Local Matters

Recent comments

Community Sponsors


November 5, 2021 - 3:54pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, GSO, batavia, GCC, music, arts, entertainment, notify.


As the 75th anniversary of Genesee Symphony Orchestra quickly approaches, the planning of its concert this weekend has been anything but rushed.

In fact, Conductor Shade Zajac has been thinking about the event for the last few years.

“I’ve been so looking forward to this particular season for so long, not for any personal reason. I just want the orchestra to be celebrated, for people to know that this incredible thing exists,” Zajac said during an interview with the Batavian. “I am not the same guy I was when we started … and the orchestra is not the same. GSO will always be part of my history and part of my family.”

The 75th celebration concert titled Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Genesee Community College’s Stuart Steiner Theatre, 1 College Rd., Batavia. 

Years in the making ...
Zajac, whose first season was in 2016, has been mulling the 2021 musical season “for a lot of years now,” he said. He had discussed it with Co-President Roxie Choate and had several ideas amidst a pandemic that had canceled many public events. 

“It was touch and go whether or not we would actually be having a season,” he said. 

Once venues began opening up, Zajac and staff plunged ahead with mapping out an agenda of nostalgic and meaningful pieces. History has been the focus of the orchestra’s return to the stage, exactly 75 years to the date it first debuted as Batavia Civic Orchestra. 

A letter in Richmond Memorial Library’s archives demonstrates just how delicate GSO’s formation really was. Zajac stumbled upon it, he said, while scouring the vast relics for concert ideas. It was fairly early on after the orchestra’s 1947 founding, and it was an ominous musing about whether it was worth it to carry on.

“Do you want the Civic Orchestra to continue? If so, will you work for it?” the letter began. “It will be a sad loss to the community to end the orchestra. It seems better, though, to end it quickly than to drag on to a slow death.”

Written by then-President Virginia Trietly, the letter ended with a hopeful encouragement to “muster up enthusiasm — lasting enthusiasm” that would allow the group to survive longer than 11 years. It’s safe to say that community members rallied to carry on and endure the next several decades.

“And here we are 75 seasons later. Yeah, through this horrible pandemic where many orchestras haven't been able to do a thing, and we've been fortunate enough to continue to make music. That's a really incredible thing,” Zajac said. “And it's a testament to the musicians, of course, to all the people that have worked on the board of directors and also to this community that continues to support us through tough times, and through great times. Without all of these components … we wouldn't be having this conversation.” 

As for the music, a concert lineup is chock full of classical compositions, a guest performance, and a piece of freshly crafted work. Mikhail Glinka’s “Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla” is not unfamiliar to orchestras, as it has been performed “many, many, many times” by GSO and others, Zajac said.

“Because it's just a complete fireworks spectacular showcase for the orchestra,” he said. “It’s breakneck fast, and then it gets even faster at the end. It’s a statement to start a program with that piece.”

“Prelude to Act III, Dance of the Apprentices, Final Prelude and Intermezzo,” from Cavalleria, was featured in the very first orchestra performance. Zajac discovered the musical score in library archives labeled with the group's original name. Considered a “classical repertoire,” the prelude is “just gorgeous,” he said.

“I really wanted to do something different, something from the very early season … the librarian gave me the score. And the coolest thing is, stamped on the cover is the Batavia Civic Orchestra, which is, of course, the name before,” he said. “So that is a cool find. And that's a really great piece.”

Then and Now ...
Guest soloist Mia Fasanello will also become part of the orchestra’s history by performing a concerto 75 years after her own grandfather, Sebastian Fasanello, played one during the first concert. No stranger to the GSO, Fasanello won its Young Artist competition for her oboe performance and was a featured soloist with the group for “Concerto for Oboe and Strings” in 2017. Currently studying with the Juilliard School, Fasanello’s talent prickled the judges’ ears from the very first tuning note.

“Oboe is a really tricky instrument to play. And for such a young person to have such a mature sound, it was a no-brainer that she had to be the winner,” Zajac said.  “So it's really great for us to have her come and perform, and to work with us in this collaboration. And it just plays into the whole idea that this is a generational thing.”

From the past of a musician’s grandfather, the concert also includes the present with a “world premiere” of Nancy Pettersen Strelau’s original piece, “A Simple Beautiful Idea.” 

Zajac wanted someone connected to the orchestra to compose a piece for the celebration but wasn’t initially sure who that should be. He chose Strelau for her role as his teacher, mentor, and sounding board throughout his education at Nazareth College School of Music. She even nudged him into applying for the conductor position when it became vacant in 2015. 

“I owe so much to her, she’s an incredible human being; she’s always been there,” he said. “It’s a really beautiful piece … the idea of back when they first wanted this orchestra, how daunting it must have been. It’s a very special piece to me.”

A majestic and lively “Hungarian Rhapsodies no. 2” ends the lineup with a melody often heard during popular cartoons Tom and Jerry, and Bugs Bunny. Don’t be surprised if your mind conjures up a sneaky little rodent wreaking havoc during portions of the song, Zajac said. 

The program includes proclamations from state Assemblyman Steve Hawley and Genesee County Legislator Rochelle Stein; and a display that highlights “certain aspects of our history,”  said GSO librarian and second chair clarinet Joanne Tumminello. A GSO calendar will be available for purchase to support the orchestra and provide a cherished collection of photos across the decades, she said. 

A member since 1995, Tumminello has been in charge of gathering and preserving tidbits of time in the form of news articles, photos, videos and other materials. This year has brought with it a sense of celebration to the wide assortment of members young and old and from all walks of life, she said.

“It’s definitely brought excitement to the orchestra,” Tumminello said. “It has brought us together.”

Shirts with the new GSO logo — selected from entries of a prior logo contest — have been made for members to wear during rehearsal, she said, noting that the 75th will be removed for next season and beyond. That’s a sign that “we can endure anything,” she said.

“The community has a love of history and enjoys supporting us, and that tells us to keep going,” she said. 

Zajac emphasized that although he may be the “face” of the orchestra, it takes the whole body of musicians, board of directors and community support to make a concert, and this celebration, happen. One musician in particular has become part of the 27-year-old conductor’s future: his wife Nicole. Before they were married, she filled in as a pinch-hitter for a vacant French horn seat. The late Bob Knipe, heavily active in the GSO and local music scene, had also “invited her to come and play” in the group. She eventually became a permanent member of GSO.

“I was in the thick of my first season with GSO and knew I needed a sub for Horn. And she turned me down, and we kind of kept talking,” he Zajac said. “And then as that particular concert approached, we needed an extra horn player last minute. So she stepped up, played, and then they kept inviting her back.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Tickets are $15 adults, $10 seniors and free to students with a student identification card, and may be purchased at Holland Land Office Museum, YNGodess or online at www.geneseesymphony.com.

Photos: File photos from previous seasons' rehearsals.  All photos by Howard Owens. Top photo, S. Shade Zajac in 2019.  Videos below from 2019.






Video Sponsor


July 16, 2021 - 5:49pm
posted by Press Release in Genesee Symphony Orchestra, batavia, news, GSO.

From Melzie Case:

Due to the weather forecast for tomorrow, July 17, the Genesee Symphony Orchestra’s 75th Season Reveal Event has been moved to the Batavia City Centre.

The FREE concert will be at 4 p.m. Saturday and GSO patrons can enter through the entrance by the former Sunny’s restaurant.

From Roxie Choate:

GSO .... "along with advice from the Batavia Parks Manager made the decision to have the REVEAL Event move from Austin Park to the Batavia City Centre Concourse. Our rainy weather prediction has caused our problem.

"Austin Park is going to be one mushy, soggy grass situation after the all night rain and rain into Saturday till afternoon also.

"We are playing it safe. Our food trucks can still park on the JCPenney wall in the back entrance to the mall. Use the back entrance next to where Sunny's Restaurant used to be.

"Remember to bring your own chair. We will set the orchestra up on the stage area.

"We cannot enter the mall until 3 p.m. We are hiring a city custodian to be our entrance and lock up person for the mall. We will be carrying 60 chairs for the orchestra into the mall at 3 p.m. if anyone would like to help. COME ON DOWN..."

December 18, 2020 - 11:54am
posted by Press Release in hlom, GSO, Christmas 2020, flute trio, COVID-19.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum wants to let everyone know of the change to the concert scheduled for tonight at 7 o'clock. The concert will be performed by a flute trio from the Genesee Symphony Orchestra, however, due to the increased coronavirus precautions, we will not be having a live audience in attendance at the museum during the concert.

As was the case last week, we will still be livestreaming the concert on our YouTube channel, Holland Land Office Museum. We would like to thank Paul Figlow for helping us out with making this available for everyone. You can follow this link below to join us virtually tonight.

We would also like to thank the Genesee Symphony Orchestra for working with us to put on two wonderful holiday concerts to bring at least a little Christmas cheer this year.

December 5, 2020 - 3:34pm
posted by Press Release in virtual Encore 2020, Be the Light, news, GSO, GCC Foundation.

Press release:

When the Genesee Symphony Orchestra was presented with an opportunity to perform at Encore 2020 for the GCC Foundation, there was a harmonic and resounding "YES!" from members and board members alike. With that commitment, the virtual celebration which raises critical funds for student scholarships, began to take shape.

With the generous sponsorship from Tompkins Financial AdvisorsTompkins Bank of Castile, and Tompkins Insurance Agencies, the Encore 2020 committee, cochaired by Tom and Kim Cox, have built a spectacular event that everyone can enjoy on Saturday, Dec. 12 -- without having to go out in the snowy weather!

The entire event is available completely online and ticket access is on sale now.

As the "Be the Light" program details came into focus, the Genesee Symphony Orchestra (GSO) learned more and more about the time and efforts the staff at Genesee Community College had implemented to ensure the health and safety of the GSO members during rehearsals and filming.

"The members and I were honored to be asked to perform at GCC's Encore 2020," said GSO Music Director and Conductor S. Shade Zajac. "The care and consideration for our health and safety that GCC put into the preparations for this program allowed us to perform as a full orchestra, maintaining safe distances and even to magically perform a selection or two that include special appearances by members of the Genesee Chorale."

At 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12, the program will be broadcast for those with ticket access. Amongst the mix of holiday favorites, the GSO has included a special arrangement entitled "Christmas at the Movies" full of popular tunes from movies such as "The Polar Express," "Nightmare Before Christmas" and "A Miracle on 34th Street."

Through the magic of modern technology, the Genesee Chorale will "join" the GSO for two special pieces, a union that hasn't been made in quite some time.

The Conductor's Prediction: 'There Won't Be a Dry Eye'

"I am particularly excited about my personal selections for this performance which embody Encore's Be the Light theme," Zajac said. "The journey from darkness into light that is felt through the last movement of Beethoven's Symphony is so representative of this moment in time when we can be a light for someone's dark journey. It is indeed fitting for the end of 2020 as the 250th anniversary of his birth.

"My second selection, composed by Gustav Mahler, is called 'Resurrection' (Symphony #2). It is a gorgeous movement meaning 'primal light' that features the orchestra and a soprano soloist Brittany Burgess. It is only truly fantastic artists and musicians that can bring feeling to a piece -- and she has done that. There won't be a dry eye. On behalf of the GSO, I'd like to thank GCC for asking us to do this, it has been a gift to make some music as a group."

"Be the Light" is more than musical excellence, more than a performance, this will be a true audio and visual treat -- viewers will enjoy a unique and exclusive perspective to this show as only cameras can provide.

Encore 2020 is a critical component to the scholarship fundraising the GCC Foundation does every year to ensure students in need can continue to achieve their college dreams.

For ticket access, please visit https://gccfoundationinc.org/ or contact the Foundation Office at (585) 345-6809, or [email protected] today.

December 5, 2020 - 2:52pm
posted by Press Release in hlom, GSO, Wonderland of Trees 2020.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce that members of the Genesee Symphony Orchestra will be performing small concerts at the museum during its Wonderland of Trees celebration sponsored in part by Tompkins Bank of Castile.

On Friday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. GSO Music Director and Conductor Shade Zajac and his wife, Nicole, will be performing as a duet.

On Friday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. the GSO will also be performing with a small group of their musicians. There will be a small audience available to listen in person, however, it will be limited to 12 people.

If you would like to attend in person please call the museum at (585) 343-4727 to register. Attendees are required to wear a mask at all times and follow all social distancing protocols.

The concerts will also be livestreamed to the museum Youtube channel during the performances by Paul Figlow of Figlow Productions. The links can be found on the museum’s Facebook page and website www.hollandlandoffice.com.

For further questions please call the museum at 343-4727 or email:   [email protected]

The Holland Land Office Museum is located at 131 W. Main St. in the City of Batavia.

December 7, 2019 - 10:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, news, music, arts, entertainment.


The Genesee Symphony Orchestra performs its annual holiday concert, "A Nutcracker Holiday," at 4 p.m., Sunday, at Byron-Bergen High School, conducted by S. Shade Zajac.

Performances include "Christmas Concerto" by Corelli, "Sleigh Ride" by Leroy Anderson, "Piano Concerto No. 2" by Saint-Saens (featuring Amy Feng, GSO Young Artist Winner), T"he Nutcracker" by Tchaikovsky, a holiday selection featuring the Pembroke Elementary Chorus, and Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson.

Tickets are adults $15, senior $10, and students with ID are free.

Byron-Bergen High School is located at 6917 W. Bergen Road, Bergen.









November 17, 2019 - 1:20pm
posted by Billie Owens in GSO, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, news, concert.

Genesee Symphony Orchestra will perform "Symphonic Pictures II -- A Nutcracker Holiday" at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8, at Byron-Bergen High School.

It is located at 6917 W. Bergen Road, Bergen.

S. Shade Zajac is the music director and conductor.

The program is:

  • "Christmas Concerto" by Corelli
  • "Sleigh Ride" by Anderson
  • Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, movement I, by Saint-Saëns, performed by Amy Feng, GSO 2019 Young Artist winner
  • "The Nutcracker" selections from Act I by Tchaikovsky
  • Holiday Selections performed by the Pembroke Elementary School Chorus, directed by Erin Rush, with pianist Sarah Panna
  • "Christmas Festival" by Anderson

Tickets are $15 for adults; seniors $10; and students with student ID, free.

Tickets are available at: Roxy's Music Store (228 W. Main St., Batavia); The Yngodess Shop (73 Main St., Batavia); the Bank of Castile, Le Roy (29 Main St.); and online at the GSO website here.

This concert is made possible with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the NYS Council on the Arts, with the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the NYS Legislature. The funds are administered by GO ART!

October 15, 2019 - 4:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in music, GSO, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, arts, entertainment, video.
Video Sponsor

The Genesee Symphony Orchestra opens its 2019-20 season this Sunday at 4 p.m. with a concert in the auditorium of Pembroke High School.

The concert, "Symphonic Pictures I: Portraits" features "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" by Debussy, "John Henry," by Aaron Copland, "The Swan of Tuonela," by Sibelius, and "Pictures at an Exhibition," by Mussorgsky.

This is the fourth season S. Shade Zajac leads the orchestra.

For casual fans of orchestra music or those who have never been to see an orchestra perform, this is an excellent show. The pieces are largely modernist and fun. The Mussorgsky piece is particularly exciting (watch the video) and Aaron Copland is perhaps America's greatest composer.  

If you watch the video, you will likely want to attend this show.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, and students (with ID) get in for free. Tickets are available at Roxy's Music Store, GO ART!, The YNGodess Shop, Bank of Castile in Le Roy and at geneseesymphony.com.

Pembroke High School is located at 8750 Alleghany Road (routes 5 and 77), Pembroke.

August 13, 2019 - 5:52pm
Video Sponsor

The Genesee Symphony Orchestra prepares for the annual Summer Serenade, a joint fundraiser with United Way and held each year at the La Royan in Le Roy.

The 2019 concert is Aug. 25. Social hour begins at 4:30 p.m., with dinner at 5, the concert at 6:15, and dessert to follow.

Tickets are $75 a person. Garden party attire recommended.

Tickets available at Tompkins Bank of Castile in Le Roy and Roxy's Music Store or online at  www.uwrochester.org/summerserenade

Proceeds benefit the United Way Backpack Program and the GSO.

May 16, 2019 - 4:00pm

Press release:

Save the date!

On Aug. 25, the United Way of Genesee County will host their Fourth Annual Summer Serenade; a combined fund-raising event with the Genesee Symphony Orchestra (GSO).

This year’s garden party, held at the stately LeRoyan (formerly Mercy Grove), will start with cocktails at 4:30 p.m. Dinner will be served at 5 o'clock and a serenade of guests by the GSO will begin at 6:15, followed by dessert.

Garden party attire is encouraged.

Tickets for this combined fundraiser are $75 per person and include: beer & wine, dinner, dessert and the beautiful sounds of the GSO. (Cash bar is available.) Proceeds support the United Way’s Backpack Program and the GSO.

To support these two wonderful groups, tickets can be purchased as follows:

December 8, 2018 - 9:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee Symphony Orchestra, news, arts, entertainment, GSO.


The Genesee Symphony Orchestra performs its annual Holiday Concert tomorrow (Sunday) at Byron-Bergen High School featuring young artist winner Raymond Feng.

Showtime is 4 p.m.

The program includes: "Overture to the Marriage of Figaro" (Mozart), "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (Vince Guaraldi), "Concerto  No. 3 in C Major" (Prokofiev) (Feng on piano), Canadian Brass Christmas, holiday favorites, "Sleigh Ride" and "Christmas Festival" (Leroy Anderson).

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, $7 for students, and $35 for a family with children 12 and under.








October 27, 2018 - 2:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, music, entertainment, arts, news.


Celloist Marza Merophi Wilks will be the featured soloist tomorrow in a concert by the Genesee Symphony Orchestra at Genesee Community College.

The concert starts at 4 p.m. and tickets are available at the door.

Wilks, born in Peru, started playing cello when she was 5 years old and is a master student at the Julliard School. She has previously been a guest soloist for the Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes and The Cayuga Chamber Orchestra. 

Wilks will perform with the orchestra Samuel Barber's "Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra," a piece in three movements.

Also on the program, "Electric Dream for Acoustic Orchestra," a world premiere performance, which was written by S. Shade Zajac, the GSO's musical director and conductor. 

The orchestra will close with "Symphony No. 2 in B minor" by Alexander Borodin.







August 14, 2018 - 3:50pm


Monday night at Genesee Community College, the Genesee Symphony Orchestra rehearsed for Sunday's third annual Summer Serenade.
The garden party event is a combined fund-raising event for the United Way's Backpack Program and the Genesee Symphony Orchestra.
It will be Aug. 19th from 3:30-6:30 p.m. at the Mercy Grove Event Center, 7758 E. Main Road (Route 5) in Le Roy.
During the three-hour Garden Party, guests can enjoy hors-d'oeuvres, grazing stations, beer, wine, and a cash bar, all catered by the Le Roy Country Club. 
The Genesee Symphony Orchestra will play a concert from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. under a large white tent, which is set up off the back patio of Mercy Grove. The stately mansion was built by Donald Woodward in 1927 and sets amid beautifully landscaped grounds with expansive views.
Le Roy Historian Lynne Belluscio will conduct mansion tours during the Garden Party.
Bright-colored, garden-party attire recommended.
The orchestra will feature "Summer Songs" with their concertmaster, GSO Conductor S. Shade Zajac. Kiran Rajamani is the featured violin soloist. Some other musical surprises will also be played.
Theresa DeMars, an account manager with Lawley Insurance, chairs the event for United Way.
Tickets to support this combined fundraiser are $75 per person; $40 of that ticket cost may be claimed as a donation to these two nonprofit organizations.  
Tickets may be purchased at the door or as follows:
  1. Le Roy Country Club
  2. Roxy's Music Store
  3. United Way or GSO Board Members
  4. Online at: www.uwrochester.org/summer serenade
  5. www.geneseesymphony.com

(Photos by Howard Owens.)









August 8, 2018 - 5:07pm

United Way's third annual Summer Serenade featuring the Genesee Symphony Orchestra will be held from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19, at Mercy Grove.

The venue is at 7758 E. Main Road (Route 5) in Le Roy.

Tickets are $75 per person.

There will be hors d’oeuvres, grazing stations, beer, wine, soda and a cash bar is available.

The GSO Serenade portion of the event will be from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m.

Proceeds benefit the United Way Backpack Program and the GSO.

Theresa DeMars, an account manager with Lawley Insurance, chairs the event for United Way.

As in the previous two Summer Serenades, garden-party attire is appropriate.

Donald Woodward built the mansion at Mercy Grove in 1927. Currently, the facility and its beautiful grounds are available for special events, conferences and weddings. 

Summer Serenade tickets are available at Le Roy Country Club, Roxy's Music Store, from United Way or GSO board members, and online here.

Subscribe to The Batavian - Local Matters

Copyright © 2008-2022 The Batavian. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service

blue button

News Break