You had me at ‘cello’

Pianist Avguste Antonov of the Master’s Touch School of Music in Grapevine, Texas, entertains a small audience at the Butler Institute of American Art. This is the first of three performances Mr. Antonov gave while visiting Yougstown. His performance at the Butler is part of the “Music at Noon” program. Photo by Graig Graziozi/ The Jambar.

Michael Gelfand, professor emeritus of cello at Youngstown State University’s Dana School of Music, has lent his musical abilities to the university for the past 39 years.

Gelfand inherited his passion for music from his father who was an amateur violinist on the side.

“In our area of Queens, there seemed to be a shortage of cellists for his weekly gatherings, and so he decided that two of his five kids would play cello [my brother Peter and I],” Gelfand said. “After years and years of playing music in chamber groups and orchestra, it just seemed natural for me to go into music as a career.”

After studying and practicing cello throughout his teenage years, Gelfand received his Bachelor of Music at Indiana University. Shortly after, he received his Master of Music at Cleveland Institute of Music with a focus on cello and conducting. Gelfand then went on to pursue his doctorate in conducting at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music as well as from the Pierre Monteux School for Advanced Conductors. He also has studied cello with instructors from Manhattan School of Music and Julliard.

Gelfand’s trio, “New Amici Trio,” consists of Hristo Popov (left) on violin, Cicilia Yudha (center) on piano and Gelfand (right) on cello. The trio has been making music together since 1979. Photo courtesy of Michael Gelfand.
Gelfand’s trio, “New Amici Trio,” consists of Hristo Popov (left) on violin, Cicilia Yudha (center) on piano and Gelfand (right) on cello. The trio has been making music together since 1979. Photo courtesy of Michael Gelfand.

Up until last year, Gelfand had taught at YSU for 38 years until retiring. He was rehired as a member of YSU’s Extended Teaching Service faculty and teaches chamber music and music appreciation at the university.

Gelfand said that when he looking for teaching job, he wanted a position that offered a variety of things to do.

“Even though I was offered a variety of things to do, and even though I was offered a half dozen university positions, YSU seemed to offer a smorgasbord of things,” he said. “I have been fortunate to be able to perform with terrific faculty colleagues in a different variety of settings.”

Dean of the College of Creative Arts and Communication, Bryan DePoy, said that he enjoys working
with Gelfand.

“He is dedicated not only to music performance but also students,” DePoy said. “For the amount of time he has been teaching here, he really does have a strong sense of history and tradition.”

Mike Crist, Dana School of Music director and trombone professor, said he has known Gelfand for more than 32 years.

“He is such a great and outstanding musician,” Crist said. “He is always interested in providing great music and performance opportunities for students.”

At YSU, Gelfand has served as the music conductor of the Dana Symphony and Chamber orchestras and the music theatre orchestras and has been the coordinator of the Dana Concert Series cine 1990. Gelfand has also received the 1995 WYSU-FM Silver Jubilee Award for the Pursuit of Excelence in the Fine Art of Keeping Classical Music Accessible and Alive with the Astabula Area Orchestra. In 1975, Gelfand helped come up with the idea for the “Music at Noon” in the Butler Museum of American Art that has been a tradition ever since.

“It has been going strong for many years and has become a terrific showcase for YSU’s spectacular Dana School of Music faculty, students and guest artists,” Gelfand said. “We are really proud to have it here.”

In the past, Gelfand has served as principal cellist of the New York All City Orchestra, Syracuse Symphony, and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra in Charelston, South Carolina and Spoleto, Italy as well as a member of the Paris Chamber Orchestra and Nice Philharmonic in France.

Besides teaching at YSU, Gelfand also participates in New Amici Trio at Dana School of Music. He also serves as the principal cellist for the Youngstown Symphony and Warren Philharmonic and will be returning to Bulgaria in November to conduct the Sofia Sinfonette and
Vidin Philharmonic.

Crist said he has played under Gelfand when he has conducted before.

“He is very energetic and thorough when he conducts,” Crist said. “We also play together quite often and it is always a pleasure to perform with him.”

Gelfand said he enjoys making music and working with his colleagues at YSU.

“I am similar to many of my colleagues at the Dana School of Music in that the teaching and performing that I do is not only my profession, but also some of my main hobbies and passions,” he said. “It has been and continues to be an honor and privilege to work at YSU’s Dana School of Music.”