From St. Pete to St. Petersburg

Joel Fenelon, a 23-year-old UT graduate, will fly to Russia this summer for the experience of a lifetime, working with famous conductors at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.

Fenelon entered an orchestral conducting competition in January held at Syracuse University. A grad student at the University of Wisconsin, he had only been conducting a few months when he submitted his biography, resume and conducting videos.

Fenelon was chosen along with six other conductors from around the world.
‘They had all been conducting at least five to 10 years; some had professional jobs and others were Julliard students,’ Fenelon said.

He spent six weeks over his Christmas break preparing. His goal was to be able to conduct and score study eight major works, including Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 and Mussorgsky’s ‘Night On Bald Mountain.’

He arrived at Syracuse and met Russian conductors Oleg Proskurnya and Leonib Korchmar. For the first few days, the contestants learned technique.

Each person was put in front of an ensemble and judged on their ability to take criticism.

The last day of competition held the final concert where the seven conductors led the Hamilton College Orchestra along with principle players from the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. At the end of the concert, the winners were announced.
Fenelon’s name was not announced.

‘I was very new to conducting so it was important for me to take this experience as a starting point to put together a career,’ he admitted.

Suddenly he was called to the stage. Korchmar told him that although he did not win the competition, it would be a shame to not share Fenelon’s budding talents with the world.

He was then asked to come to Russia for two weeks this summer to study at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.

Free of charge, they would pay for his housing and studies and allow him to work with some of their music staff.

Through his four years at UT, Fenelon had the chance to experience conducting for the first time. It was here that he took a deep interest in pursuing music and leadership.

He conducted his first ensemble under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Traster, Chair of the Music Department, and took conducting lessons with Dr. Libor Ondras.
‘I’m thoroughly impressed,’ said Traster. ‘Every teacher wants success for their students. I’m cheering him on.’

With his education at UT, graduate studies at Wisconsin and experiences in the Syracuse competition, Fenelon prepares for his journey overseas.

‘I’ve never understood what it’s like to have limits,’ he said. Knowing his potential and sticking true to his goals, this rising star continues to take chances.

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