Sinfonietta passes the baton

Conductor Stuart Malina has been named the new music director for the Lake Placid Sinfonietta starting Oct. 1. (Provided photo — Sadie Posdzich)

LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid Sinfonietta announced Tuesday that Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra conductor and Music Director Stuart Malina will be the orchestra’s next music director.

“It feels very real,” Malina said Wednesday by phone from his home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “When you first get the call saying you get the job … there’s an unrealness to it, and then you sign a contract and it becomes very real. And then you post it on Facebook, and, of course, it’s written in stone now.”

Sinfonietta board President Robin Baxter called Malina on the phone with the news last week. He replaces Ron Spigelman, who resigned as music director at the end of the 2018 season. Malina’s three-year contract begins on Oct. 1, which is also the beginning of the orchestra’s fiscal year.

After a nationwide search for a new music director, more than 100 applications were received. Then a search committee narrowed the field down, and in October 2018, the board announced three finalists who would audition this summer for the job: Kynan Johns (July 3 to 14), Malina (July 15 to 28) and Peter Rubardt (July 29 to Aug. 11).

At the end of his tryout, Malina returned to Pennsylvania content with his performance and cautiously optimistic.

“I got back and I was thinking, ‘You know, I represented myself really well,'” Malina said. “The concerts were good. And at the same time, I was thinking, well, if they choose someone else, he must be really good. … It was a very nice surprise.”

Malina first heard about the Lake Placid Sinfonietta from Devin Howell, a double bass player for the Lake Placid and Harrisburg orchestras.

“He would come back (to Harrisburg) and tell stories about how beautiful it was and how unique and terrific the orchestra was and how much he enjoyed playing there,” Malina said. “He was the one who first brought the job to my attention.”

The two-year selection process was coordinated by a search committee chaired by Mary Dietrich, a member of the Sinfonietta’s Advisory Board and former board president. The search committee was comprised of board members, musicians and supporters. The committee also coordinated the process of obtaining feedback from audiences this summer, reviewing the paper and online forms received, and worked with orchestra musicians to ensure their insight into the selection process was included.

“I could not be more appreciative of the many volunteer hours committee members spent on this task, it is a real testament to how much this community values our orchestra,” Dietrich said in a press release.

A native of Westchester County, New York, Malina is currently beginning his 20th season as music director and conductor of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra. He also serves as principal guest conductor of the Florida Orchestra in the Tampa Bay area, where he conducts several concerts each season, including the popular Coffee Series.

Malina made his Carnegie Hall debut in February 2007, conducting the New York Pops in an all-Gershwin tribute including “Rhapsody in Blue,” which he conducted from the keyboard. A re-creation of that performance was part of the Lake Placid Sinfonietta’s Symphony Series concert on July 21 at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

In 2016, Malina conducted two concert tours of Russia, sponsored by the United States Embassy in Russia. In June 2003, he won a Tony award for orchestration with Billy Joel for the musical “Movin’ Out,” which Malina helped create with director and choreographer Twyla Tharp.

Malina holds degrees from Harvard University, the Yale School of Music and the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied conducting with Otto-Werner Mueller. He lives in Harrisburg with his wife, Marty, and their two teenage children, Sara and Zev.