Familiar faces take helm at symphony orchestra
Palmer, Schwind chosen to lead ASO into 94th season
Two familiar faces will lead The Altoona Symphony Orchestra into its 94th season, officials announced late Thursday. Maestro Nicholas “Nick” Palmer was named music director and conductor while Janey Schwind, a clarinetist, musician manager and music librarian, was named the new executive director.
The promotions come in the midst of a transitional 93rd season and are designed to “strengthen the operational and artistic leadership of the cultural arts organization,” said board President C. David Kimmel of Altoona.
“Ms. Schwind’s fresh, creative perspective, exciting ideas and experience as a musician and personnel manager coupled with Maestro Palmer’s world-class talent and artistic vision will undoubtedly translate to exciting things for the Altoona Symphony Orchestra,” Kimmel said. “The board is confident that the leadership team will bring motivation and energy essential to the organization’s continued success. They speak the same language and will make a great partnership.”
Palmer has served as artistic advisor and principal guest conductor since the May resignation of Maestra Teresa Cheung, who served 13 years. Palmer has had a 25-year association with the ASO — as music director and conductor from 1996-2007 and as principal pops conductor since 2016.
Schwind succeeds Rick Vanevenhoven, who served six months as executive director before resigning after the holiday concert in December. Contacted Thursday, he explained he resigned after discovering the position required more time than he expected.
“I think when I was looking for something to do, I was looking for something a little bit more part time, but I’ve learned to love the symphony, so I’ve decided to transition from a full-time paid position to a volunteer,” Vanevenhoven said.
Schwind agreed with Vanevenhoven that it’s been a positive transition.
In a telephone interview, Schwind of Hollidaysburg, said, “this is something I was meant to do,” and said she is “confident” she can handle the new duties as she retains her human resources and music library managerial roles, which she’s performed since 2020. She has performed with the symphony since 2019.
An Altoona native, she said she is “truly honored” to be the new executive director.
“My earliest memories of loving music, without a doubt, come from attending ASO concerts with my grandmother, Jane Stowell. I am thrilled to be able to continue the great traditions of this orchestra in a new capacity.”
Schwind formerly served as director of junior high bands and assistant director of the senior high bands for the Hollidaysburg Area School District and maintains a private clarinet studio. She is an adjunct instructor of music at Penn State Altoona. She has a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in clarinet performance from Penn State.
“As a passionate music educator, the greatest joys of my life have been sharing music with my students over the years and watching it better their lives in so many crucial, transformative ways,” she said.
Schwind said she is delighted to be able to use her passion to better the community through the joy of music.
“I am especially excited and honored to continue to work with Maestro Nick Palmer and my orchestra colleagues to bring new and exciting programming to our area,” she added.
Palmer will continue to serve as the music director of the Lafayette Symphony in Indiana as well as the North Charleston Pops in South Carolina. He is in his 25th season as conductor of the Evening Under the Stars Festival orchestra in his native Massachusetts.
“I am thrilled to be expanding my role with the ASO at a crucial time in the organization’s development. This is a wonderful orchestra and a supportive community and I am excited to work closely with Janey Schwind, as well as the staff and board, to develop new initiatives to continue to move the ASO forward,” Palmer stated in the release.
In addition to conducting the Detroit Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Nashville Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony and others, Palmer has served as guest conductor in Europe, Mexico and Latin America. He is also the recipient of several Gramophone and Billboard awards during an extensive recording career, most recently with the London Philharmonic at the Abbey Road Studios.
Palmer graduated cum laude from Harvard University, received a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the New England Conservatory of Music and completed a doctorate in orchestral conducting from University of Iowa with further studies at the Juilliard School, Pierre Monteux Domaine School, Aspen Music School, the Festival at Sandpoint and the Accademia Chigiana in Italy.