New Sinfonietta conductor visits
SARANAC LAKE — On a rainy Tuesday evening Stuart Malina, the Lake Placid Sinfonietta’s new conductor, was filling the Left Bank Cafe with music and dry humor.
He wasn’t conducting; he was playing piano and singing, one of his favorite things to do.
Malina was hired for the job out of a pool of 100 applicants to take over for outgoing conductor Ron Spigelman. He will be leading the orchestra this summer, and this week was in town for a visit to the area.
Robin Baxter, president of the Sinfonietta, said the process for choosing a new conductor is exhaustive, and that out of all 100 applicants, the board all liked Malina the best.
Malina said he applied after a bass player in his Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, who also plays in the Sinfonietta told him to apply. He said he applied with “no expectations.”
“As soon as I sent in the application I stopped thinking about it, to be honest,” Malina said. “That’s what you have to do. Every job has that kind of an applicant pool. A lot of people want to conduct and there aren’t many jobs, so I feel very lucky.”
He said as he began the interviewing process he became more interested in the job and thinks the sinfonietta has a lot of growth potential he would like to work with.
He said he has an eclectic mix of music planned and that he wants to surprise people when they attend.
“Once they’re in the door at least it’s in my hands to dazzle them,” Malina said. “I’m hoping to engender in the orchestra itself a sense of joy and fun.”
Malina grew up playing piano and only got into conducting accidentally. He auditioned to be in the opera The Yeomen of the Guard while in the Harvard Gilbert and Sullivan troupe and was slotted to be the assistant conductor because he could sight-read music.
“Two days later the conductor quit,” Malina said.
He never stopped playing the keys, though. He’s humble and doesn’t consider himself to be an exceptional player.
“For a conductor, I’m a pretty damn good pianist,” Malina said. “I don’t do flawless. I play with gusto.”
However, as he played, the audience at the Left Bank Cafe were entranced by his lively tunes, singing and stories.
He said he hopes to bring the same energy to the Sinfonietta this summer.