Artistic Leadership

Christopher Wilkins

Music Director & Conductor
Since 2006, the orchestra’s programming has reflected Christopher Wilkins' strong interest in community-oriented projects.

Christopher Wilkins Details

Christopher Wilkins became Music Director of the Akron Symphony in the fall of 2006. Since then the orchestra’s programming has reflected his strong interest in community-oriented projects. During his tenure he has made it a priority to develop partnerships with artists and organizations based in Northeast Ohio, and to develop educational programming for all ages. Collaborators have included the Akron-Summit County Public Library, Akron Art Museum, Firestone High School, the Summit County Historical Society, Hale Farm and Village, YEPAW 365, and GroundWorks Dance Theater.

Recent major collaborative projects have included fully staged performances of Porgy and Bess, The Rite of Spring, Titanic, South Pacific, and A Midsummer's Night's Dream. The orchestra's community initiatives have recently been awarded a major grant from the Knight Foundation. That funding will support community engagement projects and collaborative programming over a 5-year period.

In addition to the Akron Symphony, Mr. Wilkins serves as Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic and the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, a summer orchestra performing weekly on Boston’s Esplanade and throughout the neighborhoods of Boston. As a guest conductor, he has appeared with many of the leading orchestras of the United States, including those of Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. He has also appeared frequently with orchestras in Latin America, New Zealand, Spain, and the UK.

He previously served as Music Director of the San Antonio Symphony and the Colorado Springs Symphony, and is currently Artistic Advisor to the Opera Theatre of the Rockies in Colorado Springs. Mr. Wilkins also served as resident conductor of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, helping in the formation of that orchestra in its inaugural season, and subsequently leading it on tours throughout the Americas.

Mr. Wilkins was winner of the Seaver/NEA Award in 1992. He served as the associate conductor of the Utah Symphony, assisting his former teacher Joseph Silverstein; assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, as assistant to Music Director Christoph von Dohnányi; conducting assistant with the Oregon Symphony under Music Director James DePreist; and was a conducting fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center.

Born in Boston in 1957, Mr. Wilkins earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. As an oboist, he performed with many ensembles in the Boston area, including the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, and the Boston Philharmonic under Benjamin Zander. He received his Master’s of Music degree from Yale University, where he studied with Otto-Werner Mueller.

Eric Benjamin

Associate Conductor, AYS Music Director
The Akron Symphony Orchestra and Akron Youth Symphony are thrilled to welcome Eric Benjamin in 2016.

Eric Benjamin Details

Eric Benjamin graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music with degrees in music education and orchestral conducting. He began his professional conducting career as resident conductor of the Akron Symphony Orchestra and now serves as music director of the Tuscarawas Philharmonic and the Alliance Symphony.

He has appeared as guest conductor with orchestras in Canton, Columbus, Cleveland, Wooster and Erie, Pa. Active as a composer and arranger, his works have been performed by orchestras nationally. Recently, the Canton Symphony opened its season with the premiere of his An Occasional Overture.

Mr. Benjamin is a committed educator and has taught music at the elementary, secondary and college level. He is currently an adjunct faculty member at University of Mount Union where he conducts the orchestra, teaches conducting and a course on music and culture. He also directs the University Chorus and teaches at the Kent State Tuscarawas campus.

“I love to engineer interactions between young people and music,” Benjamin said, “events that hook up scholarship, creativity, performance and achievement with that electric current that makes a student want to do music in the first place.”

Douglas A. Bayda

Akron Youth Philharmonic Director
Bayda has extensive experience teaching orchestra in Akron Public Schools, as well as string instruction for students since 2007.

Douglas A. Bayda Details

The Greater Akron Musical Association recently selected Douglas A. Bayda, the Director of Orchestras at Akron’s Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts, as the new Director of the Greater Akron Youth Philharmonic (AYP). He will begin as Director of AYP at the start of the 2012-2013 school year.

The Director oversees the Akron Youth Philharmonic and prepares members for performances during a 20-week season, which extends from November through March. The Director plans, programs and conducts weekly rehearsals and three annual concerts, selects appropriate music for the season, organizes auditions, and works with the Director of the Akron Youth Symphony (AYS) to coordinate an annual side-by-side concert.

“I am very honored to be working with the Greater Akron Youth Philharmonic,” said Douglas Bayda. “This ensemble has a long tradition of excellence. I’m excited to be part of the musical journey its members will take.”

Bayda has extensive experience teaching orchestra in Akron Public Schools at Miller South and in the East Cluster, and he has provided string instruction for students in grades 4-8 since 2007. He previously taught orchestra and band for grades 4-12 in the Princeton City Schools system in Cincinnati, where he directed the high school Chamber Orchestra and Freshman Band, and prepared the orchestra wind and percussion section. He is active in the Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA) and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). He currently resides in Medina with his wife, Beth and their children, Laura, Nicholas and Nathan.

“My main goal with AYP is to provide high achieving student musicians with an opportunity to perform in a full orchestra with likeminded peers,” said Douglas Bayda. “I enjoy challenging students at this age with a variety of musical repertoire, and helping them perform it at a very high level of musicianship.”

Bayda received his Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Bowling Green State University, where he served as principal clarinet for three years with the Symphonic Band and principal clarinet in the orchestra. He received his Master of Music in Wind Instrument Performance from The University of Michigan, where he was awarded a fellowship to study clarinet with Fred Ormand and performed with the University’s Symphonic Band and orchestra. Bayda continued studies in string pedagogy, string instrument repair, conducting, and teacher enrichment at The University of Wisconsin, Madison, The University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, and Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio.

Marie Bucoy-Calavan

Akron Symphony Chorus Director
Known for her ability to conduct a diverse range of ensembles, Marie is passionate about community involvement. She has prepared and performed with symphonic choruses in distinguished halls throughout the world.

Marie Bucoy-Calavan Details

Marie Bucoy-Calavan has conducted a diverse range of ensembles, from primary and secondary level choirs, to community, collegiate, and professional choruses and opera productions. She is currently the Director of Choral Studies at The University of Akron, where she conducts The University of Akron Chamber Choir, Concert Choir, and Men’s Chorus, and teaches courses in undergraduate and graduate conducting and choral literature. She is also Artistic Director of Summit Choral Society, a choral organization that consists of the Masterworks Chorale and the four-choir Children’s Choir Program.

Bucoy-Calavan finished her Bachelor of Arts in Music and Master of Music in Choral Conducting at California State University, Fullerton, serving as the Graduate Assistant Conductor of both the University Singers and Chamber Choir. She completed her Doctorate of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting at University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, where she directed the University of Cincinnati Men’s Chorus and taught introductory courses and private lessons in conducting for undergraduate students.

She has prepared and performed with symphonic choruses under the batons of Carl St. Clair, Bramwell Tovey, John Williams, Eric Whitacre, Keith Lockhart, John Mauceri, Steven Mercurio, Louis Langrée, John Nelson, and John Alexander in distinguished venues, including Walt Disney Concert Hall, Hollywood Bowl, and the Liszt Academy in Budapest, Hungary. Bucoy-Calavan has continued her conducting training with Robert Porco, Robert Istad, Earl Rivers, Mark Gibson, Craig Hella-Johnson, Patrick Dupré Quigley, Ragnar Bohlin, Jerry Blackstone, Paul Rardin, Jacques Lacombe, David Hayes, Arthur Fagan, William Dehning, and Elmer Thomas. In addition, Bucoy-Calavan placed second in the 2013 American Choral Directors Association National Choral Conducting Competition, held in Dallas, Texas.

Bucoy-Calavan has an affinity for conducting and preparing choral-orchestral masterworks, having served as the Assistant Conductor to Robert Porco for the May Festival Chorus, the symphonic chorus for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. She has also conducted various opera performances in California and Ohio, including Gaetano Donizetti’s Elixir of Love and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Cosí fan tutte.

Bucoy-Calavan also appears as a guest clinician and conductor for honor choirs and masterclasses, both regionally and nationally. Most recently, she was invited to serve a residency teaching conducting and American choral music at the Hochschule für Musik und Theatre in Munich, Germany.

She serves on the National Board of Directors of Chorus America and as University Repertoire and Standards Chair of the state organization, Ohio Choral Directors Organization.

Her research interests lies in conducting pedagogy and its unification among choral, orchestral, and wind ensembles.

Jennifer Jones

Gospel Meets Symphony Chorus Master
Jennifer Mekel Jones is a member of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Akron, where she serves in the area of pastoral care, worship, and administration.

Jennifer Jones Details

Jennifer Mekel Jones has been involved in music since age three and performed her first concert at age 17 with all original compositions. She formed a singing group called “Bread of Heaven’” in 1989. Their signature sound consisted of tight intricate harmonies sung a cappella. Mekel has written, composed and arranged over 50 songs. As a performer, Mekel has appeared: at the dedication of the new Harold K. Stubbs Justice Center (1991); at Akron’s First Night Celebration (1999); as a background vocalist for the Millennium Clock Tower Celebration Commercial (2000) with Mr. Charles Myricks, Director and Writer of “PAUL – A Musical Journey;” as a guest soloist for the Akron Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas Pops (2009); as a guest conductor and soloist for the 2010 and 2011 Gospel Meets Symphony concerts; as a Choral Master for the Balcony Chorus for Akron Symphony orchestra’s production of Porgy & Bess (2011).

Mekel recently completed a live recording project entitled “Destiny Live,” with guest artists, H. Doobie Powell, Jonathan Dubose, Jr., Denise Powell, Eddie Brown and Kevin Powell, which is scheduled for national release in March 2012. It was produced by H. Doobie Powell, gospel recording artist, producer, singer, songwriter, composer and multi-faceted musician.

Mekel is a member of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Akron, where she serves in the area of pastoral care, worship, and administration. As a licensed and ordained minister, she leads the worship services, teaches Bible Study and conducts worship and music workshops for church and community members. Mekel is the Pastor of Worship at Heart for the City Church in Akron. She also serves as a coordinator of the Pastors’ Project, a community initiative that focuses on raising awareness and education within the clergy community and the community regarding drug abuse, chemical dependency and mental illness.

Mekel is a graduate of the University of Akron and Ashland Theological Seminary where she is currently pursuing her Masters of Divinity degree.

Akron Symphony Musicians

Youth Orchestras

Akron Youth Symphony

The Akron Youth Symphony (AYS) is one of the oldest youth orchestras in Ohio and is the flagship ensemble of the Akron Youth Orchestra program.

Akron Youth Symphony Details

The Akron Youth Symphony (AYS) is one of the finest youth orchestras in Ohio and is the flagship ensemble of the Akron Youth Orchestra program. The Akron Youth Symphony provides an outstanding pre-professional educational experience for advanced music students.

Full Orchestra Experience

The full orchestra performs major orchestral repertoire in a minimum of three public performances at various venues each season. Eric Benjamin, Assistant Conductor of the Akron Symphony Orchestra, also serves as Music Director of the Akron Youth Symphony beginning July 2015. Members of the professional Akron Symphony Orchestra serve as coaches for the Akron Youth Symphony, assisting students in developing their performance skills and preparing the challenging repertoire.

Other Opportunities to Perform

In addition to the full orchestra experience, Akron Youth Symphony members have the opportunity to perform in a chamber orchestra and in chamber ensembles, exposing them to more intimate music and small ensemble performance practices. Akron Youth Symphony members may ALSO compete for the opportunity to perform as a soloist with the AYS in an annual Concerto Competition. Members may also apply for scholarships for college and summer music camps as well as for lesson subsidy money.

For more information

Contact Orzella Matherson at 330-535-8131.

Akron Youth Philharmonic

Akron Youth Philharmonic is dedicated to building the technical and musical skills of young musicians and to provide the opportunity to perform in a full orchestra with peers.

Akron Youth Philharmonic Details

For nearly 30 years, the Akron Symphony Orchestra and the Akron Public Schools have co-sponsored the Akron Youth Philharmonic (AYP), an opportunity for talented students to perform a wide variety of orchestral literature with their peers in a full orchestra setting. AYP is open to all qualified middle and high school students from area school districts and home schooled students. AYP is dedicated to building technical and musical skills needed to become successful musicians.

The Director of the Akron Youth Philharmonic is Douglas Bayda, the Director of Orchestras at Miller South School for Visual and Performing Arts in the Akron Public School district.

Auditions

Auditions for the 2016-2017 season with Akron Youth Philharmonic are scheduled for Wednesday, September 14 and Thursday, September 15, 3:30 - 7:00 PM at Miller-South School for the Visual and Performing Arts.

Download Information about AYP auditions, application form, fees and schedule.

Tuition & Attendance

There is a $50 participation fee (no audition fee). Checks should be made payable to: Akron Youth Orchestras. Payment is due by the first rehearsal. Attendance is expected at all rehearsals and concerts.

Concerts

The Akron Youth Philharmonic performs on the following dates during the 2016-2017 season: 

  • Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 3 PM at Tallmadge High School Auditorium, Akron Youth Orchestras Concert
  • Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 7PM at Miller South School for the Visual and Perfroming Arts, . Akron Middle School Strings Festival
  • Sunday, March 19, 2017 at 3 PM at Tallmadge High School Auditorium, Side By Side Concert with Akron Youth Symphony

Rehearsals

Most rehearsals take place at Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts on Tuesdays from October 18 through March 14 (4-6 PM).  A joint rehearsal with the Akron Youth Symphony is scheduled for Sunday, March 12, 2017, 1:15 - 4:15 PM. No rehearsals on Nov. 8, Dec. 20, Dec. 27 and Jan. 3. Please check back for additional dates, times and changes.

For more information, contact

Akron Public Schools Fine Arts Office - 330.761.3189 or send an email
Akron Symphony – Orzella Matherson – 330.535.8131 or send an email

Akron Youth Symphony Alumni Association

Did your involvement with the Akron Youth Symphony have a positive effect on where you are today? Connect with other former AYS members and contribute to its continued success.

Akron Youth Symphony Alumni Association Details

The Akron Youth Symphony Alumni Association is a new program designed to keep current and former AYS members connected during and after the concert experience. In coming years, we hope to create an AYS Alumni Board to help create activities tied to Akron Symphony events and programs.

Stay Connected

If you’d like to learn more and stay connected, please contact us at 330-535-8131 or send us an email.

Benefits to joining the AYS Alumni Association

  • Get news and updates about the Akron Youth Symphony and alumni opportunities
  • Invitations to AYS and Akron Symphony Orchestra concerts (get 1 free ticket just for joining now!)
  • Invitations to an AYS alumni pre-concert reception
  • Chance to participate in an AYS alumni concert
  • Opportunity to assist and mentor current AYS members
  • No cost to join

Tell Us Your Story

What are your memories of playing with AYS? What impact did it have on you? Do you still play an instrument? Where has life taken you? Send us your story.

More ways to stay connected

Concert Schedule

Tickets are $10 each for all concerts unless otherwise noted. Children ages 10 and under are free. Tickets are required for all who attend. 

Concert Schedule Details

Tickets can be purchased online, at the door starting 2 hours before the concert and through the Akron Symphony box office by calling 330.535.8131. Seating is general admission.

Akron Youth Symphony 2016-17 Concerts

  • Sunday, November 13, 2016,  3 PM - East Community Learning Center, 80 Brittain Rd., Akron - Akron Youth Symphony Fall Concert

  • Sunday, January 29, 2017,  3 PM at Tallmadge High School Auditorium - Akron Youth Symphony and Akron Youth Philharmonic

  • Sunday, March 19, 2017,  3PM at Tallmadge High School Auditorium - Akron Youth Symphony and Akron Youth Philharmonic Side by Side Concert

  • Sunday, May 7, 2017,  3 PM at Giese Center for the Performing Arts at University of Mt. Union, Akron Youth Symphony Spring Concert

Other Events

  • Saturday, April 29, 2017, 8 AM - 2 PM, West Akron Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast at Westminster Presbyterian Church

Akron Youth Symphony Auditions

Auditions are open to middle and high school instrumental music students who study privately, participate in school music programs, and can commit to the rehearsal and concert schedule.

Akron Youth Symphony Auditions Details

Akron Youth Symphony auditions will take place May 13-17. The application deadline is April 28.

Auditions will be held:

  • May 13 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at The House of the Lord, 1650 Diagonal Road in Akron
  • May 15 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Guzzetta Hall on The University of Akron campus
  • May 16 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Guzzetta Hall on The University of Akron campus
  • May 17 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Guzzetta Hall on The University of Akron campus

Specific instrumental requirements can be found below. Download the application form and the application packet for complete audition information, including cost and locations.

  • Applicants will receive an email that will allow them to select their audition time and date.
  • Written recommendations from your current private teacher and current school music director are not required, but are encouraged with your application.
  • A non-refundable $25 audition fee must be submitted with the audition application.
  • Auditions are private and not open to the public.
  • No accompaniment, please.
  • Copies of orchestral excerpts are available for your use. It is strongly recommended that you listen to recordings of the orchestral works while preparing the excerpts.
  • Students not accepted to AYS may audition for the Akron Youth Philharmonic in September.

If you have questions about AYS or the audition process, contact Orzella Matheson or Sharon Smith at the Akron Symphony office at 330.535.8131.

Akron Youth Philharmonic Auditions

AYP auditions take place in September. Check back in the summer for more information. 

Akron Symphony Chorus

About the Chorus

At nearly 100 members, the Akron Symphony Chorus is dedicated to achieving the highest level of choral singing. Its volunteer singers represent all walks of life from the Akron area.

About the Chorus Details

At nearly 100 members, the Akron Symphony Chorus is dedicated to achieving the highest level of choral singing. Its volunteer singers represent all walks of life from our Akron community and surrounding areas. The Chorus is an indispensable part of the Akron Symphony Orchestra, and along with the Orchestra and the Akron Youth Symphony, functions as part of the Greater Akron Musical Association.

The Akron Symphony Choral Society, as it was first known, began rehearsals in the fall of 1956. The first performance was the Brahms German Requiem on April 17 1957 under the direction of Robert Shaw. In the years to follow, the renamed Akron Symphony Chorus performed much of the major choral repertoire of the last six centuries, as well as several regional first performances and world premieres. Highlights have included Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake featuring world famous actress and dancer Vera Zorina, and in recent years, the Mozart Coronation Mass with guest conductor Jeannette Sorrell, Handel’s Messiah directed by James Mismas, and an all Brahms program conducted by Grammy and Emmy award-winning guest conductor Vance George, retired choral director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. In 2007, the chorus performed Verdi’s La Traviata, conducted by Christopher Wilkins.

Auditions

Want to audition for the Akron Symphony Chorus? We are especially in need of high sopranos and men.

Auditions Details

The Akron Symphony Chorus will hold auditions on Jan. 17. Auditions are by appointment only.

Rehearsals are on Mondays from 7:00-9:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church located at 263 E. Mill St., Akron OH 44308. Highlights of the season include Holst’s The Planets, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Mendelssohn’s Elijah.

For further information, or to schedule an audition, please contact Brenda Justice, Coordinator of Choral Programs at 330.535.8131 or by email at bjustice@akronsymphony.org. Marie Bucoy-Calavan is the Akron Symphony Chorus Director.

Audition Requirements:
• Vocalization to demonstrate the full extent of your vocal range
• Test of sight reading ability
• Test of timbre of the voice
• Choral experience

Gospel Meets Symphony Choir

About the Choir

There are over 70 churches represented in this 200-voice choir of talented volunteers from the Akron community.

About the Choir Details

The Gospel Meets Symphony Choir celebrates its 23rd year, as they join forces with the Akron Symphony Orchestra to perform some of the world’s most uplifting, spirit-filled gospel and classical music under the direction of Christopher Wilkins, the Akron Symphony Orchestra Music Director, and Choirmaster Jennifer Mekel Jones. There are over 70 churches represented in this 200-voice choir of talented volunteers from the Akron community.

Auditions

Everyone is welcome to participate in the Gospel Meets Symphony Choir! Click here for information on the rehearsal schedule.

Auditions Details

No auditions are required for the Gospel Meets Symphony Choir. If you would like to participate, the first rehearsal will be Saturday, November 12, 2016, at Mount Calvary Baptist Church located at 442 Bell St., Akron, OH 44307. The Gospel Meets Symphony Choir typically rehearses every Saturday from 2:00-4:00 p.m. from November through February. Jennifer Jones is the Choir Master.  For more information, please contact Brenda Justice, Coordinator of Choral Programs, at (330) 535-8131, or via email at bjustice@akronsymphony.org.