Musician and Company Profiles
Kirk Muspratt, Artistic Director and Conductor
Kirk Muspratt (Music Director and Conductor) recently received the 2018 Conductor of the Year award from the Illinois Council of Orchestras. He was also named “Chicagoan of the Year” in classical music by John von Rhein and the staff of the Chicago Tribune. In honoring Muspratt, von Rhein said, “Ask the delighted adults and kids who this year flocked to his concerts in west suburban Glen Ellyn with the New Philharmonic Orchestra … They will tell you he made concert going an interactive experience that was both enlightening and— are you ready?—fun.”
Recognized as one of the outstanding figures in the new generation of conductors, Muspratt has garnered international critical acclaim as a “born opera conductor” (Rheinische Post), “a knowledgeable musician who delivers superbly controlled, gorgeously shaped readings” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), and “friend to local music” (Midwest Beat Magazine). TheLos Angeles Times declared, “Watch him!”
In July 2004, Muspratt was named both music director of New Philharmonic and artistic director/music director of DuPage Opera Theatre (now New Philharmonic Opera). In his last fifteen years, productions featured Otello, Madama Butterfly, Le Nozze di Figaro, Il Barbiere di Seviglia, Hansel and Gretel, La Boheme, Faust, Otello, Tosca, The Beggars Opera, Elixir of Love, Turandot,Gianni Schicchi, Cosi fan Tutte, The Mikado, La Traviata, Die Fledermaus, and The Merry Widow.
In 2017 and 2009, New Philharmonic was awarded Professional Orchestra of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras. Programming of the Year award, also by the Illinois Council of Orchestras, was garnered in 2019 and bestowed in 2020.
In his first months at New Philharmonic, Muspratt instituted a Side-by-Side program for local high school students. Six years ago, Muspratt initiated a popular Solo Competition for Children that results in a child performing at every New Philharmonic concert. In order to involve the community to the maximum, Muspratt has created “Just Ask Kirk™” cards for audience members’ questions and a “Kirkature™” cartoon to help advocate the credo: “Classical music is for everyone.”
Muspratt begins his 20th acclaimed season as music director of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra (NISO). In 2006, with NISO, he initiated the South Shore Summer Music Festival.
From 1991 through 1996, Muspratt served as resident conductor to Lorin Maazel at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Prior to that, he was appointed as associate conductor to Joseph Silverstein at the Utah Symphony Orchestra (1990-1992). From 1987 through 1990, Muspratt served as assistant conductor to Leonard Slatkin at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as well as music director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. He was music director of the Alberta Ballet from 1997 through 1999. At the New York Philharmonic, Muspratt has served as a cover conductor.
In addition to his work in Pittsburgh, Utah and St. Louis, Muspratt has guest conducted the orchestras of Los Angeles, Montreal, London, Korean Broadcast Symphony, Detroit, Rochester, National Arts Center, Vancouver, Knoxville, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Victoria, Thunder Bay, New Orleans, Stamford, Binghamton, Lafayette, South Bend, Puchon, Annapolis, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and Baltimore Chamber Symphony. Summer debuts have included the Tanglewood, Chautauqua and Sewanee Music Festivals and the Banff Center for Performing Arts.
In Europe, Muspratt was assistant conductor in the opera houses of Monchengladbach/ Krefeld, Germany, from 1985 to 1987. His American opera-conducting debut came with the Utah Opera in 1991. He returned there to premiere Mascagni’s L‘Amico Fritz. Maestro Muspratt has conducted Die Fledermaus for the Calgary Opera, Faust and Merry Widow for the Utah Opera, Of Mice and Men and Il Barbiere di Siviglia for the Arizona Opera, all to stunning critical acclaim. In addition, he debuted at the Ash Lawn-Highland Summer Opera Festival in Virginia. He returned to Arizona Opera to conduct their production of Dialogues of the Carmelites, to the Utah Opera for their new production of Faust and Amahl and the Night Visitors at Opera Illinois.
In 1983 and 1984, Muspratt was invited to be a scholarship student at the Chautauqua Institute and in 1986 was selected as a conducting fellow at the Aspen Music Festival. A year later, he was invited into the Conducting Program at the Tanglewood Festival. In 1988, he was chosen to be one of three conducting fellows for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute at the Hollywood Bowl.
As a teacher, Muspratt has taught at the Conductors’ Institute of the University of South Carolina, the Conductors’ Guild National Workshops, Association of Canadian Orchestras National Conference in Toronto, the Conductors’ Studio at Illinois State University and at Westminster Choir College in Princeton. During the summer, he has often taught a graduate conducting class at VanderCook College of Music and for the last three summers has been teaching at the Northwestern University Summer Opera Seminar. In 2019, he taught graduate conducting master classes at Illinois State University and judged the concerto competition at Northwestern University.Muspratt recently completed six-year tenure on the board of directors of the Conductors’ Guild.
Having always enjoyed working with young people, he has conducted the Pennsylvania Regional Orchestra and the Pennsylvania All- State Orchestra and most recently the IMEA District 9 orchestra. Muspratt has conducted the Boston University Tanglewood Orchestra at the Tanglewood Festival. Muspratt has been the recipient of numerous awards, among them grants from the Canada Council and the Presser Foundation. In 1983 and again in 1984, he was winner of the Strauss Conducting Prize while a conducting student at the Vienna Conservatory. During his tenure in Utah, he received the first Utah Up ’n Comers Award ever given to a classical musician. This honor was awarded to Muspratt for his work and involvement in the Utah Arts Community. In 1987, he was named winner of the prestigious Exxon/Affiliate Artists Award.
He began his studies as a pianist in New York with Harold Zabrack and continued his studies at Temple University with Adele Marcus and Alexander Fiorillo. After completing graduate studies, Muspratt was accepted into the conducting program at the Konservatorium in Vienna, Austria.
Muspratt is a native of Crows Nest Pass, Alberta, Canada. He became an American citizen in the summer of 2010.
In 2016, he was honored to become a Paul Harris Fellow, an award named for the Rotary International Founder, Paul Harris. In recent seasons, Muspratt has conducted at the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.
Benjamin Nadel, Assistant Conductor
Benjamin Nadel is a classically trained conductor, pianist, and violinist. Based in Chicago, he is the Associate Conductor and Orchestra Librarian for the New Philharmonic and Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. He is also the Orchestra Director at North Central College. Benjamin served as Assistant Conductor and Chorus Master at the Midwest Institute of Opera from 2011 – 2015. He was also Assistant Conductor at Northwestern University’s summer opera program from 2016 – 2017.
Benjamin began his conducting studies with Dr. Glenn Block at Illinois State University while completing his undergraduate degree. He then went on to receive his MA in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Iowa with Dr. William LaRue Jones. Early on in his studies Benjamin fell in love with operatic conducting because to him, it is one of the most moving and all-encompassing art forms. This passion for opera led him to the Cincinnati Conservatory’s summer opera program in Spoleto, Italy, where he studied with Maestro Mark Gibson. It was after this that he became Assistant Conductor at the Midwest Institute of Opera, where he had the privilege to work closely with Maestro Joshua Greene of the Metropolitan Opera. Benjamin is devoted to understanding the native languages of operatic scores in order to best interpret them musically, so he spent 2 summers in Italian language immersion, and has a firm command of German as well.
As an orchestral conductor Benjamin has worked with several youth groups and high school ensembles, including New Trier, Metea Valley, Glenbard West, and Stevenson High School, as well as the Northwest Indiana Youth Symphony. He also regularly conducts on the summer concerts at New Philharmonic and the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra.
Paula Cebula, General Manager
Paula Cebula, General Manager, has been managing New Philharmonic orchestra for 19 years preceded by 16 years in management and buying with Marshall Field’s. Her educational background includes an AFA in Music from College of DuPage, a BS in Fashion Merchandising from Northern Illinois University, an MBA in Marketing from Dominican University, and an MA in Music from Northern Illinois University. Ms. Cebula plays professionally in the Chicagoland area as a saxophonist, with doubles on clarinet and flute, and as a pianist. Ukulele gigs and outreach to underserved populations in the Southwest Florida area is her newest avocation.
Karen Dickelman, Personnel Manager
Karen Dickelman has been a member of the New Philharmonic viola section since 1980, and is the orchestra’s Personnel Manager.
Her performing experience is extensive –and throughout the years has performed with many orchestras, chamber ensembles, and opera companies. She is a former Principal Violist with the Chicago Civic Orchestra and has performed under the batons of Sir Georg Solti, Bernard Haitink, Sergiu Comissiona, and Carlo Maria Giulini. Also at home in popular and commercial venues – she has performed for studio recordings, and in live shows with artists that include Barry Manilow, The Electric Light Orchestra, Josh Groban, Gladys Knight, Wynton Marsalis, The Spinners, Herbie Mann, Chuck Mangione, and Richard Smallwood, among others.
A jazz afficionado, she currently performs with the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic.
Karen also brings much management and leadership experience to the New Phil team, formerly having held management positions in the Investor Relations/Finance and Investment industries.
As Personnel Manager of New Philharmonic, she is responsible for engaging all musicians required for each concert cycle – a position she also holds with The Northwest Indiana Symphony.
Karen is also the Director of Music Events and Communications at North Park University in Chicago.
Michele Lekas, Concertmaster
Ms. Lekas received her Bachelors and Masters Degree from the Quebec Conservatory of Music in her native Canada, and later studied in the United States with Jaime Laredo, David Cerone and Sally Thomas. She has played in masterclasses for Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Henryk Szeryng, Dmitry Sitkovetsky, and Joseph Silverstein. Ms. Lekas was a member of the Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec, the chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy (Quebec), and the Camerata Lysy Gstaad (Switzerland). She was also Associate Concertmaster of the New American Chamber Orchestra (based in Spain) and toured with the orchestra in Europe for a year, prior to moving to the United States.
Ms. Lekas is currently concertmaster of the Northwest Indiana Symphony, the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, and the New Philharmonic Orchestra, and is a substitute musician with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She often appears as soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. Ms. Lekas has recorded for CLAVES with the New American Chamber Orchestra, for Warner Brothers and NAXOS with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, and with Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In addition to her classical repertoire, Ms. Lekas works in recording studios, and often performs for Broadway in Chicago productions.
Melissa Bach, Cello
A native of Duluth, Minnesota, Melissa Bach is an active orchestral and chamber musician in the Chicago area, performing with New Philharmonic, Northwest Indiana Symphony, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Opera Theater, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, International Chamber Artists, and Quartet Parapluie, for which she is a founding member. Outside of classical music, Ms. Bach spends a great deal of time in recording studios, recording many styles of music. No stranger to the pop/rock world, she appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman with Bright Eyes, while on the U.S. portion of a world tour. Ms. Bach has also performed live with Peter Gabriel, Idina Menzel, Michael Bublé, Barry Manilow, Kanye West, Kishi Bashi, Sleeping At Last, and Pinetop Seven, among others. She received her Bachelor’s degree with highest honors from DePaul University, where she studied with Christopher Costanza.
Melinda Getz, 2nd Oboe/English Horn
Melinda began studying oboe at the age of 9 and at age 13 was awarded two summer scholarships to study oboe and music theory at the St. Louis Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Barbara Herr of the St. Louis Symphony. She was the youngest player to be accepted as principal oboist with St. Louis Youth Symphony, performing at Powell Symphony Hall. Melinda has performed in numerous woodwind, chamber and orchestral groups throughout the years both on oboe and English Horn.
She received a full scholarship to The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, studying with John DeLancie and Richard Woodhams, principal oboists of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Melinda performed with the Curtis Symphony at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, and at Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall in New York, and The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. She has performed under conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Gerhardt Zimmerman, Pinchas Zuckerman and Leonard Slatkin .
Melinda has been a member of New Philharmonic for thirty years.
In her non-music time, she has 30 years martial arts background and training, including 3rd degree black belts in Hapkido, Tang So Do, and Kabudo. Melinda was personally asked to attend master classes with Ji Han Jae, teacher of the great Bruce Lee, and was featured in the movie Game of Death. She lovesdogs and enjoys spoiling her 2nd Jack Russell Terrier, Taffy.
Melinda also enjoys cooking and considers herself an expert in Greek cuisine —passed down from her mother.
Bill Kronenberg, Violin and Viola
Bill Kronenberg did his undergraduate work at the University of Illinois receiving degrees in philosophy and music education. He received his MM degree in violin performance at Western Illinois University while working as a graduate assistant in the Suzuki program there. His violin teachers include Almita Vamos, Homer Schmitt, & Julian Aaron. He has studied Suzuki pedagogy with John Kendall, Almita Vamos, & Doris Preucil. Bill was an orchestra director and Suzuki violin instructor in the public schools of Lombard and Arlington Heights. He now teaches at the Music Institute of Chicago. He is a popular clinician throughout the country primarily as an improvisation instructor.
He has been a member of New Philharmonic since it’s opening season (it was a kindermusic class at that time.) He has appeared as a violist on radio stations WFMT & WCRX, on television in “The Untouchables”, and at Steppenwolf Theater in “A Clockwork Orange.” He can be heard on recordings with the 3rd Coast String Quartet and Mountain Time.
Claire Langenberg, Cello
Originally from Lancaster, PA, cellist Claire Langenberg has performed throughout the Midwest and East Coast as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral player. In addition to New Philharmonic, she is a member of the Quad City Symphony and Battle Creek Symphony. In addition to her orchestral playing, Claire is an active freelance musician and has performed with Josh Groban, Barry Manilow, Peter Gabriel, The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Kristin Chenoweth, and Paul Potts. She is also the founder and artistic director of Windy City Chamber Musicians, a group of musicians who perform for weddings and corporate events throughout the Chicago area. Claire teaches private cello lessons both at her home and at North Central College, and also enjoys being a Beachbody health and fitness coach. She currently resides in Aurora, IL with her husband and 3 boys. Her primary teachers were Bonnie Thron, Laurien Laufman, David Wells, and most recently Richard Hirshl. Claire holds degrees from the University of Illinois and the New England Conservatory of Music.
Carolyn May, Principal Flute
Carolyn May has been the principal flutist in New Philharmonic since its inception in 1977. She has soloed with the orchestra on Mozart, Nielsen, and Ibert concertos in addition to several of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. When Carolyn joined the orchestra, she had recently married, lived in Bensenville, and taught elementary and junior high band in Park Ridge. In the thirty-some years that followed, she has been balancing performances with child rearing (she and her husband Dave had three sons), teaching flute lessons at College of DuPage and at her studio in LaGrange, receiving her Master’s Degree from Northwestern University, and returning to band directing in School District 102 (LaGrange, LaGrange Park, and Brookfield).
Ms. May recounts, I remember the day I auditioned for New Philharmonic like it was yesterday. My appointment was on a Friday at 5:30 PM with Harold Bauer, the founding conductor of New Phil. I was delayed in traffic on Roosevelt Road’fortunately, Harold waited for me to arrive, and I’m so glad he did! To this day, I treasure playing in New Philharmonic and have only missed one concert in thirty seven years due to the birth of a child. I never take my position for granted.
Nancy Moore, Cello
Nancy Moore played an audition for Harold Bauer (then the conductor of New Philharmonic) in late summer of 1999. It was memorable because she had just moved back to the Chicago area from Alabama and all her belongings (except her cello) were still in storage in that state. She played the audition of solo and orchestral excerpts from memory because neither she nor Harold had music for her to read. She is grateful that he was willing to take a chance on her and let her join the orchestra. While in Alabama, she spent eleven years as a member of the Alabama Symphony and performed with orchestral and chamber groups throughout that state. Since returning to Illinois she has been active as a performer and teacher. She holds degrees in music and computer science.
David Victor, Percussion
David Victor joined the New Philharmonic Orchestra in 2014. As an active Percussionist, Timpanist, and Drum Set artist, David performs with the Lyric Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Opera, Spoleto Festival, New World Symphony, and Boston Philharmonic. David can also be heard as the driving force behind many of Chicago’s musical theater productions. In October 2013, David was appointed Principal Percussionist of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. Formerly, David was the Principal Percussionist / Assistant Principal Timpanist with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra from 2005-2010. David earned his Bachelor of Music Performance degree from Roosevelt University and his Masters in Percussion Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music. David serves as an Artist and Clinician for Sabian Cymbals, Majestic Percussion, and Craviotto Drums. When not performing, David enjoys spending time with his twins, Eli and Suzy.