As MSFO members explore new pieces, conducting fellow Lee makes debut


Matt Burkhartt | Staff Photographer
Conductor Timothy Muffitt leads the Music School Festival Orchestra in its June 30 performance of Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 100 in G major, “Military.” The MSFO will perform for the second time at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater.

After the debut performance of this season’s Music School Festival Orchestra, the students set a tone of high expectations. Two weeks into the season, director Timothy Muffitt thinks the sky’s the only limit for the musicians.

At 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater, MSFO students will take the stage again, and this time with a piece conducted by the 2014 David Effron Conducting Fellow, Earl Lee.

Born in Korea, Lee’s aspirations lie in pursuing careers as a cellist and conductor. With several awards and fellowships under his belt, Lee comes to Chautauqua after recently conducting the Manhattan School of Music Chamber Sinfonia at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The extreme competitiveness and astounding number of applicants from all over the globe serve as a testament of how prestigious the David Effron Conducting Fellowship is. The MSFO director and conductor said that he is very excited to work with Lee. 

“Earl is very talented young conductor,” Muffitt said.

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, Michael Gandolfi’s “Willow Twist” and Ottorino Respighi’s “Fountains of Rome” will echo throughout the Amp at this evening’s performance. Tchaikovsky, which has come to be a notable stitch in standard repertoire, will be performed along with Gandolfi, who Muffitt said is emerging as a very important and popular American composer with a style that audiences can embrace easily. “Fountains of Rome,” which Lee will conduct, will engage the orchestra in a powerful way allowing for the harp and percussion section to have much involvement, Muffitt said.

Together all of tonight’s pieces are expected to illuminate the talents of the MSFO.

“I think this is where audiences are going to hear the youthful enthusiasm that they’ve come to expect from the MSFO, but I think they’re going to hear a very special energy to those pieces,” Muffitt said. “It’s a special energy that comes from young players at this point in their career; many of them exploring these pieces for the first time and so there’s still an element of discovery on the stage and I think that is something the audience can feel.”

Excited to take to the podium for the first time in Chautauqua, Lee is also excited for the connection that the students will have with tonight’s music but also what the audience will experience of the performance.

“It’s a very rare opportunity to hear a group of young musicians just playing their heart out,” Lee said. “It’s a very special experience. As a listener and as a player it would be really nice to share this experience with as many people as possible.”