On Friday, April 27th, at 7:30 p.m. in the Campus Center Auditorium, students and community members of Oswego will have the opportunity of seeing the first performance of a new musical legacy at Oswego State. The Lab Orchestra, which is completely student-run, was created in the Spring 2012 semester as a way for exceptional music students to hone their abilities in a low-pressure environment.
Wojciech Milewski, an undergraduate student and the conductor of the Lab Orchestra explained what motivated him to found the new ensemble. “I was applying to grad schools for conducting this year, and the really big thing about grad schools is whether or not they have a Lab Orchestra that their students can use as their instrument to practice on.” Milewski said.
“The more time you spend on the podium the better.”
Milewski decided to try to create his own Lab Orchestra here at Oswego State before going to graduate school. He approached the music department in late November of 2011 with his idea where he found the support he needed. “It was really easy to do; the department was really on board and helpful with it,” Milewski said.
There are 23 students in the orchestra, most of whom knew each other before Lab Orchestra. There were not enough students in the music department to warrant auditions, so Milewski personally recruited each member by hand. The ensemble is relatively diverse with only about half of the orchestra consisting of music majors.
The Lab Orchestra has chosen relatively difficult pieces for themselves, both from an instrumental and conducting standpoint. “The ‘Magic Flute Overture’ is highly debated in conducting circles. ‘Beethoven’s First Symphony’ is huge. Same thing,” Milewski said, “I think I just wanted to do some of those for my own benefit to get experience rehearsing these pieces that supposedly really hard for conductors. It’s really helped me personally.”
The pieces are not any easier for the orchestra though. “Then you have pieces like the Moldau [Smetana] which are a literal nightmare for string players. They actually voted for that piece,” Milewski said. Unlike most orchestras, Milewski gave the players the choice of which pieces they would like to play.
Milewski, who began his musical career on the piano and clarinet, was drawn to conducting after being invited to be the assistant music director for the musical “Grease” that the theatre department put on. He conducted all the performances for “Grease” which was well-received by the actors. At the time, Milewski had already been accepted to a graduate school where he planned to study business and international relations. He decided to defer his acceptance, re-applied to Oswego State as a musical theatre major after graduating, and began to study conducting in depth.
He is now planning on attending the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque next year to study conducting at a graduate level.
As for his future, Milewski sees himself attaining an artist diploma after graduate school, and a PhD after that. Afterwards, he would like to conduct a professional orchestra and teach at a college.
“In ten years, my goal is to have an original orchestra somewhere and also be able to teach at a college in the same location,” Milewski said. “I still want to keep playing in church, giving lessons, and also keep playing clarinet and piano.”
Milewski said that he would hope that this Lab Orchestra would continue in the coming years and become the precursor to a conducting program here at Oswego State.
“It’s been a really great experience, and I hope someone else gets to have it,” Milweski said.
“It’s been really fun to watch the students motivate themselves,” Milewski added. “It’s really been a learning process for me and for the group.”