Symphony Orchestra concert under new conductor

Dr. Victor Correa-Cruz gets the audience to clap along with the Southeastern Symphony Orchestra's last performance in their concert "An Evening in Vienna." Zachary Araki/The Lion's Roar

The Southeastern Symphony Orchestra performed the first concert under the direction of Conductor and Assistant Professor of Violin Dr. Victor Correa-Cruz.

The concert “An Evening in Vienna” was held at the Pottle Auditorium on Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m.  Correa-Cruz joined the music faculty in October and faced a month of “very intense rehearsal time” to prepare for the concert. In the program, he included music by composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven, as a starting point before moving on to other repertoire.

“In order to get to the big symphonic repertoire, we need to start from the time the symphony was established, so that was my idea,” said Correa-Cruz. “This is the first stage to develop from, and we have an ideal situation because these pieces include all the winds, all the strings and the percussion section, so everyone’s involved in this program. It gives me as a conductor and also the audience, a good idea of how the orchestra can sound and the potential it has. That’s my philosophy behind this concert, to start with something that is very classical, transparent and very balanced, and grow by working on this repertoire.”

Violinist Madison Day played with the orchestra, and the concert ended with an encore piece for the holidays by Johann Strauss II, the “Tritsch Tratsch Polka.” Correa-Cruz discussed how including the three composers led to the title “An Evening in Vienna.”

“Vienna was a very important focus for music back in the 18th century, so many musicians went there to learn,” said Correa-Cruz. “They all went there to develop their careers, to meet each other. Both Mozart and Beethoven met Haydn. So, there’s a connection. Later on, in 19th century Vienna, we find Schumann and Brahms, the Strauss family. All the major talents from central Europe went to Vienna, and also some of the Eastern European composers like Dvorak or Tchaikovsky visited the city. For centuries, Vienna has been a very influential center in the history of music.”

As a new faculty member and conductor, Correa-Cruz’s plans include developing support from the community.

“It has been a great time so far, and I look forward to more concerts, as I said, expanding the repertoire of the orchestra, gaining experience, getting more audiences coming in, and involving some of the the young players here,” said Correa-Cruz. “I know the university students are the core of the orchestra, but pre-college kids that would be able to attend the concerts might sometimes play with us or solo with us. So, we are trying to involve different levels of the educational process. In that sense, I want to collaborate with the pre-college program at Southeastern and with some high schools in the area because we need the orchestra to be part of the society, to be more integrated.”

Senior music major Mykhailo Levytskyi shared his thoughts about the concert as a performer.

“It was pretty good,” said Levytskyi. “It could also be better. There are no limits in being great. We can always be better, but it’s pretty good.”

Associate Professor of Engineering Technology Rana Mitra believes the concert was “fantastic” and discussed the work of the new conductor.

“I think he was wonderful,” said Mitra. “He was very energetic and so on. I would like to meet him.”

Levytskyi has been with the orchestra since joining the university. He discussed his experience with the new conductor.

“For two months, it’s just great work,” said Levytskyi. “He has energy, and he’s very passionate about music. So, he’s doing a great job.”

Correa-Cruz compared playing in a symphony orchestra to other situations such as being part of smaller ensembles or approach solo playing.

“In a big group, a higher level of flexibility is required because many things can happen, and many people are participating,” said Correa-Cruz. “So, you have to react very quickly, and maybe you don’t know the players that well and they don’t know each other that well either. In a smaller group, you get more familiar with your players, and you get to know how each of them is going to react. In a big ensemble, you have to be more aware of how the concert develops, in case anything happens differently than the way it was rehearsed. In that respect, it asks for a lot of effort and concentration from the performers and the conductor”.

According to Correa-Cruz, playing in an orchestra requires balancing self-expression and playing as a group member.

“For orchestra playing, you have to somehow abandon yourself and your own ideas to the ones that the conductor presents, so it’s not a democratic field,” said Correa-Cruz. “But you have to try and find space to show your own personality. There’s room for everything, room to follow someone’s ideas, as well as for your own personality to be expressed. You just have to find the right balance.”

Levytskyi hopes the symphony orchestra will attract more attendees.

“I’m looking forward for the next concerts with Dr. Cruz, and we’ll always look for more audiences because my friend from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra said that everybody loves classical music, but not necessarily they know about that yet,” said Levytskyi.


Correction: In an earlier version of this article that was posted on, Dr. Victor Correa-Cruz was misquoted. The online version has been corrected.