born in Quebec, Canada, she earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in violin performance at the Quebec Music Conservatoire. Advanced study at Northwestern University in Chicago led to her Master’s degree in Violin Performance and Pedagogy.
After membership in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and following a fellowship with the New World Symphony, Grégoire was appointed in 2001 to the position of concertmaster of the Mobile Symphony Orchestra, and continues in that capacity today. Residing in Tuscaloosa, Ala., she is an adjunct violin instructor at the University of Alabama, teaches privately, and plays regularly with the Alabama Symphony and the Pensacola Symphony. During the summer, Grégoire performs and teaches at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, N.C.
She was MSO's violin soloist in April 2012, performing Pablo de Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen” and Borodin’s “Nocturne” from the Second String Quartet.
She is married to Demondrae Thurman, associate professor of Euphonium at the University of Alabama. They have two children.
Brian Cheesman, Principal Percussion
Dr. Brian Cheesman is serving in his second year as associate band director/percussion instructor at Itawamba Community College. His duties at ICC include assisting with the marching and concert bands, in addition to teaching the drum line, percussion ensemble, steel band, applied percussion lessons, and music appreciation. He has served as adjudicator for various Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) state marching festivals and the Mississippi Indoor Association and remains active as an arranger, clinician, performer, educator, and adjudicator in the Southeast.
Cheesman holds a bachelor of music degree from the University of Mississippi, a master of music degree from Wichita State University, and a doctor of musical arts in percussion performance/pedagogy from the University of Southern Mississippi. He also studied extensively during the summer of 2008 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, with well-known Latin percussionist, Freddie Santiago Campos. These studies opened up many opportunities to conduct many clinics throughout the Southeast and Central plains on Latin Percussion FUNdamentals.
Cheesman maintains an active performing career in which he serves as principal percussionist with the Meridian Symphony Orchestra, section percussionist with the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra and subs regularly with other orchestras in the Gulf States and central Kansas areas. His drumset experience extends from the Central Kansas area to Mississippi, where he has been the regular, or substitute drummer for The Cabaret Old Town dinner theatre in Wichita Kansas, Laurel Little Theatre, Hattiesburg Civic Light Opera, Jimmy Dorsey Big Band, and John Wooton and KAISO.
Cheesman is a member of PAS, MBA, and the Northeast Mississippi Bandmasters Association. Outside of his duties with ICC, he holds a NTRP rating of 4.0 with the United States Tennis Association and actively participates in league and tournament tennis.
Sarah Crocker, Harp Principal
Sarah Crocker is Principal Harp in the MSO, playing a time honored instrument that has few specialists. Difficult to play well, the harp has multiple moving parts, making disciplined concentration a necessary trait for professional expertise.
A native of Franklin, Tenn., Crocker has 20 years background with the harp. She currently resides in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where she is pursuing doctor of musical arts degree in harp performance. She has been a teaching instructor of secondary harp at the University of Alabama since 2008. In addition, Crocker is a graduate teacher’s assistant in musicology. Her bachelor and master of music degrees were attained at the University of Alabama.
Crocker has performed with the Meridian Symphony Orchestra for six years. She is Principal Harp in the Tupelo Symphony and is also featured harpist in the Tuscaloosa Symphony, as well as Principal Harp of the Huxford Symphony Orchestra.
Multi-talented, Crocker also plays piano, reads, cooks, loves hiking and canoeing. She has a puppy named Pippy.
Charles Gates, Principal Trumpet
Charles Gates, chairman and professor of music at the University of Mississippi, has been a member of the MSO as Principal Trumpet for 24 years. A native of Lafayette, La., Gates has been on the Academic Faculty at Ole Miss since 1988. Motoring the longest distance (Oxford) of any of MSO's players, he has missed only a couple of concerts in his 24 years.
Gates began instructional lessons at an early age, having now played trumpet for 40 years. He received his bachelor of music education degree from LSU, and the advanced master of music and doctor of musical arts degrees from Ohio State University.
This esteemed musician has been affiliated with two excellent orchestras in Columbus, Ohio, from 1984 to 1988: The Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra. From 1989 to 1997, Gates was with the Memphis Symphony in Memphis.
Gates' daughter has been involved in choral music throughout college, and a son, now in college, plays trombone. Curretnly, he and his wife care for a Labrador retriever and enjoy bike riding and reading.
Jorge Iván González, Principal Second Violin
Violinist and conductor Jorge Iván González, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, holds a master and bachelor degrees in music performance from the University of Southern Mississippi. He was finalist of the “Canadian Music Competition Incorporated”; winner of the 2001 “William T. Gower Concerto Competition” at USM; and awarded 2001 “New Young Artist” of the Victoria Bach Festival. With the Austin,Texas-based “Conspirare Ensemble”, González has toured and recorded a CD, “Threshold of Night”, nominated for two Grammy Awards.
González has given solo and chamber music performances in Mexico, Canada, Switzerland, Austria and in the U.S. and has had the opportunity to work with great artists such as Jean-Pierre Rampal, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Alexandre Brussilovsky, Sir James Galway, Glenn Dicterow, Placido Domingo, Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, Midori, Keith Lockhart and Leonard Slatkin.
As a conductor, Gonzalez is the founder and conductor of the Southern Mississippi Youth Orchestra; artistic director of the FestivalSouth Orchestral and Chamber Music Academy; conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra at the Premier Orchestral Institute and conductor of the HPSD orchestras. He has conducted the Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra, the FestivalSouth Chamber Orchestra, The FestivalSouth Academy Symphony Orchestra and was the conductor of the 2012 Mississippi All-State Orchestra. Jorge Iván González is currently serving as concertmaster of the GulfCoast Symphony Orchestra; assistant-concertmaster of the Mobile Symphony Orchestra and principal second violin of the Meridian Symphony Orchestra.
Sharon Lebsack, Principal Flute
In addition to her duties as Principal Flutist for 35 years, this seasoned veteran holds the responsible position of orchestra librarian and orchestra personnel director.
A native of Sterling, Colo., Lebsack is a resident of Hattiesburg, having taught in the music department at the University of Southern Mississippi for 38 years. She previously taught for three years at the University of Northern Colorado, where she had earlier received her bachelor of arts, bachelor of music and master of music degrees.
Her participation with regional orchestras has included the Mississippi Symphony, Gulf Coast Symphony, Mobile Symphony, and Pensacola Symphony. In addition, she has played with the Greely Colorado Symphony.
Multitalented, Sharon also plays piano and harp. Noted for her teaching skill, several local flutists have had the privilege of her tutelage.
Hsiaopei Lee, Viola Principal
Hsiaopei Lee has been Principal Viola in the MSO since 2005, when she joined the faculty of the University Of Southern Mississippi. A recitalist, chamber musician, and orchestra player, she has presented programs around the globe.
A native of Taiwan, Hsiaopei (pronounced SHO-PAY) began playing viola at age 11. She taught in Taiwan before attending and receiving a master's degree at Columbia University Teachers College in New York, eventually earning the doctor of musical arts degree at Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music.
Since joining the string faculty at USM, Lee has been a member of the Impromptu Piano Quartet and the Mississippi Chamber Circle. The Mississippi Arts Commission recently awarded her an Artist Fellowship. Her first CD, “Viola Music Written by American Female Composers” is to be released later this year.
Lee has played piano in the past and she is proficient on the Erhu, a kind of fiddle with two strings, an instrument originating as a member of the “huqin” family centuries ago. It has become popular as a solo instrument in recent years.
Heild Lucas, Principal Horn
Dr. Heidi Lucas is associate professor of horn at the University of Southern Mississippi. She holds degrees from the Crane School of Music-SUNY Potsdam (bachelor of music), the Eastman School of Music (master of music), and the University of Georgia (doctor of musical arts). Before her appointment, she taught horn at Toccoa Falls College, Georgia College and State University, and worked with non-majors at the University of Georgia and University of Rochester. Lucas is a 2007/2008 recipient of the MTNA StAR Award.
Lucas is currently principal horn of the Pensacola Symphony, Gulf Coast Symphony, Meridian Symphony, Pensacola Opera Orchestra and Mobile Opera Orchestra, as well as third horn of the Mobile Symphony. She has also performed with the Louisiana Philharmonic, Memphis Symphony, Lancaster Philharmonic, Aspen Festival Orchestra, Cobb Symphony Orchestra, Columbus (GA) Symphony Orchestra, and Atlanta Pops Orchestra.
In addition to extensive teaching and chamber music experience, Lucas has toured throughout the United States, England, Brazil, Germany, Austria and Panama. She is also part of Brevard College’s Eric Ewazen Residency, and is a member of the Southern Arts Brass Quintet and Category 5, the faculty ensembles at USM.
In 2007, Lucas organized the first annual "Horn Day" at USM (an event she continues to organize and host each year), bringing high profile artists to campus in an event that routinely draws upwards of 60 hornists from the region. She has had several publications, including reviews in the Horn Call and articles in the Grove Dictionary of American Music.
Marcos Machado, Double Bass, Principal
Marcos Machado enjoys an international career as concert artist, teacher and chamber musician. He has been a sturdy anchor for the Double Bass section of the MSO, having been its Principal for the last decade.
A native of Brazil, Marcos is the only South American to have earned both teaching and performance diplomas from L’Institut International de Contrebasse de Paris, where he studied with renowned double bassist Francois Rabbath.
At USM in Hattiesburg, Machado teaches classical double bass, chamber music and jazz studies, and is director of the Southern Miss Bass Symposium. He has an active performing schedule, touring in the States, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, England, and South America. He participates in classical and jazz festivals during winter and summer breaks — in the USA and in South America.
Worthy of mention are world premiere of Barbarosa’s “Concert for Double Bass”(dedicated to Marcos), the world premiere of Proto’s “Sonata”, and the South American premiere of Proto’s “Carmen Fantasy” and “Nine Variants on Paganini”.
Marcos and his family reside in Hattiesburg.
Patricia Malone, Principal Oboist
With more than 20 years as a member of the MSO, Patrician Malone has the distinction of playing the “A” note that tunes the orchestra immediately before the concertmaster and conductor enter for the initiation of each concert.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Malone's love and dedication to the oboe began in seventh grade. She received her bachelor of music degree at Baylor University in Waco, a master of music degree from Cincinnati College Conservatory, and a doctor of music degree from Florida State University. She recently retired from the University of Southern Mississippi, where she taught oboe and music theory for 26 years.
An active orchestral performer in addition to teaching, Malone is also Principal Oboe in the Mobile Symphony Orchestra and Opera, and in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Orchestra.
Malone's husband, Mark, is currently choral director at William Carey University. Adding to this musical heritage is Meagan, a pianist with a minor in music at Millsap’s, and son, Drew who was a trombonist at Oak Grove High School. Malone plays a bit of piano, but lists cross-stitching as a real hobby. “Q-tip” and “Molly” are cats of significance in the Malone household.
Wilbur Moreland, Principal Clarinetist
This Colorado native is a Hattiesburg transplant and has been playing the clarinet for 62 years! Trained at the University of Northern Colorado, Moreland obtained his bachelor of arts degree as well as a master of arts in music education. He has held teaching positions at diverse locations such as Nyack, New Jersey, the University of the Philippines, in Rapid City, South Dakota and the University of El Paso, Texas.
Moreland said he found a home when he went to University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, where he was professor in the School of Music, heading the clarinet division for 33 years. He is now professor emeritus at USM.
Moreland has been a member of the MSO for 37 years.His participation with other orchestras includes Greely, Colo., Philharmonic, Manila Symphony, Rapid City Symphony, El Paso Symphony, Tupelo Symphony, and Mobile Symphony. In each of these, he served as Principal. He has subbed in the Mississippi Symphony on occasion.
Moreland is part of a musical family. His brother is a clarinetist, his wife is a pianist and organist and his two sons are violinists. Moreland also plays saxophone and he continues a long history of singing tenor in church choirs.
His hobbies include electronics and gardening.
Laura Noah, Principal Timpanist
Laura Noah is a freelance timpanist/percussionist residing in Mobile, Ala. She is the Principal Timpanist for the Meridian Symphony Orchestra, the Mobile Symphony and Mobile Opera. She is also principal percussionist for the Gulf Coast Symphony in Biloxi, and section percussionist with the Pensacola Symphony. Noah has also performed as substitute percussionist with the Louisiana Philharmonic, Huntsville Symphony, Tuscaloosa Symphony and Opera Birmingham.
Noah is a member of the Noah/Dalton Percussion Duo, performing recitals and master classes throughout the Southeast. Through the Birmingham Arts Music Alliance (BAMA), Noah has performed new solo and chamber works by local Birmingham composers. She has also performed with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in the productions of “Man of La Mancha,” Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and “West Side Story.”
In addition to her freelance work, Noah is the percussion instructor at Pensacola State College in Pensacola, Fla. She is also a part-time instructor at the University of South Alabama teaching Introduction to Music and Introduction to Music Business courses. From 2007-12, Noah was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, teaching Applied Percussion and Music Appreciation. Since 2004, she has served as the front ensemble instructor for the UAB Marching Blazers under the direction of Dr. Sue Samuels.
Noah received her master of music degree in percussion performance from The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University studying with Jonathan Haas, and her bachelor of music degree in percussion performance from the University of Alabama. She was a member of the 1999 DCI Champion Santa Clara Vanguard and attended the Aspen Music Festival and School in 2000.
Noah is a member of the Percussive Arts Society and is an endorser of Innovative Percussion products.
Richard Perry, Principal Tuba
Richard Perry has been Principal Tuba with MSO for the past 10 years. He acquired a love for music while singing as a child in church choirs. His love affair with the tuba also began as a child, having played this instrument since 1979.
Perry is a resident of Hattiesburg and is associate professor of tuba and euphonium at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he has taught for the past 11 years. His previous teaching experience involved four years each at the University of Montevallo and the University of Wisconsin.
A native of Kingston, Tenn., Perry received a bachelor of science degree at Tennessee Tech, a master of music degree from the University of Illinois, and a doctor of musical arts degree from the University of Wisconsin. He is also Principal Tuba in the Gulf Coast Symphony and substitutes on occasion with the Louisiana Philharmonic.
For relaxation, Richard enjoys reading and listening to jazz. He owns one dog and two cats.
Alexander Russakovsky, Cello Principal
Alexander Russakovsky has been the strong leader of the cellos in the Meridian Symphony Orchestra since arriving at the University of Southern Mississippi in 2001.
His studies of cello have include the Leningrad Conservatory, the Jerusalem Rubin Academy, where he received his bachelor of music degree, a master's degree from the Yale School of Music, and a doctorate of music in cello performance from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
His solo and chamber appearances are noteworthy and worldwide from Russia, Israel and across Europe, and now, the United States. He is a founding member of the Jerusalem Academy String Quartet, performing with this group throughout Europe. Russakovasky's orchestral engagements include the Leningrad Philharmonic, Savannah Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, New Haven Symphony, Mobile Symphony, and the Meridian Symphony.
Russakovsky is renowned as a teacher at USM, having students travel many miles from their home communities to learn the art of the cello. Clayton Vaughn and Benjamin Johnson are two Meridianites who have made the trips to USM as teenagers to study with him. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he is active as a member of string and piano/string ensembles.
Theresa Sanchez, Principal Keyboardist
Theresa Sanchez, the Meridian Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Keyboardist, has fulfilled that role for the past 10 years. Born in Hattiesburg, she maintains her residence there, while serving as a piano instructor at Jones Junior College for the past 17 years.
Sanchez is recognized throughout the Southeast for her talent. She has been a pianist for 48 years and has performed as soloist as well as pianist in ensembles and quartets about the state and region.
Sanchez has a bachelor of music, master of music and doctor of musical arts in piano performance. She has served as pianist for the USM Orchestra, the Mississippi Symphony, Gulf Coast Symphony, and Mobile Symphony.
In her spare time, Sanchez enjoys reading, knitting, crocheting and exercising.
Clifton Taylor, Principal Trombone
Cliff Taylor has served the Meridian Symphony Orchestra as Principal Trombone since 2002, with more than 15 years as a member of the brass section. Taylor has been a Starkville resident since 2005 where he serves as associate director of bands at Mississippi State University.
His education consists of bachelor of music education and master of music education degrees at the University of Southern Mississippi, and a doctor of musical arts from the University of South Carolina. Before his move to MSU, Taylor was a high school band director from 1991 to 1997, followed by a teaching position at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College from 1997 to 2005. He comes from a musical family background. His father and two brothers are professional musicians. In addition to his attachment to the trombone for 31 years, he has the ability to play all wind and percussion instruments and he is active in church choral music.
In addition to being a member of the Meridian Symphony Orchestra, Taylor has also performed with Gulf Coast Symphony and the Mississippi Symphony.
A family man, Taylor hobbies include Scouting and carpentry.
Jon Wenberg, Bassoon Principal
A resident of Mississippi since 1993, Jon Wenberg has served as Principal Bassoonist for both the Meridian Symphony Orchestra and the Mississippi Symphony. He also performs with the Mississippi Symphony’s Woodwind Quintet, and with many other ensembles around the state.
Originally, from rural Wisconsin, Wenberg studied at Northwestern University, where he earned both bachelor and master degrees in bassoon performance. He continued his studies at the Cincinnati University College—Conservatory of Music, spending another year as an artist diploma participant.
Wenberg has spent five summers with the Aspen Music Festival. His background further includes study and performance with the most admired bassoonists in the country — members of the Chicago, New York, Pittsburg, Cincinnati and San Francisco Orchestras.
Spare time finds Wenberg woodcarving, cooking strange meals, and playing the piano.