ASO Conducting Fellows Program



The Conducting Fellows Program supports the opportunity for promising conductors to hone their craft and enrich their musical experience through mentorship and participation in the Allentown Symphony Association's orchestral and community programs.

The Conducting Fellows travel to the Lehigh Valley to work side by side wih Allentown Symphony Orchestra Music Director and Conductor Diane Wittry, in advance of and during the production of a Classical Series concert. Along the way, they learn intricacies involved in assembling and leading a regional symphony.

Fellows also meet with Association staff to learn the range of activities necessary to operate a symphony orchestra. Their visit includes a stop at the exemplary community-based program, El Sistema Lehigh Valley.

We are proud to announce the Allentown Symphony Conducting Fellows for the Spring of 2021:

Summit, NJ

Premiere livestream on May 1, 2021

Michael Avagliano is an American conductor. As music director of the Central Jersey Symphony, Summit Symphony, and August Symphony, Avagliano has become as known for his exceptional musicianship as for his success in growing the budgets, audiences, and scale of the organizations under his leadership.

Largely inspired to become a conductor after a chance meeting with Leonard Bernstein, Avagliano performances are marked by a Lenny-esque exuberance. He has consequently enjoyed a global career: the 15+ orchestras he has led across the United States and Europe include the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic (Czech Republic), Pleven Philharmonic (Bulgaria), Scuola Populare di Testaccio (Italy), Plainfield Symphony (NJ), University of Oregon Symphony, and a world premiere performance at Merkin Hall with New York’s Bachnalia Chamber Orchestra.

As music director, his most visible achievement came when he helmed the Central Jersey Symphony’s first opera and ballet productions in its 50 year history. Co-produced in 2014, successful runs of Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) and Lebedínoye ózero (Swan Lake) were followed by subsequent biennial productions of the operas Don Pasquale and Daughter of the Regiment. The CJSO was twice named runner-up for the annual American Prize in Orchestral Performance, demonstrating Avagliano’s consistently high standard for musicianship.

Mr. Avagliano also places a premium on integrating the orchestras he leads with underserved communities, leading orchestras in elder-care facilities, hospitals and other places outside the concert hall. With the CJSO, among his proudest accomplishments is performing alongside the young dancers of New Jersey’s Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy—a rare opportunity for dancers at that age. Leading the Summit Symphony Orchestra, Avagliano orchestrated a collaboration with Summit High School students, projecting their artwork on stage during a performance of “Pictures at an Exhibition”.

When not leading orchestras, Mr. Avagliano turns his attention to mentoring the next generation of young conductors, imparting skills needed both on the podium and off. To train musicianship, he founded the annual International Conducting Masterclass in Stony Point, NY. Conversely, his workshop Conducting the Interview focuses on career-building, teaching conductors significant skills in applying for positions as conductor and music director. One of the most comprehensive workshops of its kind, participants held mock interviews with a panel of industry professionals, as well as evaluations of resumes, cover letters and application materials reviewed by Henry Fogel, former president of the League of American Orchestras. Hoping to build upon the success of these initiatives and construct further ones, Avagliano founded the Performers Learning Alliance in 2020, a pending 501(c)3 nonprofit.

A doctoral candidate for Orchestral Conducting at Rutgers University (D.M.A.), Mr. Avagliano has worked in masterclasses and workshops with Neil Varon, Kenneth Kiesler, Diane Wittry, and Kirk Trevor. He studied under Markand Thakar, and also served as associate faculty at Thakar’s workshops with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. A trained violinist and violist, Avagliano continues to perform and educate under his adjunct professorship of violin and viola at Drew University, and has performed with the internationally acclaimed Madison String Quartet since 2000.

Avagliano holds degrees in Violin Performance from Indiana University (B.M.) and Rutgers University (M.M.). He resides in New Jersey with his wife, the violinist Evelyn Estava.

South Orange, NJ

Premiere livestream on May 29, 2021

Brent Chancellor is quickly establishing himself as a compelling, versatile and distinctive artist. Recognized for his captivating performances and inventive programming, in 2019 Brent was named Artistic Director and Conductor of the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra, Music Director of the Rockland Symphony Orchestra and Interim Music Director of the Rutgers University Sinfonia. Within his short tenure, he has expanded each orchestra’s repertoire, increased concert offerings, and spear-heading digital media projects, audience outreach and education initiatives.

Brent has performed on some of the world’s foremost stages including Carnegie Hall, BAM, Symphony Space and NJPAC, and in 2019 was invited to lead performances with The Irish Tenors East Coast Holiday tour and the New Jersey All-State Orchestra. Since 2018, he has served as a cover conductor with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, assisting conductors Nicholas McGegan and Otto Tausk on concerts featuring pianists Robert Levin and Seong-Jin Cho.

As Conducting Assistant with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra from 2016-2017, Brent helped plan audience outreach events, led pre-concert discussions connecting works through musicology, history, and social sciences, and helped facilitate the first live streamed concert in the orchestras history. Additional appointments include Assistant Conductor positions with the New Jersey Festival Orchestra and Festival Napa Valley, where he worked closely with conductors Martin West, Stéphane Denève and Joel Revzen to prepare a wide variety of concert programs featuring André Watts, Angel Blue, Lester Lynch and the San Francisco Ballet. During summers, Brent serves as Music Director of the New Jersey Vocal Arts Collaborative, and since 2008 has maintained a close relationship as a conductor with the world renowned International Vocal Arts Institute.

Along with his performances, Brent is rapidly gaining recognition as a unique and imaginative presenter. In 2016 he founded LUX, an orchestra initiative dedicated to connecting young audiences with symphonic music through dramatic concert experiences that merge cross-genre multimedia projects with orchestral music. Acclaimed performances have included Grammy® Award-winning jazz violinist and member of Snarky Puppy, Zach Brock, fully immersive multi-sensory concerts with live DJ, and collaborative partnerships with the South Orange Performing Arts Center and Carnegie Hall’s Link Up program.

A passionate advocate of new music and diverse voices, Brent champions the work of living composers through programming, commissions, premieres and advocacy. Recent performances include works by Amanda Harberg, Kaija Saariaho, John Corigliano, John Adams and Michael Torke, and upcoming regional premieres include music by David Sampson, Richard Danielpour and Anders Koppel. In 2015 Brent led the New Jersey premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s, Lichtbogen, and his 2001 performance of Steve Reich’s Piano Phase was praised by the composer as “one of the best performances” he had heard. An award-winning composer himself, Brent’s music has been performed at the Festival of New American Music, Festival of the Arts, Center for Contemporary Art and NY Fashion Week.

A skilled and insightful opera conductor, Brent has led numerous productions and collaborated with many accomplished musicians and young artists from The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, La Scala and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Hailed by Mignon Dunn as “a real singers’ conductor”, from 2008-2012 he served as Assistant Conductor to Paul Nadler on productions including Ariadne auf Naxos, La Traviata, Don Pasquale and Lucia di Lammermoor, and concerts with the Israel Chamber Orchestra and l'Orchestre de la Francophonie. He has worked with revered stage directors Marc Verzatt, Joshua Major and Ira Siff and Lawrence Edelson, and in 2018, stepped in last minute to lead highly praised performances of The Rape of Lucretia, leading to his immediate appointment as Interim Music Director of the Montclair State University Opera Orchestra. Other credits include Tosca, Madame Butterfly, Don Giovanni, Die Zauberflöte, Le Nozze di Figaro, L’enfant et les sortilèges and Tamerlano.

Brent studied conducting with Paul Nadler (Metropolitan Opera) and Ken Lam (Charleston Symphony Orchestra) and holds degrees in composition, piano and conducting. He attended Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts, the Hochschule für Musik Trossingen and the John J. Cali School of Music. Additionally, he has held conducting fellowships with the Blackburn Music Academy at Festival Napa Valley, the International Vocal Arts Institute, and in 2018 and 2019 attended the Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music with Cristian Măcelaru.

Topeka, KS

Premiere livestream on June 12, 2021

Silas Nathaniel Huff is the Director of Orchestras at Washburn University (KS), Music Director of the Colorado Pops Orchestra, Commander & Conductor of the 44th Army Band (New Mexico’s National Guard Band), and Co-Director of the International Conducting Institute. He has conducted orchestras, bands, and new music ensembles across America, Europe, and Asia. Maestro Huff’s past positions include Music Director of the Astoria Symphony Orchestra (NYC), University of Colorado Boulder Campus Orchestra, Boulder Concert Band, U.S. Army Orchestra (DC), and Round Rock Symphony Orchestra (TX); Assistant Conductor of the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra (VA), Conductor of Moscow Ballet’s U.S.A. east coast tours, and Associate Producer of Opera at the Manhattan School of Music. As a U.S. Army Music Officer, he conducted concerts at the White House, U.S. Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery, Pentagon, and other important monuments and landmarks in Washington, D.C., on tour for audiences numbering in the thousands, and in recordings and broadcasts that were seen by millions of viewers.

Maestro Huff holds degrees from Texas State University and UCLA, and also studied at the Trossingen Hochschule für Musik (Germany), L’Institut Musical Provence-Aubagne (France), California State University-Long Beach, and University of Colorado Boulder.

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