In the basement of the Staller Music Department at Stony Brook University, a medley of instruments can be heard harmonizing in room 0111.
At the same time, students can be heard conversing about the music they must play. Among the many voices was one that stood out. It sounded a bit older and mature. Once the voice breaks the air, all other sounds are silenced. This is the voice of Susan Deaver, the conductor of the Stony Brook University Orchestra.
“Alright, so let’s get started,” Deaver said as students prepared their instruments.
The University Orchestra is made up of a variety of students, including those still in high school, undergraduates and graduate students and is open to string, woodwind, brass and percussion players. Deaver has been working as the conductor of the orchestra since 2001 and brings experience to the table.
“Through my music program at my school, I started with the flute and I had already been playing the piano,” Deaver said. “I just continued with piano lessons and band and I just kept going from there. So I see myself in some of these students.”
Deaver became interested in orchestral music once she got to college. She attended a summer festival in the Northwest and was captured by the performance there.
“The flutist teaching there was from Utah symphony, and I got really into the flute and they had a really good orchestra at this festival so I was captured by orchestral music,” Deaver said.
Since then, Deaver has travelled across the world and performed in multiple locations. One of the most noteworthy performances took place when she played with her orchestra at Carnegie Hall. However, the first time she ever conducted can be considered the most memorable.
“In the 80s, I was playing this chamber music concert and there was this one by Coplin called ‘Quiet City’ that was scored for other instruments that didn’t include the flute,” Deaver said “They were having a hard time keeping it all together and they said ‘you’ because I was backstage. I did it and I did all right.”
Through to her years of experience and the many people she had met over the years, Deaver was recommended for the conductor position here at Stony Brook. The orchestra slowly continued to grow throughout the years. Some of the students have come from high school to Stony Brook to pursue their love of music. Joseph Ippolito is one of these students and believes Deaver has helped him significantly.
“I think she does a good job directing this level, this group especially,” Ippolito said. “She really helps those with intermediate level experience, especially in ensemble like this. She has really gotten us ready for the concerts to come.
Ippolito started playing with the orchestra in the 10th grade. However, there are other students that have not worked with Deaver until they were attending Stony Brook. Monica Bello has worked with Deaver since her freshman year at Stony Brook and holds her in high regard.
“One thing she has given me is a new place to be a leader in the orchestra,” Bello said. “Usually, I was sitting maybe in the middle or close to the front of the violins, but I will have a leadership role at the front. It gives me a lot of responsibility and it’s something I’m new to.”
During rehearsals, there is one attribute of Deaver’s that really stands out: she is very good at comprising between players. She is able to easily understand what the soloist wants and communicate that to the orchestra. When assisting with the solo pianist or the solo violinist, she was able to bring things to a resolution so that all parties would be happy.
“I can really relate to these students,” Deaver said. “They are always working hard and when they finally accomplish what they want to do or with what they were struggling with, it gives me a satisfying feeling. I can see myself in their shoes, and I love it.”
The orchestra’s first concert is on Nov. 18. As the day gets closer, the orchestra is working harder and harder and Deaver is even more excited for their first show. Nervous, but excited nonetheless.