Orchestra's leader seeks new challenges

Conductor: The Peabody Conservatory graduate wants to return to school to pursue a degree in cognitive neuro-psychology.

May 20, 1999|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

Catherine L. Ferguson has negotiated many milestones in her life. She's earned master's degrees in violin performance and conducting, and has led the Columbia Orchestra for the past nine years.

But after turning 40 this year, Ferguson wants to try something new.

So she's leaving the 70-piece orchestra after this season's final performance Saturday at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre in Columbia.

Conducting "takes a lot of energy," Ferguson acknowledged. "Having turned 40 recently, there were things that I haven't done with my life that I don't want to look back on and wish I'd just tried it. There are so many things left for me to explore."

Ferguson is applying to area universities to pursue a degree in cognitive neuro-psychology.

Jason Love, conductor of the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra and the Chesapeake Youth Symphony's Repertory Orchestra in Annapolis, has been named as Ferguson's replacement and will begin during the 1999-2000 season, which opens in September.

Love, said Ferguson, is "such a wonderful young, up-and-coming conductor. It's amazing to me that he will be able to step into my shoes and continue to take the orchestra to new heights."

She said she has long been fascinated by "the way we teach students and how they learn."

The decision to leave was hers, and she leaves the orchestra on good terms.

"I had been thinking of either taking a sabbatical or leaving for good, and I thought this was the best time to go ahead and leave," Ferguson said.

Her departure will let the orchestra "move ahead with a new director instead of waiting to see what I was going to do. It was only fair to them," she said.

Born and raised in Fort Collins, Colo., Ferguson started conducting as an undergraduate at Colorado State University. She later attended the Peabody Conservatory, where she earned a master's degree in violin performance and a master's in conducting.

She has held conducting and teaching positions in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and is on staff at Howard Community College.

Her last concert with the Columbia orchestra promises to be "a big program," she says.

The concert will open with Beethoven's "Leonore" Overture No. 3, which Ferguson describes as a "very big, full, romantic-sounding work with a very triumphant ending. I didn't know when I announced it that I'd be leaving, but it's turned out to be very fortuitous," she said.

The piece "will sum up my time with the orchestra," she said.

The 21-year-old Columbia Orchestra provides classical musicians in Howard County an opportunity to perform and acts as a classical music education resource. The orchestra schedules six performances each season.

Pub Date: 5/20/99

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