Maestro Bujar Llapaj Principal Conductor

Albanian-born, multi-award winning conductor Bujar Llapaj is a prominent figure in the Balkan classical music scene. He received his formal training at the Academy of Arts in Tirana and the Conservatoire National de Rueil Malmaison in France. He was appointed as the Principal Conductor of the West Coast Symphony Orchestra in 2008. Bujar has conducted concerts throughout Europe and he still travels abroad as a guest conductor.

Bujar Llapaj - WCSO Principal Conductor
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Bujar is known for his dedication to the pursuit of excellence in music and music education. He acted as the artistic director of the Albanian National Theater of Opera and Ballet where he featured performances of music by famous composers like Mozart, Rossini, and Verdi, as well as hosted world premiers of works by upcoming Albanian composers. Bujar also founded the New Philharmonic Orchestra where he acted as both the artistic director and conductor. Before his moving to Canada, Bujar was the department chairman of conducting and singing at the Academy of Arts in Tirana, where he developed new programs in conducting and pedagogy.

Yariv Aloni Principal Guest Conductor

Yariv Aloni has received praise for conducting "impassioned, inspiring" and "magnificently right" interpretations of major orchestral and choral repertoire. Reviewers also describe him as "a musician of considerable insight and impeccable taste." He is music director of the Galiano Ensemble of Victoria, the Victoria Chamber Orchestra and the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra, as well as being a principal guest conductor of the West Coast Symphony Orchestra in Vancouver. His other guest appearances include the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, the Civic Orchestra of Victoria, The Victoria Choral Society and Prima Youth Choir.

Yariv Aloni, Guest Conductor
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As the violist of both the Penderecki string quartets and the Aviv piano quartet, he has performed in many concert halls around the world including Lincoln Centre in New York, the Louvre in Paris, Tonhalle in Zurich, and numerous concert halls in Canada, the United States, Germany, Italy, France, Poland, Holland and Mexico. In 1985 he was invited to join Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zuckerman to play a gala concert at Carnegie Hall in New York. He was a finalist at the François Shapira competition in Tel-Aviv. His awards included the Israel Broadcasting Authority award for chamber music performance and numerous awards and annual scholarships from the American-Israel Cultural foundation.

Yariv Aloni recorded for the United, Marquise, Tritonus, and CBC labels as well as independent CD labels. He appears regularly with the Vetta Ensemble in Vancouver and performs in numerous chamber music festivals and recitals series.

Born on a kibbutz in Israel, Yariv began studying the violin at the age of eight and turned to the viola when he was sixteen. He studied viola with David Chen at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem, Daniel Benyamini, principal violist of the Israel Philharmonic and Michael Tree and the Guarneri String Quartet. With an emphasis on chamber music he also studied at the Jerusalem Music Centre with distinguished visiting faculty from around the world including the Isaac Stern, the Amadeus and the Guarneri String Quartets, and many others. He studied conducting under the tutelage of the Hungarian conductor János Sándor, former music director of the Budapest State Opera, the Györ Philharmonic Orchestra.

Hal BeckettGuest Conductor

Composer / conductor Hal Beckett has been active in the Vancouver film music scene for over 30 years, scoring well over 500 television episodes and 34 films, and has been recognized with a Gemini Award, an Emmy Nomination and multiple Leo Awards for his music. He has composed concert work commissions for the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Victoria Symphony, Kamloops Symphony, and Dance Arts, and has conducted orchestral ensembles for several recording artists (Bryan Adams, Michael Bublé, Marianas Trench, and soprano Ariel Sung). He also produced 102 National Anthems for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

Hal Beckett, Guest Conductor
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Hal is the Music Director of the Vancouver Film Orchestra, which, under his baton, performs and records scores for feature films, television, and other media projects. Recent VFO scores include: "The Hollow" for Syfy Channel; "Pupstar" for Air Bud Productions; "Fly Over Canada", the new soaring attraction at Canada Place; and "Aurora" for Canada's Sesquicentennial, filmed with 360 degree cameras. Previous clients include Miramax, Universal, Gold Circle Films, ABC Television, Infinity Features, Hallmark Entertainment, Lifetime Network, and Brightlight Pictures.

When not composing, Hal takes an active role in the Vancouver arts community — he's an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre (CMC), serves on the Board of Directors of the Vancouver Post Alliance, and is the Music Director of the Leo Awards. He has lectured on the topic of film music at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and Capilano University. This year, Hal has been honored with his own star on the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame StarWalk.

Frank Klassen Guest Conductor

Frank is a favourite conductor of West Coast Symphony players and comes to the WCSO with an extensive conducting background. He has conducted orchestras and opera companies throughout Canada, Europe and South America, his repertoire encompasses more than 50 operas, 30 operettas, ballets, musicals, incidental music and much of the standard concert repertoire. Born in Vancouver, he received training in Winnipeg, New York and in Germany, where he subsequently worked as a professional conductor for over 15 years. Frank has recently returned to live on the West Coast.

Frank Klassen, Guest Conductor
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Frank is Artistic Director and conductor of Opera Appassionata, a non-profit organization that presents an eclectic mix of high quality performances of opera and opera related events as site-specific theatre in highly interesting venues. Mascagni’s L'amico Fritz and Cavaleria Rusticana set in a heritage barn, as well as Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, set in the drug-scene streets of Vancouver are but a few of the recent innovative productions of this inventive company.

DWIGHT BENNETT Guest Conductor

Dwight Bennett has an extensive international career conducting orchestras and opera companies around the world. In addition to his guest conducting, he is the new Director of the UBC Orchestra. Maestro Bennett studied with Karel Ancerl, Julius Herford, Franco Ferrara, Kiril Kondrashin, and Bernard Haitink. After winning first prize at the Heinz Unger Conductor's Competition, he conducted over 100 performances in North America with the Canadian Opera Company.

Dwight Bennett, Guest Conductor
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Mr. Bennett conducted complete symphonic cycles of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms while serving as Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra and the Windsor Symphony. He has recorded with CBC, Verdi and Bongiovanni Records. He was Assistant Conductor (Vienna State Opera), Resident Conductor (Canadian Opera Company), Chief Conductor/Head of Music (New Israeli Opera), Artistic Director (Royal Opera Canada), and Principal Guest Conductor (Ukrainian State Symphony Orchestra). He has worked at such Festivals as Gars, Westben and Strasbourg, and conducted numerous orchestral tours of Europe and Asia. He has recently conducted in Germany, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Croatia, Taiwan, Korea, and China, including a new production/DVD of Massenet’s Don Quichotte for Teatro Verdi (Trieste) and symphonic programs with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2007, he was awarded the title “Commendatore Stella Della Solidarietà Italiana” from the President of Italy for his contribution to Italian culture and art.

KEVIN ZAKRESKY Guest Conductor

Kevin Zakresky was appointed Music Director of the Prince George Symphony Orchestra and Conductor of the Pacifica Singers in 2012. He has taught conducting at Simon Fraser University and directed vocal ensembles at Douglas College. From 2010-12 he was Assistant Conductor of Chor Leoni Men’s Choir.

Kevin Zakresky, Guest Conductor
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Zakresky finished his Doctoral degree in Choral Conducting at Yale University in February 2012 with a concert performance featuring Cherubini’s Requiem for male voices and orchestra; he was awarded the prestigious Aidan Cavanagh Prize for Distinguished Intellectual Achievement. While at Yale he was director of the University Chapel Choir and assistant conductor of the Yale Camerata. His major teachers were Marguerite Brooks and Simon Carrington, and he coached with Helmut Rilling and Stephen Layton. Before studying at Yale, he completed a masters degree in conducting at UBC, studying with Bruce Pullan.

Hailed as one of North America’s “rising star” conductors by Vancouver Sun music critic David Gordon Duke, Kevin has expanded his career in the last few seasons to include conducting, masterclasses and workshops, as well as vocal and piano performances in the United States and Canada. The recent winner of the BC Choral Federation’s Youth Music Award, Zakresky was the founder-director of Chor Leoni’s MYVoice program, a choral experience for young men throughout the lower mainland. He is a member of the faculty of the innovative Vancouver International Song Institute, serves on the faculty of the BC Choral Federation’s Choral Directorship Course, acts as an adjudicator and clinician throughout western Canada and volunteers for Musicians without Borders. He publishes regularly in choral and vocal periodicals. His latest article: “Operas from the Playground: Benjamin Britten’s Opera Roles for Children” appeared in the May 2012 edition of the NATS Journal of Singing.

He begins his tenure with the PGSO in September, 2012, a full season of concerts that includes performances of Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem, symphonies by Mozart and Haydn, concerti by Vivaldi, Hummel and Bruch as well as music by Beethoven, Estacio, Richard Rodgers and John Williams. He will also make his debut performance with Vancouver’s West Coast Symphony in December, conducting Messiah.