LASO conductor to hand over the baton to the public

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By Special to the Monitor

Have you ever dreamed of conducting a symphony orchestra? If so, your dream could become a reality.  

At 7 p.m. Friday in the White Rock Baptist Church, the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra will give its traditional Christmas concert. At the end of the concert, a drawing will be held and the winner will have the opportunity to stand on the conductor podium and lead the orchestra in a familiar holiday tune.  

There is no charge for the concert or the raffle ticket. LASO conductor Michael Gyurik will give the lucky winner a few quick tips on the art of conducting before handing over his baton.

Gyurik has conducted the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra since 1998 when he came to Los Alamos to direct the schools’ string programs.

Presently, he leads the two high school orchestras and orchestras at Aspen, Mountain and Chamisa elementary schools. In addition, he teaches private violin and viola lessons.

Gyurik grew up in a home without musical parents but one where music of all types was always being played on the phonograph.

His own musical aspirations were awakened when, at age 5, he watched Russian violinist David Oistrakh perform on the Ed Sullivan show.  For the next two years he begged his parents to let him start violin lessons.

By age 7 he realized that his pestering wasn’t working so he wrote a letter to his grandmother explaining his dilemma. Grandma’s phone call to Dad did the trick and the young Gyurik started his violin career. He never had to be told to practice–he was doing what he really wanted to do.

This made his mother very proud. After high school, he studied viola performance and music education at Temple University and from there, went on to play viola in the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra for 24 years.

Gyurik said that all during his youth he listened to recordings of all the great performers – Isaac Stern, YoYoMa, Itzak Perlman, Leontine Price – to name a few. So as an adult playing in the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra he had the opportunity to actually perform with these same heros from his youth.  

But the biggest thrill was the performance with his all-time favorite–Ray Charles.

Gyurik derives satisfaction from teaching his students the basics of music–rhythm, reading, sharps and flats – and instilling in them a pride for being musicians.  He sees the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra as a project, which he enjoys. The group of mostly adults, but with some students as well, is like a family and he has a pretty good idea of what it can accomplish.  He said it is fun and satisfying to “get everyone on the same page.”

Gyurik said he looks forward to handing over the baton at the end of Friday’s concert to some aspiring conductor – young or old. This fun holiday concert is the orchestra’s gift to the community. Donations will be gratefully accepted at the door.