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46th Season

David Grandis, Music Director

Featured Guest Artists for 42nd season

David Grandis, Guest Conductor
October 14, 2012 and March 3, 2013

Conductor David Grandis is currently the Assistant Conductor of the Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra and Opera at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Mr. Grandis’ guest conducting opportunities have included the Virginia Chamber Orchestra (at the National Presbyterian Church in April, 2011), Bordeaux National Symphony Orchestra, Nice Philharmonic Orchestra, Sofia New Symphony Orchestra and Minsk Philharmonic Orchestra. He is regularly Assistant Conductor at the Lyon National Opera. Past positions as Assistant Conductor have also included: the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra in Maryland, the Capital City Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., the Baltimore Opera Company and the National Philharmonic, where he served as Cover Conductor.

A native of France, Mr. Grandis led the University Orchestra in Grenoble and created his own chamber orchestra in Nice. Upon completing his formal musical training in several conservatories and earning a B.M. in Musicology in France, he continued his conducting studies in the United States. He subsequently served as Assistant Conductor at the University of Illinois in Champaign where he received a M.M. in conducting under Donald Schleicher; at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, where he earned a Graduate Performance Diploma in conducting under Gustav Meier; and lastly at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is currently completing a D.M.A. in conducting under James Smith.

He has participated in several master classes with Marin Alsop, Gustav Meier, Rossen Milanov, Misha Kats, John Farrer, Daniel Lewis and Donald Thulean.

Mr. Grandis has an equal interest in both symphonic and lyric literature. His doctoral thesis, A la recherche du chant perdu ©, analyses the French style of opera singing and celebrates the era of the RTLN and its lyric company. It will soon be published in French and English. He has also studied voice for several years and performed roles in productions of Pagliacci (Silvio), Werther (Albert), Pélléas et Mélisande (Pélléas), Faust (Valentin), and Die Zauberflöte (Papageno). Albert Lance invited him to conduct productions of Gounod’s Faust and Puccini’s Il Tabarro in France. Mr. Grandis will soon return as Assistant Conductor at the Lyon National Opera in April 2013 for Strauss’ Capriccio.

David Grandis’ web site (will open another browser window)

Susan Robinson, harp
October 14, 2012

photo of Susan Robinson

Susan Robinson is the principal harpist of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, a position she has held since 1995. She also serves as the principal harpist of the Boston “POPS” Esplanade Orchestra, with whom she has toured the Far East and the US, and performs with the Boston Symphony as often as her schedule permits. Previously, Susan served as the acting principal harpist of Tampa’s Florida Orchestra and the Sarasota Opera Festival.

Avid performers of chamber music, Susan and her husband, violinist Joseph Scheer, are the founders of the IBIS Chamber Music Society ( Based in Arlington VA, IBIS presents between 6-10 concerts every season and has been praised as “splendid” and “compelling” by the Washington Post. Susan is featured on the IBIS cd Souvenir: Music for Violin and Harp, and performs the Handel Concerto for Harp and the Debussy Danses Sacree et Profane on IBIS’ most recent release.

Among Susan’s solo engagements are a performance of Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with the Opera House Orchestra under Heinz Fricke, and appearances with the Newton (MA) Symphony, the Indian Hill Symphony, the New Hampshire Philharmonic, the Rhode Island Chamber Orchestra, and the Dedham (MA) Choral Society. She previously appeared with the VCO in October, 2011.

Jim Steele, photographer
October 14, 2012

photo of Jim Steele

James (Jim) Steele is a photographer in the tradition of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. Working primarily in medium and large format, Steele's "scapes" of land, sea, and body represent the finest in traditional and digital photographic imagery.

Jim has studied with Cole Weston, George Tice, Joyce Tenneson, Christopher James, Carson Graves, and Martha Casanave.

In the Washington DC area Jim's work can be seen in Studio #343 in the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA.

Jim has taught photography courses and workshops at the Art League School in Alexandria, Va., the Smithsonian Institution, VISARTS, Photoworks, Inc. at Glen Echo Park and has guest lectured at Georgetown University. In addition, Jim has taught numerous workshop in digital printing.

Kathryn (Kathy) Steele works primarily in color. She is drawn to the beauty of the landscapes of the Desert Southwest and New England.

Kathy has studied with Arnold Newman, Nancy Brown, and Kate Carter at the Maine Photographic Workshops.

Jim Steele's Web site (will open another browser window)

Nicolette Oppelt, flute
March 3, 2013

photo of Nicolette Oppelt

Flutist Nicolette Driehuys Oppelt was born in Amstelveen, The Netherlands, and began playing the flute at the age of 11. After immigrating with her family to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1977 she attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for both high school and college, with Philip Dunigan as her main teacher. While there, she was a two-time winner of the school’s concerto competition. She also appeared as a soloist on the Dutch national television show “Young People on Their Way to the Concert Stage” with her father, conductor Leo Driehuys, on the podium. Ms. Oppelt has been actively performing in the Washington Metropolitan area since 1990. In addition to being a member of the National Philharmonic flute section, she serves as Principal Flutist of the National Gallery Orchestra, Washington Concert Opera, The Virginia Chamber Orchestra and the Amadeus Orchestra. She has performed chamber music with the Capitol Woodwind Quintet, the Contemporary Music Forum at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the National Gallery Orchestra Woodwind Quintet, and at the Netherlands Embassy. Ms. Oppelt is also a regular substitute with the National Symphony Orchestra and has accompanied that orchestra on many tours, including performances in Carnegie Hall.

Rachel Collins, artist
March 3, 2013

photo of Rachel Collins

Watercolor painter Rachel Collins’s love of the abstraction inherent in a close-focus view on her subjects shows in her latest series of paintings, which have a music connection. Her paintings have earned recognition and awards on the regional and national level, are frequently included in nationally competitive watercolor exhibits, and have won her signature status in the National Watercolor Society, and the Watercolor USA Honor Society, among others. In the Washington area, she works regularly in her studio at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA, where she welcomes visitors to view and discuss artwork. She frequently shows her work in other art spaces in the metro area, and teaches watercolor classes and workshops at The Art League School, elsewhere in the US, and abroad. She served as president of the Potomac Valley Watercolorists from 2003 to 2005, and in 2009 was a co-president of the Virginia Watercolor Society. To view more of her artwork, please see her website:

Dennis M. Layendecker, Mason Symphony Orchestra Conductor
April 3 and April 5, 2013

photo of Dennis Layendecker

Dennis M. Layendecker; D.M.A.; Col. USAF (Ret.), is the Director of the George Mason University School of Music. He holds the Heritage Chair in Music and serves as Director of University Orchestras in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA), positions he has held since joining the faculty in August 2009. The Heritage Chair in Music was established in the 1980s by former Mason president George Johnson and his wife Joanne as a way of promoting the arts on campus and within the community.

During his 26-year Air Force career Dr. Layendecker served as a band commander, conductor, artistic director, pianist, public spokesperson, educator, and diplomat for the Air Force at home and abroad. In July 2002, then Colonel Layendecker assumed command of The United States Air Force Band, Washington, D.C. As part of his duties he provided direct musical and ceremonial support to the President of the United States and his Cabinet, members of Congress and other high ranking civilian and military leaders nationally and internationally. In addition to his duties at the USAF Band, from December 2007, he also served as the Chief of Music for the Air Force. In this capacity he advised the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs leadership on music policy, officer hiring, development and assignments, force structure, and total force integration of Air Force active duty and Air National Guard musical units. During his military career he led more than 6,000 musical performances worldwide in support of public outreach, community relations, troop morale and welfare, and recruitment and retention programs for the Air Force and Department of Defense. He officially retired from the Air Force in late August 2009.

Dr. Layendecker is a graduate of the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Music Education in 1975. He began his conducting studies in 1977 while on full piano scholarship attending the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, Belgium. He subsequently augmented his conducting studies during summer master classes at the Academia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy, and at the Vienna (Austria) Academy of Music. In 1981, he earned a Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and in 1988, completed a Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the Air Force, Dr. Layendecker served on the music faculties of The American Conservatory of Music, Chicago, Illinois and Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. He was inducted as a member of the American Bandmasters Association in 2006. He has remained active as a conductor and clinician throughout his professional career.

During his distinguished career in the Air Force Dr. Layendecker led many of America’s finest musicians throughout the United States, Asia, the United Kingdom, and Europe—from Los Angeles to New York, Vienna to London, and Oslo to Tokyo. Gifted in foreign languages, he is fluent in French and functional in German and Italian. He has performed in such notable venues as Washington D.C.’s National Theatre and D.A.R. Constitution Hall; Kodak Theatre in Hollywood; Semper Opera, Dresden; Neues Gewandhaus, Leipzig; Royal Albert Hall in London; Alte Opera, Frankfurt; and the Beethovenhalle in Bonn. He has led his ensembles before numerous world leaders to include seven American presidents, Queen Elizabeth of England, and Pope John Paul II. His radio and television broadcast credits include appearances on BBC, German Radio and Television, Polish National Radio, Radio Luxembourg, RAI Italy, and public radio and national television across America.

In addition to his civilian academic credentials, Dr. Layendecker is a graduate of the Air War College, a distinguished graduate of the Air Command and Staff College, and a graduate of the Air Force Academic Instructor’s School and Squadron Officer School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Organizational Excellence Award with oak leaf cluster, National Defense Service Medal with bronze star, and the Global War on Terrorism Medal.

A native of Springfield, Illinois, Dr. Layendecker resides with his wife Myriam in Burke, Virginia. They have been blessed to raise six children, and late in 2009 welcomed their first grandchild, Simon Peters.

Peter Haase, Violin
April 3 and April 5, 2013

photo of Peter Haase

Peter Haase was born in Chorzow, Poland. He received his master of arts from the State Conservatory of Music in Katowice, Poland, and completed postgraduate coursework at the State Conservatory of Music in Moscow. He came to the U.S. in 1971 to attend Juilliard and later received a diploma from that school. He names Jerzy Bronny, Stanislaw Lewandowski, Paul Swiety, David Oistrakh, Joseph Fuchs, and former NSO Concertmaster William Steck as his most important teachers.

Before coming to the National Symphony Orchestra in 1984, he was a member of the Atlanta Symphony for ten years. Mr. Haase was the bronze medal winner in the 1971 International Beethoven Competition in Hradec, Czechoslovakia. He has performed with orchestras and in recitals in the U.S., Canada, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Germany. Mr. Haase was chosen as the recipient of the 1996 Arts Group Employed Volunteer Award from the Arts Council of Fairfax County. In the Washington area he has appeared with the American Chamber Orchestra, on the National Symphony's Prelude Chamber Recital Series and at the Lyceum in Alexandria, in addition to his performances with the National Symphony Orchestra.

P.O. Box 7484, Alexandria, VA 22307-7484
The Virginia Chamber Orchestra is a Registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization
Last updated: 8 December, 2014......v.4.01