Conductor Apprenticeship Program

The Paul Vermel Conductor Apprenticeship Program offers a student of conducting an opportunity to receive guidance and one-on-one instruction from Music Director/Conductor Kim Diehnelt and to study, rehearse, and conduct a selected work in concert with the Northwest Symphony Orchestra.

NSO Conductor Program

2016-17 Conductor Apprentice Catherine O'Shaughnessy

A resident of Chicago, IL, Catherine O’Shaughnessy is an active orchestra and opera conductor both in the United States and abroad. In 2010, she made her international professional conducting debut as music director of the Mittelsächsisches Theater's production of Pyramus und Thisbe in Freiberg, Germany; she has also conducted the Moscow Philharmonic and the Rousse Philharmonic (Rousse, Bulgaria) in concert. Avidly committed to Chicago’s dynamic opera scene, she founded Windy City Opera and conducted its first production (La bohème) in 2015. Additionally, she currently serves as the music director of Chicago Fringe Opera and the conductor of The Floating Opera Company.

Catherine, a student of William Reber, holds degrees from the University of Michigan and Bowling Green State University; she also recently completed her DMA in orchestral and opera conducting at Arizona State University. In addition to her musical pursuits, Catherine is passionate about the role of the arts and philosophy in society. She currently serves as co-organizer for two philosophy meet-up groups and presented a paper on the philosophy of passion at the 2013 Humanities Conference at Lincoln University, PA.

Catherine O'Shaugnessy will conduct Elgar’s Chanson de matin, Op. 15 no 2 in concert with the NSO on Sunday, 2 April 2017 - 3:30 PM. The apprentice will also have opportunities to rehearse, under guidance of the Music Director, portions of all the repertoire being prepared for this concert. 


NSO  2015-16 Conductor Apprentice

S. Shade Zajac conducts Bruckner:  March in D minor on the NSO concert Jan. 31, 2016. 3:30 pm.

S. Shade Zajac is a freelance conductor, composer and cellist. He has won the Nazareth College Concerto/Aria Competition both his freshman and junior years performing the Haydn C Major concerto and the Concerto in E Minor by Edward Elgar, respectively. Shade performs frequently around the Rochester and Finger Lakes area playing solo and chamber music concerts.

  Mr. Zajac is the cellist and a founding member of the Asteria Quartet, that performs frequently around upstate New York. He has also performed in other chamber groups including a piano trio and piano quartet. As an orchestral player, Shade has sat as Principal Cellist of the Nazareth College Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, and has sat Principal Cellist of the Roberts and Weslyan College/Community Orchestra.

S. Shade Zajac

Mr. Zajac is also a very accomplished composer. He has written several works, one of which entitled Three Colors for Solo Cello , was recently premiered by world renown cellist Mimi Hwang at her solo recital in March 2014. Some of his other pieces include 7 string quartets, pieces for solo instruments, a cello sonata, piano concerto, violin concerto, pieces for percussion ensemble, other chamber groups, as well as several pieces for orchestra, to name a few.

As a conductor, Shade has conducted both the Nazareth College Chamber and Symphony Orchestras, and was conductor of the OpusWerkes No. 2 Chamber Orchestra during his undergraduate years at Nazareth. Mr. Zajac is also assistant/rehearsal conductor of the Finger Lakes Symphony Orchestra and has worked with other community orchestras and ensembles in the area.  Shade has been named Guest Conductor of the Genesse Symphony Orchestra in Batavia New York conducted one concert in late September of their 2015/16 season.  Mr. Zajac is being considered for the position of Principal Conductor of the same orchestra. 

During the summer of 2015, Shade founded the Finger Lakes Summer Festival, which included orchestral concerts as well as solo and chamber recitals.  At the opening gala concert the FLSFO played a concert for Juvenile Diabetes raising over 600 dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  Shade plans on continuing this project in the years to come to raise money for other charities and to expose the surrounding communities to classical music.

NSO  2014-15 Conductor Apprentice 

Tyler Holstrom conducted Schubert’s Rosamunde: Overture in c, D. 644 (Zaubenharpe Overture) on the NSO’s second concert Sunday November 23, 2014, 3:30 pm.

With an eclectic repertoire including Louis Spohr, Percy Grainger, Robert Kurka, and many more off-the-beaten-path composers, Tyler Holstrom is an up-and-coming conductor in the Chicagoland area. With a wide background in wind band conducting, Holstrom recently made his debut at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, conducting the Plainfield North High School Wind Ensemble. In addition, Holstrom recently led the Chicago College of Performing Arts Wind Ensemble in a performance of Robert Kurka’s The Good Soldier Schweik, Suite.

  An active freelance clarinetist in the Chicagoland area, Holstrom has made appearances with many local ensembles including the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Lake Shore Symphony Orchestra, and Chicago Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. He has collaborated with Maestra Diehnelt several times as part of her Sounds of the South Loop series, housed at Second Presbyterian Church. His recent recital appearance included the works of Louis Spohr, Gerald Finzi, and Robert Kurka.


Holstrom holds a Bachelor’s degree in music education from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. His primary conducting instructor is Stephen Squires, Resident Conductor of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. He currently studies clarinet with Charlene Zimmerman, principal clarinet at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra. In 2013 he was named a Presser Foundation Undergraduate Scholar.

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