This small south Arkansas city was once one of the top oil producers in the nation.
Israel “Izzy” Getzov’s business card this spring could read “Have baton, will travel.”
The violinist and assistant to Arkansas Symphony Orchestra conductor David Itkin will take the symphony to cities in Arkansas this spring, as well as direct the Conway Symphony Orchestra in its April 18 offering, “A Celebration of Spring,” at Reynolds Performance Hall.
Getzov took over last fall as the Conway orchestra’s music director and conductor, and as director of orchestras at the University of Central Arkansas.
Getzov, who finished up the ASO’s Family Series concerts last week, will lead the symphony in appearances in Jonesboro and Russellville in April. If you happen to be traveling through the Great Smokey Mountains in late April, you can catch Getzov conducting the Symphony of the Mountains in Kingsport, Tenn., on April 29-30.
In May, Getzov will travel to Washington, D.C., to the National Conductors Institute, where he and five other selected conductors will study with the National Symphony Orchestra’s Leonard Slatkin. Getzov will direct the NSO in rehearsal as part of the program. Naturally, he’s excited and calls it “quite an honor.”
On May 29, Getzov will conduct the ASO in its Riverfest appearance at the amphitheater.
Getzov’s busy period continues into July, when he’ll make a second appearance with the Fujian Province Symphony Orchestra in China. He serves that group as its principal guest conductor.
With that schedule, Getzov can be excused for having to give up his position with the ASO’s Rockefeller Chamber group, which he joined on arrival here five years ago from Cleveland.
Getzov, 29, says he’s living a life he’s dreamed about since childhood in Chicago.
“I’ve played the violin since I was 4, but I got interested in orchestra when I was about 10 or 11 and I knew then I wanted to be a conductor,” he said. “I was in the Civic Orchestra, the training orchestra for the Chicago Symphony. All the conductors who lead the Chicago Symphony also work with the Civic Orchestra members, and they were my first inspiration to become a conductor.”
Getzov graduated from the Chicago Musical College for Violin and got his master’s degree in conducting from the Cleveland Institute of Music, skipping graduation to interview with Itkin and the ASO hiring committee. He was hired two days later for the positions of violinist and assistant conductor.
“I was attracted instantly when I read the job description. It seemed like they had me in mind, performing the violin and being in the beginning stages of a conducting career. It’s a state orchestra and there aren’t a lot of good orchestras like this. It was a very good match.”
As Itkin recalls, “Izzy was really the right combination at the right time. We had somebody who could thoroughly fill both jobs.”
Itkin’s way of speaking about Getzov sounds almost like a father’s admiration for his son.
And Getzov says of Itkin, “He’s a great mentor. He puts a lot of trust in me and has given me a lot of opportunities. It takes a lot of trust to hand over the baton to the assistant. … We have a lot of discussions about managing the orchestra.”
Getzov calls Itkin a role model, but Itkin adds that the two could not be any more dissimilar in style, whether in rehearsal, in conducting or in relating to the audience.
When a conflict in his schedule last month forced Itkin to send Getzov to Texas to conduct the Abilene Philharmonic in his place, Itkin said, “I told them, ‘You’re going to love Izzy and, trust me, you’re going to get a complete breath of fresh air because we’re just totally different.’ ”
Getzov’s warmth from the conductor’s stand shows in the ASO’s Family Series, quarterly one-hour concerts on Sundays designed to interest young people in symphonic music. Getzov relishes making music understandable to young children. While he was with the Rockefeller Quartet, Getzov visited area schools to talk music with older students.
“Yes, it’s been crazy this year,” he said. “I’m studying all the time. I’ve had 12 symphonies to prepare for this semester and I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights this spring. You’d better be prepared so that people aren’t thinking you’re up there screwing around, you have to know your stuff, and there’s a lot of pressure being in charge.
“I’m conducting more music this spring than in the past eight years since I started conducting. I’ve been extraordinarily busy, but there have been a lot of successes.”