April Kondrat - Principal Viola
April Kondrat is currently Principal Violist with the Plano Symphony Orchestra and has been a member of the symphony for 13 years. She also substitutes regularly with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra , the East Texas Symphony Orchestra and the Irving Symphony Orchestra. She is also a member of the Dallas Chamber Symphony which is in its inaugural year as a professional ensemble. An avid performer of chamber music, April regularly performs in the Dallas area with various small ensembles including Mount Vernon Music and the new chamber music series at Plano Family Arts. April serves on the faculty at Richland College as Director of Chamber Strings and Professor of Violin and Viola. She will be performing a world premiere viola solo written for her with the college’s String Orchestra next month. April maintains a thriving home studio made up of fourteen middle school and high school students and is also the founder of ViolaWorkshop which began in June 2012 and is continually receiving recognition for the advancement of its violists.
April received her Bachelor of Music degree in Viola Performance from the Eastman School of Music and her Master of Music degree in Viola Performance at the University of Northern Colorado where she was took first place at the Rocky Mountain Viola Society solo competition. She performed in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before moving to Texas in 1998. April became a member of the Plano Symphony in 2000 and has held several positions for the orchestra including music librarian for 8 years and Director of Education for 6 years. April resides in Plano with her husband, Jeremy Kondrat who is the Director of Bands at Plano Senior High School, and their three children, Emily age 10, Rachel age 9 and Ethan age 4. She is teaching all three kids how to play the violin so there is a beautiful noise in her house all the time! April is an avid runner having completed three marathons, two of which were back to back earning her a membership with the Marathon Maniacs (#6432!). She just completed her first ultra-marathon (50k) at The Cowtown ultra marathon in Fort Worth. April and Jeremy will be running in the Rock N’ Roll half marathon this month and the kids will certainly be running 5k’s soon!
Lisa Nickl - Principal Flute
Lisa joined the Plano Symphony as Principal Flute in 2008. A native of San Antonio, Texas, Lisa holds degrees in music from the Mannes College of Music in New York City. She won 1st Place in the New York Flute Club Competition and was presented in recital at CAMI Hall. As a winner of the Special Recital Presentation Award, Lisa was presented in her New York Recital Debut at Carnegie Recital Hall under the auspices of Artists International Recital Management. She performed on a highly acclaimed concert tour of Japan sponsored by the Teshigotoya Corporation and was one of three American Flutists chosen to participate in the Kobe International Flute Competition in Kobe, Japan. As a guest artist with the TOGA Festival in Japan, she performed Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire with Soprano Lucy Shelton.
Lisa has performed as Associate Principal Flute with the St. Louis Symphony and The Baltimore Symphony. She has also performed with the Houston Ballet Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, The Greenville Symphony, and was Principal Flute of the Charleston Symphony and its Woodwind Quintet for ten years. She has spent her summers participating in the Colorado Music Festival and the Grand Teton Music Festival. Principal teachers include Thomas Nyfenger, Carol Wincenc, and Anne Diener Zentner.
Susan Frazier - Principal Horn
Originally from Minnesota, Susan began her music studies at an early age, playing the piano and flute and then changing to the French horn in high school. She was then accepted to the School of Music at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. While at NU, she studied under Gail Williams and Barry Benjamin and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Performance and Sound Technology. She then moved to Dallas to attend SMU, where she received her Master's Degree in Horn Performance, under the direction of Gregory Hustis. During college, Susan attended many music festivals including the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, the Aspen Music Festival and the Pacific Music Festival in Japan.
Since moving to Texas, Susan has become an active freelance musician in the DFW area. This is her 15th season as a member of the Plano Symphony Orchestra. She also holds positions in various other regional performing groups, including Principal Horn of the Irving Symphony Orchestra, Associate Principal Horn of the Dallas Wind Symphony and Third Horn of the East Texas Symphony Orchestra. She also regularly performs with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Fort Worth Symphony and the Dallas Opera Orchestra. Susan is also an educator and teaches privately out of her home studio.
Susan feels very blessed that she is able to perform regularly with her husband Nathan, who is Principal Tuba of the Plano Symphony and Irving Symphony. Together they own Imperial Brass, a professional brass ensemble that performs regularly in many of the churches, concert halls and schools in the DFW area. Imperial Brass was recently featured in recital at the Texas Music Educators Association Conference in San Antonio. Susan and Nathan reside in Frisco with their two beautiful boys- Jonathan (6) and Elliott (2).
David Lesser, Horn
David Lesser is currently an active musician in the thriving music scene of the Dallas/Fort Worth area and Instructor of Horn for the Lewisville Independent School District. He is Principal Horn of the Dallas Wind Symphony and a member of the Plano and Irving Symphony Orchestras. David moved to DFW after serving as a member of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and Wichita Grand Opera while concurrently completing a Masters of Performance in Horn and graduate assistantship at Wichita State University.
Raised in Poughkeepsie, NY, David earned a Bachelor's degree in Music Performance from the Eastman School of Music in 2005 where he studied horn with renowned professor, Peter Kurau. Other teachers and mentors include David Cripps, and Nicholas Smith. David has performed with the United States Military Academy Band at West Point, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, New Mexico Philharmonic, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, and others. He served as Principal Horn of the Eastman Wind Ensemble for its performance at Carnegie Hall in February 2005. Additionally, he has performed at the esteemed Sarasota (Florida) Music Festival and the Quartz Mountain Music Festival at Lone Wolf, Oklahoma. David has also played internationally with the Eastman Horn Choir at two International Horn Society Symposiums in Lahti, Finland and Valencia, Spain.
Eugene Osadchy, Principal Cellist
The tide comes in, the stage floats out…and the orchestra is stranded on the beach. The setting for Handel’s Water Music, perhaps?
Nope. Just one of the unusual experiences met by Plano Symphony Orchestra principal cellist Eugene Osadchy who was playing with the Vancouver Symphony. And once, what he describes as a “highly disturbed individual” clambered onto the stage during Brahms’ Hungarian Dances and began his own performance! That, and the time the guns firing during the Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture caused the music to fly off the stands.
Being a musician isn’t easy, but Eugene wouldn’t do anything else. Born in Kiev, Ukraine, he began playing piano when he was five years old, then studied cello at a school for gifted children for 12 years before going on to the Kiev State Conservatory of Music. While there he played piano, guitar and bass guitar with a number of dance bands. His parents were both professional pianists.
He is professor of cello at the College of Music at the University of North Texas, and teaches privately. Before moving to this area, he was principal cellist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Radio Orchestra, which was the last such organization in North America. During his 20 years in Vancouver, he played with a number of professional groups, including the Vancouver Symphony and the Masterpiece Piano Trio, and was artistic director of the Vetta Chamber Music and Recital Society.
In his North Dallas musical household, his younger son Alexander played piano for 10 years, and his wife plays piano and sings. Eugene also plays piano and guitar, likes to compose and read. His musical tastes are wide-ranging, including jazz, fusion, R and B, and classical, one of which he is listening to most of the time when he isn’t playing himself.
His years of performing have taken him to many areas, including a tiny island in Alaska, population 800, and a small town in British Columbia , which wanted to hear very serious music. However it took all his persuasive skills to convince the pianist for the Brahms Piano Quintet not to leave for home when she saw the provided piano – three feet long and painted apple green. “It took a lot of begging to convince her to perform on that little monster,” he said, but “the concert was a big success.”
Recently during a concert, “My bow blew up after the first note.” He told the stunned audience that “they would never be able to experience such a situation at home listening to a CD. “ He had to substitute a colleague’s viola bow, and someone later commented “that I sounded OK for a violist.”
Performing is a joy for Eugene. “I’ve played hundreds of concerts, some as soloist, some as a part of the chamber music group, some as an orchestra member, with lots of wonderful instrumentalists, singers and conductors.”
Aside from floating out to sea, what more could you want in a career?
Stephen Pettey, Principal Oboe
“The key for me is variety,” says Stephen Pettey, principal oboist with the Plano Symphony Orchestra. And it’s a darned good thing, because Mr. Petty not only plays with the Symphony and touring shows such as the Dallas Summer Musicals but privately teaches 40 middle and high school students, has a family full of musicians and a background of exciting, but unusual, experiences during performances.
Like the time, after a pre-concert dinner, he developed food poisoning and got through the first movement of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony before having to vacate the stage. But no worries – the oboe part in the second movement was whistled by the conductor, Anshel Busilow, probably a first!
Clarinet was his first instrument in third grade at his Alabama elementary school. But in seventh grade he attended a high school concert where he heard an oboe played “incredibly” badly, and asked his father, a college music teacher, to bring one home for him to try. He points out that most of his colleagues were probably inspired by an instrument played well but his reaction to poor musicianship led to his playing oboe well enough for him to join the Huntsville, AL Symphony and joining the musician’s union at age 14.
Mr. Pettey’s college major was music performance, with an emphasis on jazz studies. He attended Louisiana State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. Variety again – he played alto and tenor sax in jazz ensembles, oboe in the orchestra and wind ensemble and piccolo in the concert band. “I was taking private lessons on all those instruments” he said. “The professors probably thought I was nuts.”
His parents and brother are musicians, and his wife, Cinde, joins him in the Dallas Wind Symphony where she is second oboist. Daughter Sarah plays violin and horn, and sons, Gordon and Earl, played cello and trumpet respectively.
But music isn’t everything. He has rebuilt and restored a few British sports cars, “and I do quite a bit of woodworking.” He also built two woodstrip canoes, but cautions, “Woodworking power tools can be dangerous. I had a pretty serious accident about 12 years ago.”
He’s played in some unusual places, too, such as the top of the Interfirst Building in Dallas on the New Year’s Eve the green lights were debuted. “The temperature was in the 20s, and of course we were outside.” Then there was the elephant encounter. At a circus performance, a large elephant “backed up against the bandstand and lifted its tail.” That’s the kind of thing they don’t prepare you for in music school.
He loves performing but,“I am not particularly fond of rehearsing. Unfortunately, you can’t have one without the other.” And he really enjoys “hearing my students perform and helping them succeed.”
He added, “ I know this is supposed to portray musicians as regular folks… for the most part we are a pretty quirky bunch…we have all chosen a career with very strange and irregular hours, no holidays or sick days, low pay, and very high stress...we operate fragile, trouble-prone machines and are expected to produce perfect art every day. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
A resident of Allen, Mr. Pettey has been with the Plano Symphony since 1985. In addition to oboe, he plays the English horn, saxophone, flute and clarinet. However, we don’t know if he has been called upon to whistle any parts.
Ashley Howe, Oboe
According to Garrison Keillor, the oboe is a sensuous instrument. Just look at the way it’s used in the movies. And the life of an oboist is pure frustration, as it involves constantly making reeds because they don’t really last that long.
But Ashley Howe, in her third season as second oboist with the Plano Symphony Orchestra. copes with the difficulties. The Lewisville native and current resident discovered the oboe in sixth grade – the French horn was an option offered by her teachers – and chose the oboe because she had never heard of it. She now says, “ It’s funny to think that my silly curiosity has become such a large part of my life.”
A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Ashley earned a Bachelors degree in oboe performance and played in a number of ensembles. “Music afforded me the opportunity to attend a great college and discover the true life of being a professional musician.”
She cited her parents’ support. “They’ve attended all my concerts and recitals,” she said. “I’m positive about them supporting my decision. Even though they really enjoyed music, they knew nothing about a professional career in that field, so they have learned a lot.”
While in high school, Ashley and a friend often visited nursing homes to perform for the residents. She recalls one instance fondly. “While I paused during a solo, the woman sitting right in front of me proceeded to start a conversation. I was too nice to ignore her, so I just smiled and kept playing. In the end, she wasn’t even fazed by the awkward moment.”
She continued her music study in high school by attending the band and orchestra camp at Texas Tech and playing in the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra Wind Ensemble.
Her housemates “have great howling voices,” she says. That comes naturally to Dante, a German shepherd, and Zoey, the talented Siberian husky. But even living with a professional musician, Dante and Zoey “have yet to learn any instruments,” but they’re still young. They join her in watching informational television, and Ashley also likes reading, listening to all forms of music and “discovering new experiences.”
All in all, even with all that reed-making, Ashley feels that “music is both an enjoyable and challenging profession.”
Robin Korevaar, Clarinet
Well, how did you choose your profession? Bet it wasn’t like Robin Garner did. In fourth grade, she considered being a cellist, but when she found a cello wouldn’t fit on her bike, she went to the more easily carried clarinet and now plays that instrument with the Plano Symphony Orchestra.
A self-described “desert rat” raised in Albuquerque, NM, Robin lives in Lake Highlands, is clarinet instructor for the Highland Park schools, and has students in the Mesquite and Richardson School Districts.
Her interest in psychology and social services led her to major in music therapy at Loyola University with a minor in clarinet performance, and she earned a masters degree in social work at UT Arlington. Playing in the New Orleans Saints jazz band in the Superdome was a treat during her college years, but she also played with a variety of other groups. While working in the health care field, she continued to play and teach clarinet, but when she started her family, she got more active in area music groups, and was a founding member of the chamber ensemble Camerata Winds. She has been a member of the New Orleans, Colorado, Dallas, Fort Worth, Garland and Las Colinas symphonies, and the Dallas Opera Orchestra.
Music runs in the family. Both of Robin’s parents played the piano, and her father also played the oboe. She says they supported her choice of careers, but may not understand her busy lifestyle. Sharing music is important, and she especially loves live performances with son Ridge, who plays the alto clarinet and saxophone, and Jake, who plays piano and shows an interest in violin and percussion.
Comparing herself to friends who live “double lives,” Robin’s interest in other areas take her into the outdoors and mountain sports, “extending my triathlon passion.” She just completed her first international distance race. At home, she works on quilting, weaving and felting, gardening and reading, while spending time with family and friends “which makes my heart sing.”
Musicians have to deal with surprises during performances. One that stands out in her mind is the time, “during a particularly stormy night, when a stream of water nearly a foot wide began flowing from the ceiling right behind the conductor.” And the show went on, although “it was a challenge not to laugh or get distracted watching the workers in the eves trying to stop the rainwater.”
Her most enjoyable concerts are those “when I lose myself in the music. Performing Mahler with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra when I was pregnant was memorable. “She also enjoys performing the Nutcracker with the Plano Symphony, and, Maestro Guzman’s conducting of Sleigh Ride – his tempo makes the ‘bells’ in my favorite holiday piece really sing.”
Robin enjoys listening to jazz and classic rock and collects versions of Irish, Scottish and Appalachian folk music. Did we mention that she plays the bagpipes? Added to that is piano, which she began teaching herself at age five, and guitar.
Robin considers, “It is an honor to have the opportunity to make music with friends and colleagues for appreciative audiences. Like the races I engage in it requires dedicated maintenance, thoughtful planning and heart, to play music well….it is an art form…that can be enjoyed numerous times!”
Jay Majernik, Principal Percussion
“I love being a professional musician,” says Jay Majernik, a percussionist with the Plano Symphony Orchestra for 10 years. “There is nothing like performing, no matter the group, style/genre, or situation – including orchestral, musical theater or jazz band.”
Jay’s love of drumming has rubbed off on his two-year-old son, too. They keep their Dallas household lively for Jay’s wife, whose musical experience included singing in her high school choir.
Born and raised in Sumner, IL, Jay was a percussion performance major at Eastern Illinois University where he received his Bachelor of Music degree, and continued his education at Southern Methodist University where he received his Masters in Music.
He stays busy now teaching at the nationally recognized Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (the Arts Magnet High school in Dallas), Bishop Lynch Catholic High School and Horn High School in Mesquite. Jay also teaches privately from his home studio.
Jay became interested in percussion at age eight, playing the snare drum, and with the encouragement of his family decided at age 14 to major in music. He now plays all the instruments in the percussion section, and has performed locally with the Abilene Philharmonic, the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Irving, Theater Arlington, and Stage West in Fort Worth.
When asked if he had any unusual experiences when performing, Jay replied, “Yes. Quite often, too.” So unusual that he didn’t care to elaborate. And another non-committal response to the question about the most unusual place he has performed. Musicians do have interesting lives!
But he did admit to really enjoying playing with Winton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in New York, and his performance in front of more than 60,000 people at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Listening to and sharing all types of music with family and friends appeals to Jay, and he relaxes by cooking and gardening. So as his son develops his expertise in drumming, they might also share another of Jay’s interests – building model railroads.
Jeff Keene, Timpanist, Librarian
A summer spent traveling picturesque waterways and playing concerts for enthusiastic audiences sounds ideal. But timpanist Jeffrey Keene discovered there was a tiny problem. “The ship mates tended to dock at high tide and tie the ship up tight,” he said. But as the tide went out, ”the ship would be at an angle because it had been tied so well, and the mallet instruments would start rolling as you were playing – in the middle of the concert!”
Jeff finds playing on dry land a bit easier. He is principal timpanist with the Plano Symphony Orchestra, and has performed with that group since 2002. He is a native of Santa Fe, but spent most of his childhood in Lubbock and began his music study at age 12 when he was in seventh grade. Encouraged by his parents, who already had two older sons majoring in music, Jeff decided while in high school that music would be his profession.
To earn his Bachelors and Masters Degrees in music performance, Jeff attended Texas Tech University and Southern Methodist University, but he also attended Texas Wesleyan School of Law. Now he teaches in the Hurst Euless Bedford School District.
During his undergrad and graduate school years, Jeff, who focuses on marimba, drum set and orchestral percussion, played in a number of orchestras. Now he performs with the Dallas Wind Symphony and the East Texas Symphony, and has been a member of the Lubbock, Roswell, Midland-Odessa, Abilene, Irving, Garland, Los Colinas and Arlington orchestras.
To keep his energy up for all this activity, Jeff plays tennis three times a week, and also runs and cycles. At home, his two cats keep him company when he reads, as he enjoys learning in a variety of subjects. As to his favorite music, Jeff admits to very diverse musical tastes, from orchestral to rock to world. “You would be surprised by what is not on my iPod,” he says.
So he’s happy to be on a level surface when he plays now, but just in case the floor begins to tilt, Jeff is ready!