Dr. Camilla Kolchinsky
Former Music Director & Conductor Emeritus
Dr. Camilla Kolchinsky assumed the role of Music Director of the El Camino Youth Symphony (now Golden State Youth Orchestra) in 1994, a position she held until 2014. Dr. Kolchinsky was a native of Moscow and received a Master of Music Degree, with distinction, from the State Conservatory of Moscow, with majors in violin, theory, and composition. Despite the prevailing belief of the day, that conducting was not a field for women, and without much support from her teachers or parents, Camilla would not be denied her passion: "To put soul to the music, to put feeling to the music, only a conductor can do that.”
She completed the doctoral level program in conducting at the State Music Conservatory of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) with I. Musin. In 1964 and 1966 she won first place in the National Competition for Young Conductors at the Bolshoi Theater. Dr. Kolchinsky was awarded her first conducting job in 1965, proving the nay-sayers wrong. As one of only two female music directors of major orchestras in the former Soviet Union, she appeared regularly with the Bolshoi Theater, the National USSR State Orchestra, the Moscow Philharmonic, and was guest conductor of many other Russian orchestras. Yet prejudice against her for being a woman and a Jew, she has said, convinced her to leave her native country. The breaking point came when the Russian State Concert Board declined--in her name--an invitation to a European music festival, claiming she was sick.
Dr. Kolchinsky left her homeland in 1976 and went West, looking for new opportunities. She conducted the Philharmonic Orchestra in London, the Israel Philharmonic, the Norddeutsche Rundfunk Orchestra in Hamburg, the Swedish Radio Orchestra, the Liege Philharmonic, and many others. She recorded with all of these orchestras and was the Permanent Guest Conductor of the First Austrian Chamber Orchestra in Vienna and the Guatemala Symphony in Guatemala. She was featured in a documentary film Women Conductors: Biography, Working Rehearsals and Concert made in Sweden in 1986. It was broadcast on PBS in the United States, as well as in Europe.
In addition, she had an active career as an educator in music schools and conservatories, teaching private students in violin and viola, conducting, and performing chamber music on violin. Dr. Kolchinsky served as Music Director and Principal Conductor of the University Symphony Orchestra and Opera of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and appeared as guest conductor with the Santa Barbara Symphony. She taught young students at the Music and Arts Conservatory of Santa Barbara, State Conservatories of Music at Oslo and Drammen, Norway, the Oslo University Symphony Orchestra, Lund University Students Symphony Orchestra in Sweden, and the Summer Student Chamber Orchestra at Menuhin’s International Music Academy in Gstaad, Switzerland. In 1993 she was Visiting Professor and Conductor of the Symphony Orchestra at Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington.
Dr. Kolchinsky appeared as guest conductor at the Summit Music Festival in New York. She
conducted the New American Chamber Orchestra, and appeared as guest conductor and visiting professor at the Manhattan School of Music.
Dr. Kolchinsky retired from GSYO in June, 2015, and was granted the title of Conductor Emeritus. In her twenty years with Golden State Youth Orchestra she instructed and inspired thousands of young musicians. She was a trailblazer. At a time when opportunities were denied to women, she overcame and thrived on the World’s stage. Outside of GSYO founder, William Galbraith, no other person has had such an immeasurable impact on the organization. It is with great reverence to Dr. Kolchinsky’s memory that we rename the Sinfonietta Orchestra in her honor: the Camilla Kolchinksy Orchestra.