The Chandler Symphony Orchestra’s newest music director is excited to bring his worldly experience to the organization.
Vanja Nikolovski has been conducting and composing music all over the world for several years.
He’ll have a chance to showcase his musical skills when the community orchestra kicks off its season with a concert on Sept. 6.
Nikolovski, who also teaches at Chandler’s East Valley Yamaha Music School, said he hopes to challenge the orchestra of about 80 musicians with a rigorous program that will produce high-quality concerts.
“I want to bring a higher level of performance, a lot of enthusiasm,” he said.
The 51-year-old has been studying music since he was a child growing up in North Macedonia, located in southeastern Europe.
He recalled being raised in a house full of vinyl records and remembered taking his first music lessons at the age of five. His father and brother were also musicians.
“It was in my heart from the very beginning,” he said.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in Macedonia and attempted to get a master’s degree before the region’s political turmoil interrupted his plans.
People did not have time for music and culture during this time, he said, so he looked for new opportunities abroad.
He conducted orchestras in Croatia, Russia, Serbia and Portugal before deciding to set his sights farther west.
Nikolovski moved to the United States in 2001 and later enrolled in a doctoral music program at Arizona State University.
Around the time he got his degree last year, Nikolovski was encouraged to audition for a conductor opening in Chandler.
After several months of waiting, Nikolovski was notified in May he’d be the orchestra’s newest director.
A good conductor requires great preparation, he said, and an ability to form positive relationships with the musicians.
“You need to treat them with respect, you need to treat them with dignity,” Nikolovski said.
Conducting in America is notably different than in Macedonia or Russia, he explained. Conductors cannot be too friendly in the latter countries because musicians there demand a certain amount of authority.
“You have to be more strict, otherwise they might use a little bit of that friendliness against you,” he said.
Chandler’s all-volunteer orchestra began with a group performing at Mesa Community College under Maestro Jack Herriman.
When their rehearsal space was taken away in 1991, members of the group relocated and formed what would become known as the Chandler Symphony Orchestra.
The organization has been putting on free concerts each year for the Chandler community for the last 27 years.
As attendance to arts events has changed and dwindled nationally over the last decade, Nikolovski said he thinks live performance is still relevant and valuable to the average citizen.
Live music can be incredibly healing and can make someone feel more connected to their community, he said, awakening a person’s spirit.
“We are becoming robots, very loyal to our work and then we don’t have time for ourselves,” he said.
The orchestra’s first concert will be a tribute to popular film scores from movies like “Titanic,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Mission: Impossible.” The following concerts will include the works of composers like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach.