Let me begin with the obvious: Wanda Kaluzny is a supremely gifted orchestra conductor and choir director.
Of course, if you ever attended a Montreal Chamber Orchestra concert and witnessed the magic she weaves with her conductor’s baton, you already know this. Or participated in worship services at Hudson’s Wyman United Church, where she leads the choir week in and week out.
What you might not know is that in 2013 Kaluzny will celebrate significant anniversaries with both institutions.
Next fall, the MCO launches its 40th season, a singular achievement in the orchestra world. And this March, Kaluzny will mark her 15th year at Wyman.
This deep commitment to continuity and consistency demonstrates more than anything her abiding desire to share her knowledge and talents with others, be they students, professional musicians or amateur choristers.
“All these levels come with different degrees of energy and expectation,” says the Montreal-born musician. “For me, that creates a nice balance.”
Of surprise to many is that the youthful Kaluzny is the only music director and conductor the MCO has ever known. Or that she is the orchestra’s founder. Its 40 years are her 40 years.
Kaluzny was barely out of her teens and still working on her first degree in music at McGill University (she ultimately obtained an master’s degree in music theory) when, in a moment of personal epiphany, she seized upon the notion that the world could do with a fresh new chamber orchestra — and that she was the one to lead it.
She began by enlisting a core of influential patrons and board members, then carefully selected the orchestra’s first musicians. When they all came together for the initial performance, Kaluzny gained the unique distinction of becoming the first female conductor of a professional orchestra in Canada. She was also the youngest.
“Looking back today,” she says, “I would still consider this adventure as perhaps the proudest accomplishment of my career.”
Now firmly established on the Montreal concert scene, the MCO actively encourages Canadian composers and promotes promising new performers. Many of its musicians come from the Montreal region, including West Island and Off Island sectors.
But — if fashioning a professional orchestra at age 20 seems a singular achievement, it pales when compared with her beginnings as organist and choir director. That venture took shape when she was 11.
“By the time I turned 5,” she explains, “I knew that music was my destiny. My second piano teacher was also an organist and I took lessons on both instruments from him. Later, when my parents’ church needed an organist, I auditioned and got the job — which included directing two choirs.”
When Kaluzny arrived at Wyman in 1998, the 80-year-old church was already blessed with a well-established, well-seasoned choir.
Impressed with the ensemble’s vitality, the vivacious choir director unstintingly added her own talents to the mix, expanding the repertoire and fostering a wider appreciation of choral singing.
Today, Kaluzny delights in her participation with the Wyman Choir, calling it “warm and fuzzy, full of happy surprises.”
Kaluzny’s next professional appearance is with the MCO on Feb. 12 at the Bourgie Concert Hall, formerly the Erskine and American United Church, on Sherbrooke St. West. The program includes trombone virtuoso Keith Dyrda performing the Concertino for Trombone by Ferdinand David.
And, remember, Sundays at Wyman, where Kaluzny is music director and leads the choir. You are invited.
For information contact the MCO at www.mco.ocm.qc.ca or call 514-285-2000, #4.
Longtime Hudson resident Bill Young is a Wyman Choir member.