An upbeat conductor Concert Artists of Baltimore's Edward Polochick has taken a new job, but he's not about to leave his adopted home. He'll commute to Nebraska while keeping his feet firmly planted in the local arts scene.


June 21, 1998|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,STAFF WRITER

Years ago, Edward Polochick felt in his bones that Baltimore was the place to be.

And he still feels that way. So when he recently accepted the job as musical director of the Lincoln (Neb.) Symphony Orchestra, he was very clear on this: He wasn't about to move anywhere.

Polochick, who, like many conductors of big-city orchestras, will juggle an out-of-state post with other jobs, still has things to accomplish here. And nothing, he says, will stand in the way of that. "In a way, I would like to be thought of as Baltimore's maestro," Polochick says.

Most of all, Polochick wants to stay with his "baby," the Concert Artists of Baltimore, which he started a dozen years ago. Concert Artists is a professional chamber orchestra and vocal ensemble that performs around the city. Polochick will also remain on the staff of the Peabody Conservatory.

"I am so pleased the people in Lincoln are fine with my staying in Baltimore," says Polochick, a Butchers Hill bachelor who lives with his cat, Salieri.

Board members and staff of the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra say Polochick is exactly the conductor they were looking for.

"We did a nationwide search of over 200 applicants," says Richard Vierk, a board member of the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra who was also the chair of the search committee.

"We went from 200 down to six," he says. The six applicants conducted the orchestra, interviewed with the search committee and met with members of the community. "Out of that, we selected Ed to be our candidate," he says.

Vierk says they were all impressed with Polochick's talent as well as other qualities. "He has a very vivacious personality," he says. "Everyone warmed to him. He will be our goodwill ambassador."

"For us, he represents the complete package," says Jeth Mill, the executive director of the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra.

Polochick, 46, is a compact man with a ready smile and a rapid-fire conversational style. He sits on the edge of his chair in the Concert Artists offices, sipping Evian water from a large, blue, paper cup, poised to jump up and move.

He can be self-effacing about his career, even though it's a career that had him playing in New York's Carnegie Hall at the age of 9.

"I was lucky," he says, adding that, although talented, he is no different from most people. "You see that molding?" he asks, pointing to a wall of the vintage St. Paul Street building. "Whoever made that is extremely talented. There are all kinds of talent."

Polochick was born in a small town outside Scranton, Pa., and recalls being enthralled by the sounds of a piano almost from the time he could walk.

His father was a struggling chiropractor and his mother a government worker who casually played the piano. "I remember sitting down at the piano and plunking it," he says.

When he was 4 years old, his parents, Edward and Cecelia, decided to spring for piano lessons. "I was extremely lucky to have parents who recognized the talent," he says. "And they found a teacher in Scranton who was willing to take someone that young."

The teacher, the late Anne Vanko-Liva, had her prodigy giving his first piano recital at age 5. When he was 7, he played with an orchestra. At the age of 9, he made his Carnegie Hall debut. "It was partly a lecture demonstration that my teacher had given," he says. "Then the second half was me playing a recital, a solo piano."

Vanko-Liva, he says, was a master at getting the best out of children. "She knew how to work with kids and get them excited," he says.

It was not much of a challenge to get Polochick excited about piano playing.

"I always loved to practice, practice, practice," he says. "There was never enough time for me to play. And there still isn't."

Polochick was studying music in Philadelphia when he decided on his next goal: to train with Peabody's world-renowned pianist Leon Fleischer.

"I was 23 or 24 at the time. My first choice was to study with Leon Fleischer. I couldn't afford it at the time, but I came to Baltimore on a full scholarship," he says. "Then after two years of studying with this master, I wondered what I was going to do next."

Polochick, who received a double master's in piano and conducting, spent some time guest conducting but was searching for a more permanent position.

In 1979, he was offered a job on the conducting staffs at both the Peabody and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at practically the same time. It was a daunting proposition for someone that young, but Polochick took it in stride.

"I was 27 years old and thought, 'What do I have to lose? No one knows me here. If I screw up, I'll just leave.'"

A screw-up he is not. Polochick has lasted in the jobs for about 20 years.

He will, however, eventually leave his post at the BSO.

"Ed has really been the founder and the creator of the Baltimore Symphony Chorus," says John Gidwitz, the president of the BSO. "He has built it into a wonderful instrument and has made a unique contribution. We, of course, will miss him very, very much."

Polochick seems to live and breathe classical music 24 hours a day and seven days a week. But if his hands aren't holding a baton or stroking piano keys, he would prefer they be wrapped around a fishing pole.

"I passionately love to fish," he says. "Fresh water, salt water, it doesn't matter!" His next goal is to find the time to take a fly-fishing class.

"It's a real Zen thing, you know? I mostly throw the fish back anyway, unless they are big enough to eat, because there is nothing better than eating a fresh fish."

Unless it's flying off to conduct an orchestra and then returning to Baltimore.

If he has his way, Polochick will always be a presence in the local arts community. "I will always fight for the arts. And I mean all of the arts. I've kind of become spokesman for the arts in Baltimore," he says. "It's a wonderful life."

Pub Date: 6/21/98

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