The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra performing classical and and Hosting Pops performances in Punta Gorda
Meet the finalists in the CSO conductor search
Hailed as “a rising star” by the Chicago press, “Ponti brings an exhilarating energy level to center stage. It’s an electrifying swagger—empowering and enabling him to pull music from light to darkness and back again. Fans worldwide say that his passion shows. It’s clear he has a tremendous zest for music, an exuberance recalling both the roar and rush of a roller coaster ride.”
The Daily Herald of Chicago writes, “A bold yet sensitive conductor, Ponti highlights Brahms interplay between the instruments, expertly balancing the sections – emphasizing the delightful winds and fine trombones while holding in check ESO’s formidable string section – to illustrate the multiple layers that make this work so sublime.”
David Kim, Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, writes, “Maestro Ponti is first and foremost, a wonderful and natural musician.”
Henry Fogel, former President, Chicago Symphony writes, “Ponti’s conducting is expressive, clear, emotionally communicative – frankly all the things I look for in conductors…very impressive.”
Raffaele Ponti is Artistic Director and Conductor of the Paducah Symphony Orchestra (KY), Genesee Symphony Orchestra (NY), and continues to appear with prominent orchestras around the United States and Europe including return engagements with the Rochester Philharmonic, Syracuse Symphony, Austin Symphony, Erie Philharmonic, and debuts with the orchestras of Binghamton, Elgin, Billings, Utica, Schenectady, Southern Finger Lakes, New York All-State Orchestra, and the Kentucky All-State Orchestra. In Europe, the orchestras of Sofia, Varna, Pescara, Siena, and tours with Teatro Lirico d’europe and Italia Konzert Opera International, Italy’s largest touring Opera Company.
Raffaele has won the Mario Gusella International Conducting Competition in Pescara, Italy; awarded the Cleveland Institute of Music – Bernard Adelstein Award; The Cleveland Institute of Music – Artist Diploma; and named the Italian Musician of the Year.
Ponti is passionate about music and conducting and that passion shines through when he steps onto the podium, a living embodiment of “Connecting People to the Symphony.” A dynamic personality with excellent people skills makes Raffaele a favorite with everyone, orchestra, audience, board members, and sponsors, and his commitment to excellence is evident throughout his performances.
Raffaele’s deep knowledge of repertoire and resourcefulness reflects his outstanding and innovative programming that has become synonymous with collaborations with world class artists David Kim, Allen Vizzutti, David Halen, Michael Ludwig, Juana Zayas, Philippe Quint, Elena Urioste, Ettore Nova, and Ambra Vespasiani. POP artists, Paul Anka, Engelbert Humperdinck, Robert Goulet, Eartha Kitt, Eddie Fisher, and Tony Martin.
Raffaele’s musical studies began on violin, piano and trumpet. By age seventeen, he was performing in the trumpet section of the Rochester Philharmonic and two years later was asked to play assistant principal trumpet to Bernard Adelstein at the Cleveland Orchestra. He has worked with conducting greats Lorin Maazel, Yoel Levi, David Zinman and Sir Colin Davis. He studied conducting in Rome, Italy with Maestro Giuseppe Sinopoli.
Matthew Wardell (b. 1983) began his tenure as Music Director and Conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra in 2009 after having completed studies at the University of North Florida, University of Florida, and the prestigious Pierre Monteux School for Conductors in Hancock, Maine. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Wardell began his undergraduate work in percussion and composition at the University of Florida and received his Bachelor of Music cum laude at the University of North Florida. Wardell continued his education by completing graduate studies at the University of Florida with Raymond Chobaz. While Maestro Chobaz was on sabbatical in 2009, Matthew’s responsibilities with the orchestra increased and his extremely successful performances of difficult works such as Rachmaninov’s Paganini Variations and Bartok’s pantomime The Miraculous Mandarin (fully staged with 8 dancers) were called “spirited,” “miraculous,” and a “culmination of the orchestra’s history so far” by University of Florida faculty, administration, and members of the Central Florida community. In April of 2009, Matthew conducted 2 performances of Puccini’s Tosca with only one day’s notice. The performances were hailed as “first-rate” and “inspiring.” Matthew’s ability to step in at the last moment was described as a “magnificent feat … when the stakes were high, Mr. Wardell came through brilliantly and proved his mettle.”
Matthew has spent four summers at the prestigious Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Musicians in Hancock, Maine studying with Michael Jinbo and has been fortunate to have been recognized as both an Osher and Quimby Family Foundation scholar and twice served as an orchestra assistant. He is very proud to be part of the school’s long heritage of forming clear and dutiful conductors and considers Hancock a second home. Other conducting studies have been
done through masterclasses with Keith Lockhart, Thomas Cockrell and 6 weeks of studies in Salzburg, Austria with Peter WesenAuer. The Ocala Star Banner declared that, “Wardell brings an impressive resume of musical and conducting training . . . Maybe more important than his musical credentials is Wardell’s youthful enthusiasm and unabashed zest” He enjoys programming and conducting core repertoire arm and arm with pops and new music believing that good music is just that – good music. In addition to his musical pursuits, Wardell is an avid traveler and enjoys spending time with his family, reading, and attending the Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games. He is a member of the American Symphony Orchestra League and the College Orchestra Directors Association.
Recent reviews describe performances as “mischievous and transparent, a rare phenomenon…… every note is savored with thundering and delicate virtuosity. MacDonald maintains a light yet admirably precise leadership of the ensemble.” (Leipziger Volkszeitung) Roderick MacDonald has received critical acclaim for his abilities as both an orchestral conductor and trumpeter. In February 2012, he appeared again at the helm of the Leipziger Philharmoniker for their annual concert to benefit children’s cancer research. In existence since 2000, this monumental event has raised over $1 million dollars for the Leipzig Children’s Cancer Clinic. The most recent performance was endorsed and supported by the new US Consulate General in Germany, who was the guest of honor for the “Voyage to America.”
Equally comfortable on the podium or in the principal trumpet seat, MacDonald began his career as Principal Trumpet of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, appointed by Music Director Kurt Masur upon completion of his Masters of Music at New England Conservatory. His career as a concert soloist began shortly after this appointment and has since appeared worldwide as a trumpet soloist with highly regarded ensembles including: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Japan Philharmonic, Virtuosi Saxonia, Bach Collegium Munich, Leipzig Bach Orchestra, Leipzig Chamber Orchestra, Concerto Leipzig, Kammerphilharmonie Leipzig, and the Super World Orchestra (Tokyo). With a discography of over 25 recordings with the Gewandhaus Orchestra, he can also be heard on recordings with the Leipzig Baroque Soloists, solo recordings, and numerous other chamber and orchestral albums. One of his solo albums was named “CD of the Month” by Naxos in December 2003.
A conducting pupil of Maestro Kurt Masur, Maestro MacDonald also pursued conducting studies with Bernard Haitink, Gunter Blumhagen, and Volker Rohde. He completed his formal conducting studies at the Leipzig Conservatory, earning a Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting. The year of his graduation, he won “Deutsche Dirigenten Forum”, a conducting competition in Leipzig. Since his return to the United States, Maestro MacDonald has been a finalist for the prestigious positions such as Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic and Associate Conductor of the Dallas Symphony. He returns to Germany each summer to lead members of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in a summer residency at the Stelzen Music Festival, as he has done since 1993.
Roderick MacDonald currently resides in Fredonia, NY where he is Associate Professor of Trumpet He also maintains an active conducting schedule in the US and abroad.