Three conductors return for Beloit Janesville Symphony's 60th birthday

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Ann Fiore
Thursday, September 12, 2013

This year, it's all about the legacy.

That's how Michael Krueger, executive director of the
Beloit Janesville Symphony, characterized the symphony's current season—its 60th.

Founded in 1953 as the Beloit Civic Symphony, the organization has grown in size and professionalism, but its leadership has remained remarkably stable: only three conductors in 60 years. All three men will be on hand next weekend for the Diamond Jubilee gala and concert. Each will conduct a piece dear to his heart.

Let's meet the conductors.

Lewis Dalvit

Age: 87

Living: Johnson City, Tenn., and St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada.

Conductor: 1953-63Background: Dalvit founded the Beloit Civic Symphony in 1953. He spent 10 years as its conductor, then took a sabbatical so he could conduct in Honolulu. He left permanently in 1963. Dalvit has founded and/or developed symphonies in Mississippi and Tennessee and founded a performing arts school in Canada. He is also a skilled clarinetist.

Favorite Beloit memories: Dalvit fondly remembers the support the young symphony got—from musicians, the community and the media. He also recalled that some musicians who were teachers occasionally told Dalvit they couldn't rehearse because they were behind in their work. Dalvit's wife, Pat, would correct papers for them.

Jubilee piece he's conducting: Edward Elgar's “Nimrod,” the ninth movement of the “Enigma Variations.”

Why he chose it: The piece honors soldiers and others who have died in wartime. Dalvit calls it “subdued” but “moving.” He said it speaks of sacrifice, and in this case, the sacrifices of all who helped the symphony grow.

“It's short, but it is just universal to all human beings,” he said.

Why a symphony is important: Dalvit believes in music education for children. The East Tennessee Regional Symphony, which he currently conducts, performs regular children's concerts to get young people involved in music. Dalvit also founded the St. Andrews Summer School for the Performing Arts in 1986 in New Brunswick, Canada, to offer training for young musicians.

Crawford Gates

Age: 91

Living: Salt Lake City area

Conductor: 1963-64 and 1966-99

Background: Gates spent much of his early career at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, as a faculty member and music department director. He conducted the Beloit Janesville Symphony for 34 years while conducting the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and the Quincy (Ill.) Symphony and teaching at Beloit College. Gates also is a prolific composer and has written 889 pieces of music since age 8. He is best known for  his works with religious themes.

Favorite Beloit memories: Gates likes to tell the story of how he got the conductor job in Beloit; it involves meeting Lewis Dalvit's mother-in-law years earlier in Utah, when he was conducting a boys' chorus.

“It was a joyful period of time,” Gates said of his years in Beloit. “I loved the orchestra, and I treated them with love and affection.”  His musicians loved him back.

Jubilee piece he's conducting: “Wisconsin Profiles,” which he wrote in Beloit. It has four movements that touch on important parts of Badger State history: “Menomonee: Heritage of Lakes and Forests,” “Marquette: The Peaceable Explorer,” “Baraboo: The Grand Circus” and “Taliesin: The Builder with Vision.”

Why he chose it: The piece was commissioned for the symphony's 25th anniversary. Musicians loved playing it, and people loved hearing it, Gates said.

What he's doing now: Gates currently is working on commission, composing three orchestral pieces for Brigham Young University. He hopes to be finished in two years.

Robert Tomaro

Age: 62

Living: Beloit

Conductor: 1999-present

Background: Tomaro came to the Beloit Janesville Symphony from the New Jersey-based Elysian Symphony Orchestra, which he founded and served as music director. Besides leading the symphony and teaching at Beloit College, Tomaro also composes music—from symphonic pieces to ballet, pop and rock—and performs regularly with his jazz trio.

Favorite Beloit memories: One of his best memories occurred at the end of his first year in Beloit. The symphony closed the season with Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, accompanied by a 125-voice chorus. “It was such a powerful, wonderful, ecstatic beginning to my tenure here,” Tomaro said.

He also fondly recalls an April 2012 concert with violinist Susan Aquila, who performed music by Mozart and Tomaro on the violin and electric violin.

Jubilee piece he's conducting: Brahms' Symphony No. 1

Why he chose it: “It's associated with new beginnings and celebrations. It celebrated a new beginning in Brahms' life. It seemed like a good choice for a celebration.”

Why a symphony is important: Many symphonies were formed after the Civil War and became important cultural and service organizations in their communities. “The pride of having a symphony orchestra, even a modest one, is an important part of American life.”

Future of the symphony: Symphonies have faced financial hurdles, but Tomaro is excited about the future. He sees the organization reaching out and pursuing new music, venues and audiences.

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