Lynn's "football team" suits up for a big season

The Conservatory of Music is attracting attention, star faculty and world class students

Published Sep. 30, 2008

They don't wear cleats. And their uniforms don't sport grass stains. But that doesn't mean that when Lynn University's "football team" – its Philharmonia Orchestra – suits up for the beginning of its season on Saturday, Oct. 11, there won't be high expectations and enthusiastic fans in the mix. After all, the orchestra, and the Conservatory of Music, is enjoying more of both in recent years.

The conservatory – which was unofficially tagged as the university's football team by former president Dr. Donald E. Ross – is fast gaining traction and name recognition in music circles, thanks in large part to the faculty Dean Jon Robertson has attracted and, by extension, the students that study with them.

EXTRA, EXTRA – Hear faculty and students talk about their season on a recent edition of “Classical Variations”
Just last month, Robertson, Reese and six conservatory students (trumpeters Nikola Nikolovski and Josh Pierson; cellist Jonah Kim; clarinetist Mauricio Murcia; and pianist Ross Salvosa) appeared live on "Classical Variations," a classical music radio show broadcast daily from South Florida NPR station, WXEL-FM. The 40-minute broadcast, with host Joanna Marie, featured a detailed season preview of upcoming Lynn concerts and three live student performances from the WXEL Chuck Zink Performance Studio. “Classical Variations” airs Monday through Thursday from noon to 3 p.m. on WXEL in West Palm Beach.

Robertson, an internationally acclaimed performer and the conductor and former chair of the Department of Music at the University of California in Los Angeles, came on board as dean in 2005. According to Robertson, his decision to head Lynn's conservatory was a "no-brainer." The opportunity to build a world-class conservatory and take it to a higher level comes "once in a lifetime, if at all," he says.

Since Robertson joined the conservatory in 2005, enrollment has grown from 34 to 91 students, a number that dean Robertson calls an "ideal size." At its present size, the conservatory is built to assure every student has a seat in the orchestra. This way, each student artist is constantly performing on stage and often graduates with a fuller resume and better performance experience than peers at larger institutions.

Speaking recently about those students, many of whom have traveled from far as Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and China, and their reasons for choosing Lynn, Robertson remarked, "We don't enroll the average music student. This is our students' life and they know why they're here. So when students have the opportunity to study with a member of the New York Philharmonic, they jump on it."

And Lynn's conservatory students do, in fact, have that opportunity. Their professors, in addition to having held seats on the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, and Chicago Symphony, among others, are some of the best known and most highly regarded in the world on their instruments (see complete faculty listing online). Just recently added to the mix were the university’s third, fourth, fifth and sixth Distinguished Artists in Residence: Renee Siebert (flute), Jon Manasse (clarinet), Joseph Robinson (oboe), and Ted Atkatz (percussion).

Marc Reese, assistant dean and head of the brass department at the conservatory, agreed that the faculty at Lynn has flourished in recent years– and the student ranks along with it. "The faculty is very impressive by any standard" says Reese, who is himself one of three members of the world-renowned Empire Brass on the faculty. That faculty, Reese says, "is attracting these talented students to South Florida."

The conservatory is now one of the leading conservatories of its size within a university environment. A highly select group of gifted music students is admitted annually to pursue solo, chamber and orchestral music training, as well as a carefully drafted academic program leading to a bachelor's in music or musical performance, a master's in performance, or the Professional Performance Certificate. And for the first time this year, conservatory students can also pursue a degree in composition.

The Philharmonia will open its season under the baton of music director Albert-George Schram at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 11 and 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 12, under the direction of guest conductor Robertson. More information regarding next month's philharmonic performance (and its full 2008-09 calendar) is available online.