Middlebury College piano man dazzles philharmonic

The Champlain Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) kicks off its exciting Fall Concert Series with two performances of Russian Masterworks, directed by guest conductor Matthew LaRocca, on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 7:30 p.m. in Ackley Hall at Green Mountain College in Poultney, and on Sunday, Oct. 23 at 4 p.m. in Robison Hall at the Mahaney Center for the Arts at Middlebury College. The performances will feature pianist Gareth Cordery, who will perform Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The program also includes Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien, Borodin’s “Steppes of Central Asia” and “The Montagues and Capulets” from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.
Cordery is a talented, emerging young artist who performs on both piano and cello. He started playing cello at the age of four. Several years later, after receiving an electronic keyboard for Christmas from his grandparents, Cordery asked his parents for piano lessons. “Luckily, they agreed,” he says. “I’ve been playing both instruments ever since.”
Cordery is currently a freshman at Middlebury College, in the piano studio of Professor Diana Fanning. Hehas performed as a soloist with symphonies in Illinois, North Dakota, and Minnesota. He has also performed in many groups, including the Illinois All-State Orchestras, the Central Illinois Youth Symphony, the Monmouth College Chamber Orchestra, the Knox College String Ensemble, the Maple City Dixieland Jazz Band and the Credo Festival Orchestra.
But that’s not all. Corderyhas also attended camps at prestigious music schools including Oberlin Conservatory and the Eastman School of Music, and has performed with chamber groups across the United States. He has been active in community groups as well, having served as music director of Grace Episcopal Church in Galesburg, IL, and as drum major of the Monmouth-Roseville Titans Marching Band.
But Cordery is not just a talented musician. A recent high school graduate, he was valedictorian of his class, a member of the National Honor Society, and an Illinois State Scholar. At Middlebury, balancing his academic studies with his music can be challenging, but Cordery says it’s not as difficult as it might sound. “Since I am, and will be, taking music-related classes, often the two work together,” he explains. “I find it works quite well for me to schedule practice time for myself as if it’s a class. That way I can force myself to practice regardless of the academic workload at a specific moment. It can be a much-needed break.”
Cordery is excited about the upcoming performances with the CPO. “The Tchaikovsky is an incredibly fun piece to play and it’s always a joy to get to work with a new orchestra,” he says. “It’s a special honor for me to play it here in Vermont, my home for the next four years. It’s shaping up to be an incredible, and memorable, first semester of college.”
Guest Conductor
While the featured soloist is a Middlebury student, the guest conductor, Matthew LaRocca is a Middlebury College alum, making the CPO performance a sort of homecoming for him. LaRocca graduated with a B.A. in chemistry in 2002, and recently completed his doctoral work in music composition at Boston University. 
“I enjoyed my time as a chemist and found the work fascinating, but I wasn’t sure if it was the right field for me,” LaRocca says. “After a number of years in the lab, I started to think more and more about the possibility of working in music full time. I eventually decided to go back to graduate school for music and haven’t looked back since.”
LaRocca is a conductor, composer and educator based in Burlington. He is on the faculty of Saint Michael’s College, where he teaches music theory, conducting and composition. LaRoccais also the Assistant Director of Music-COMP, a Vermont organization that teaches composition to elementary through high school students and facilitates live performances of their music by professional musicians.
LaRocca is enthusiastic about conducting the all-Russian program that the CPO will be performing. “There’s such an amazing breadth of music and styles among Russian composers,” he says, “and yet, at the same time, Russian Classical music has its own distinct style and feel to it. There’s a wonderful range of emotions, and the music is so interesting because of that.”
The Champlain Philharmonic Orchestra made its debut performance at the Middlebury College Center for the Arts in November 2004. Establishing a set of spring and fall concerts in succeeding years, the orchestra has continued to grow and thrive. Today, as the resident orchestra of the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury, the CPO performs regularly in Middlebury and now in Rutland County, at Green Mountain College in Poultney.
Tickets for the Saturday performance in Poultney are available at the door only for $15 general admission, $10 seniors and $5 students. For the Sunday performance in Middlebury tickets may be purchased at the door or can be ordered in advance by phone (802) 443-MIDD (6433) or visit go.middlebury.edu/tickets.

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