There is talent brimming in the band and chorus rooms of Onslow and Carteret counties, and that talent got a jolt of expertise recently when Charles Peltz came to visit.
The New England Conservatory Director of Wind Ensembles and Music Director of the Glens Falls Symphony, Peltz is well known in the field, a 40-year titan of the industry with work across the country and internationally, most recently with the Orquestra Nacional of Columbia.
He has worked with such groups as the Syracuse Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, Merrick Symphony on Long Island, and Pacific Symphony in Los Angeles, as well as vocal groups and theater and opera productions.
He has instructed at a line of educational institutions, including 13 years at the Luzerne Music Center, a summer camp for young musicians in New York. He has worked closely with performers like Sarah Change, Ursula Oppens and Ilya Kaler as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning composers such as Gunther Schuller, Jennifer Higdon, Karel Husa and Michael Colgrass.
It’s safe to say Peltz knows talent.
“The band and chorus and orchestra programs I encountered here were all so excellent,” he said. “It was a great pleasure. And some of the teaching I saw was first-rate, I was so impressed.”
Peltz was invited to the area by Swansboro Middle School choral instructor Kristen Viszneki, a former student of his at the University of Buffalo.
“I actually met him when I was 15 years old when he came to work with our high school orchestra,” Viszneki said. “When I went to college, I had kind of stopped music, but he was an instructor there and I wound up getting back into it with him as my teacher.”
His professional pedigree aside, Viszneki also treasured Peltz’s teaching style, one that could certainly help her own students and those of nearby schools.
“He’s able to connect with and teach the kids in a different way than we can, which is what I wanted out of this,” Viszneki said. “I knew we had to get him down here. He provided us an opportunity to work with someone who is definitely a music expert. He’s worked in the field for 40 years and he’s at the top of his game. He can’t really go higher than he is professionally, he’s already at the tippy top.”
When the schedules finally lined up, Peltz jumped at the chance to get a taste of the music from young people on the Crystal Coast, as well as the local cuisine.
“I love North Carolina,” Peltz said. “I love the food and the people. I got to eat a lot of barbecue. You never have to ask me twice.”
During his visit, maestro visited with fifth graders from White Oak Elementary School on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 27, working with the percussion ensemble, wind ensemble and indoor percussion ensemble at Croatan High School that afternoon and evening.
On Friday, Feb. 28, he spent the day at Swansboro Middle School, working with Swansboro High School wind ensemble, symphonic band, and SHS Chorus; and Swansboro Middle School band, chorus, and string students.
On Saturday, Feb. 29, Peltz worked with SHS and SMS music students in 20-student private sessions.
“At White Oak, I spoke to about 50 or 60 fifth-graders about what a conductor does,” Peltz said. “They all got up and conducted each other, we had a few kids get up and conduct the group. It was so fun, they were terrific. At the high school, I worked with their band and their percussion group. The students were so talented and so respectful.”
Peltz was hands-on with all of his groups, offering notes and suggestions after hearing what each ensemble had to offer.
“We could play something and let him hear it and make suggestions for the group or an individual section,” Viszneki said. “He would consistently give the kids really good ideas with approaching a topic from a different perspective. There were wonderfully individualistic responses for each group, which really made the kids happy and really impacted the sound right away.”
For the older groups, Peltz was able to get a little more technical, even meeting briefly one-on-one with the more experienced high school players on Saturday.
“We dealt with some pretty sophisticated sound concepts, focusing on articulation and clarity,” Peltz said. “The overarching theme was one of listening. You can practice your own parts at home, but the purpose of a rehearsal is to hear everyone else’s part, which is something you learn to hear over time.”
Peltz’s instruction was vital as a chance for local talent to get outside insight. A 14-year violin player who transitioned to voice and piano, Viszneki understands how important it is to inject outside perspectives when cultivating talent and a love for music.
“The Swansboro and Croatan high school musical programs are going places, mark it down,” Viszneki said. “Mr. Peltz saw that and was very impressed with the work that our music teachers put in. There is a lot of talent here, too.”
For Peltz, the visit was in a different region than he’s familiar with, but no matter the place or the level of music, his approach is the same.
“We’re all part of the same ecosystem,” Peltz said. “We’re all trying to do the same thing, which is bring art and music and joy to young people. Whether they’re at a great conservatory with aspirations to be in the top tier of professional musicians, or a middle school band student on the shores of North Carolina, we’re all part of the same ecosystem.”
Email Zack Nally at firstname.lastname@example.org.