MATTHEW WARDELL (b. 1983) is a conductor and teacher known for his quick wit, endearing presence in both pops and classical settings, and his incredible ability to bring joy and presence to any audience. His professional career as Music Director and Conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra began in 2009. When Matthew was appointed Music Director of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra the Ocala Star Banner declared that, “Wardell brings an impressive resume of musical and conducting training … Maybe more important than his musical credentials is Wardell’s youthful enthusiasm and unabashed zest … Wardell is not only a daring and dynamic choice as the Ocala Symphony Orchestra’s new conductor, but a smart one.” On the stage, he has publicly performed nearly 400 works in over 250 live performances including core orchestral works from all periods, concerti for voice and nearly every instrument, extensive pops offerings, film and multi-media works, and the purposeful inclusion of underrepresented composers and pieces. From the pit, Maestro Wardell has led 16 staged productions of large-scale opera, musical theatre, and ballet works including La Boheme, Bartok’s Miraculous Mandarin, Cosi fan tutte, Sunday in the Park with George, Carmina Burana, A Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd. Matthew once conducted 2 performances of Puccini’s Tosca with only one day’s notice. The performances were hailed as “first-rate” and “inspiring.” His ability to step in at the last moment was described as a “magnificent feat … when the stakes were high, Mr. Wardell came through brilliantly and proved his mettle.”
In addition to his success on the podium and in the orchestra pit, Matthew has been responsible for more than $7 million in private fundraising, over $3 million in grant acquisitions from the local to national level, and the creation and successive expansion of the Reilly Arts Center, a 30,000 square foot Ocala, FL performing arts facility that houses a 700-seat mainstage theatre, the NOMA black box, and the Ocala Symphony Community Music Conservatory.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Wardell received his Bachelor of Music cum laude (2007) at the University of North Florida working under Charlotte Mabrey. Wardell continued his education by earning Masters of Music (2010) and Doctor of Musical Arts (2022) degrees at the University of Florida under his mentor, Dr. Raymond Chobaz. Matthew spent five summers at the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Musicians in Hancock, Maine studying with renowned conducting teacher Michael Jinbo. Wardell has been fortunate to have been recognized as both an Osher and Quimby Family Foundation scholar. He is very proud to be part of the school’s long heritage of forming clear and dutiful conductors and considers Hancock a second home. In addition, Matthew has attended and participated in master classes with Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops and BBC Orchestra, Thomas Cockrell of the University of Arizona, and studied with conductor and composer Peter WesenAuer in Salzburg, Austria.
Matthew is a champion of all kinds of orchestral music. He enjoys programming and conducting core repertoire arm and arm with pops and new music believing that good music is just that – good music. He is a member of the College Orchestra Directors Association and the American Symphony Orchestra League. He serves or has served on the boards of the Arts in Health Ocala / Marion, the Ocala Municipal Arts Commission (OMAC), and Young Professionals of Ocala (YPO). In addition to his musical pursuits, Wardell is passionate about being involved in the communities he makes music in. In 2015 was elected to Ocala’s City Council – a position he proudly held for 6 years. Wardell currently serves as the Interim Director of Orchestral Activities at Mount Holyoke College. He enjoys traveling, the good company of friends, and attending Jacksonville Jaguars’ games. Matthew and his wife, Pamela Calero, have one dog, Buckley, who is probably up to no good at this very moment.
Natalie McComb, CFRE
Natalie McComb is a nonprofit development and communications professional with over 15 years of experience in a variety of leadership roles. She is an experienced communicator with a proven ability to build relationships, work collaboratively, and achieve meaningful results.
As a fundraising professional, she has held development roles at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Virtua Health Foundation, the United Way of Marion County, and most recently as the Vice President of the Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership Foundation. She has extensive experience in a variety of areas including major gift fundraising, annual fund development, corporate and planned giving, campaign administration, grant writing, and special events management.
Natalie’s marketing and communications expertise includes crafting compelling content for print, web, video and social media. She hosted a bi-monthly podcast for the Ocala Metro CEP, featuring interviews with local business and community leaders. During her tenure as Marketing Manager for AdventHealth Ocala, she directed all internal communications, external advertising, and the organization’s community engagement strategy. This included all corporate sponsorships and event communications.
She is a graduate of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. Professional credentials include Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) and Six Sigma Yellow Belt. Natalie has been actively involved in many community boards and is currently a Take Stock in Children Volunteer Mentor.
Natalie has a passion for the performing arts, both on stage and behind the scenes. Growing up in Apopka, Florida, she was a regular actress, singer and organizer of many school productions. Her love for live music has made concert-going among her favorite activities to enjoy, along with traveling with her husband and their two children.
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Margaret Dixon began her relationship with the Ocala Symphony Orchestra in 2010 as a hornist on stage, but she quickly took on additional roles with the ensemble. In 2016, Margaret assumed leadership of the orchestra’s Symphony for Schools Program, helping it grow to reach over thirty Marion County Schools. In 2019, her duties expanded to include the positions of Librarian and Personnel Manager of the Orchestra, and in 2021 she was appointed Director of Education and Community Outreach for the Reilly Arts Center.
Margaret has a great passion for teaching and spreading the joy of music, especially to youth and underserved communities, and having her own music school has been a dream of hers for the last decade. Music is such a natural and human form of expression, and it opens the door to such a wealth of opportunities. From traveling the world performing to singing holiday tunes with your family, the possibilities and reach of music are endless and should be available for everyone. Margaret’s philosophy is that anyone can learn music, regardless of age, experience, background, socio-economic status, or physical or mental ability. You dont have to be great to enjoy making music, you only have to be willing to try. Music creates deeper personal connections, encourages community, builds confidence, inspires creativity, and even has mental and physical health benefits.
Margaret is still an active performer and music educator. She holds the Principal Horn position in The Gainesville Orchestra, the Second Horn position in the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, and she is a well-known and regularly requested performer throughout North-Central Florida. She has also performed with Orchestras in the surrounding states, recorded with Carl Fischer and the Trade Winds Ensemble, and has played in numerous performances around the world.
Margaret has a successful private studio of students of varying abilities and age ranges, and she currently holds the position of Adjunct Professor of Horn for the College of Central Florida. She provides group coaching at several local middle and high schools, and she has worked extensively with local collegiate institutions, including Santa Fe College, College of Central Florida, and the University of Florida. Margaret’s younger students are typically the top performers in their county and in the state, many have received college scholarships and have gone on to pursue successful careers in music performance and education. Her adult students are all active players in their respective communities, and they always have a great time!
Margaret’s business experience includes several years managing the former music school and retail store Great Southern Music. It was in this position that Margaret honed her leadership, organization, and communication skills, and learned first hand the pitfalls of the typical music school.
Margaret has had the privilege of studying with some of the finest horn players in the country, including renowned teachers and performers Lowell Greer, Michelle Stebleton, Michelle Baker, Joseph Anderer, and Robert Watt. Margaret holds a Bachelor’s in Music from the University of Alabama where she studied with Professor Charles “Skip” Snead, and a Master’s Degree in Music from the University of Florida where she studied with Dr. Paul Basler.
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Mary Kelley Hoppe
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Box Office Assistant, Marion Theatre and Administrative Coordinator, CMC
Concessionist, Marion Theatre
Concessionist, Marion Theatre
Box Office Assistant, Marion Theatre