The Nittany Valley Symphony: The Story So Far
by Irene V. Grindall
Since 1967 the Nittany Valley Symphony has been part of our community, giving opportunity for local musicians to perform music for audiences to hear and enjoy. At the heart of the symphony is a group of dedicated musicians who are from the community. They are our friends and neighbors -- homemakers, business operators, physicians, professors, students, retirees, and many others whose interest in live music brought them together into a unique organization. What they have in common is the love of playing music.
While music has brought them all together, there have been strong and lasting friendships established as well as the formation of many smaller musical ensembles to enrich the experience and opportunities of players.
The Symphony has grown from a small group gathered by the indomitable spirit of the late Ann Keller to perform at the first Arts Festival held in State College in 1967. In the early years performances were held in the State College High School Auditorium. The orchestra sometimes outnumbered the audience. But the music was good, the audience was loyal, and the players were getting better and better.
Now the Symphony performs in Eisenhower Auditorium, where the stage is big enough to hold the size of the orchestra and the seating comfortably holds the audience. Many local business have stepped forward to help support the Symphony as they reach out to the community. In addition, there is now a professional conductor in Michael Jinbo and a full time executive director in Roberta Strebel.
The heart of the Nittany Valley Symphony is the same: a gathering of musicians, both amateur and professional, who love to play for a community in a community that loves to hear good classical music.
Music Director and Conductor
Nancy & Harold O’Connor Chair
Michael Jinbo has been Music Director and Conductor of the Nittany Valley Symphony for over 25 years. He is also the Music Director of The Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Musicians, with whom he has enjoyed a long affiliation. For over 20 years, Jinbo has served as only the third music director in the 72‑year history of the school, following his mentor Charles Bruck and the school's founder, eminent French-American conductor Pierre Monteux. Serving as the school's master teacher, he directs an orchestra comprised of musicians from around the world and teaches a class of 15‑20 conductors each summer. For four seasons, Jinbo served as the Assistant Conductor of the North Carolina Symphony, a full-time professional orchestra with whom he performed 60-75 concerts each season, including classical, ballet, pops and educational programs. He has performed with a wide range of artists, including pianist Garrick Ohlsson, violinist Kyoko Takezawa, prima ballerina assoluta Galina Mezentseva and the St. Petersburg Ballet of Russia, and the legendary Cab Calloway.
Jinbo received a B.A. in Music from The University of Chicago, concentrating in the areas of music history and musicology, and an M.M. in Conducting from the Northwestern University School of Music, where he was the winner of the Honors Conducting Competition and selected for induction in the national honorary music society Pi Kappa Lambda. He received further conducting training at The Pierre Monteux School (Hancock, Maine), the Herbert Blomstedt Institute (Loma Linda, California), the Scotia Festival of Music (Halifax, Nova Scotia), and at workshops of the American Symphony Orchestra League and the Conductors Guild. In 1991, Jinbo was selected by the Conductors Guild as a nominee for their biennial Robinson Conducting Award.
Michael Jinbo made his European debut in 1999, appearing as guest conductor with the Sinfonieorchester Basel in concerts in Switzerland and Germany. He has also appeared as guest conductor with the Orquesta Sinfónica Carlos Chávez in Mexico City and with the Quebec Festival of Youth Orchestras. Other guest engagements have included programs with the Altoona Symphony, the Bangor Symphony, the Dayton Philharmonic, the Erie Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, and the orchestra of the Longy School of Music in Boston. Jinbo participated in the 2000 Annual Conference and 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Conductors Guild in New York City, where he served as guest speaker in a session entitled “The Education of Conductors."
Michael Jinbo has served twice as a member of the instrumental music panel of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Jinbo is also a violinist. He has appeared as soloist with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, among others.