Matthew Wardell

MATTHEW WARDELL (b. 1983) began his tenure as Music Director and Conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra in 2009. When appointed Music Director of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, the Ocala Star Banner declared, “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.”

Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Wardell began his undergraduate work in percussion and composition at the University of Florida and received his Bachelor of Music cum laude at the University of North Florida working under Charlotte Mabrey. Wardell continued his education by earning a Master of Music at the University of Florida and is currently completing his Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree there with his mentor, Raymond Chobaz. Wardell has served as a guest conductor with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Gainesville Orchestra, Florida Youth Symphony Orchestra, and the Ocala Civic Theatre. In addition to purely orchestral pursuits, he thrives in the theatre and has appeared as conductor for the fully staged productions of A Little Night Music, La BohèmeToscaThe Miraculous MandarinPhantom of the OperaSusannahThe ImpresarioDido and AeneasDie FledermausSunday in the Park with George, and Camelot. As a composer, Wardell wrote music for the award-winning NPR podcast, Odd Ball, and co-wrote a new full-length score to the 1923 silent film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Wardell spent five summers at the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Musicians in Hancock, Maine studying with Maestro Michael Jinbo. He was fortunate to have been recognized as both an Osher and Quimby Family Foundation scholar and serve several summers in Hancock as an Orchestra Assistant. Wardell has been selected and participated in masterclasses with Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops and BBC Orchestra, Thomas Cockrell of the University of Arizona, and studied for an extended time with conductor and composer Peter WesenAuer in Salzburg, Austria.

Matthew is a champion of all kinds of music. He believes programming traditionally core repertoire hand in hand with underrepresented composers and new music believing that good music is just that – good music. He is a member of the American Symphony Orchestra League and has served on the boards of the Ocala Municipal Arts Commission (OMAC), Young Professionals of Ocala (YPO), and The Centers. In addition to his musical pursuits, Wardell is passionate about being involved in his community and served six years as an elected official on Ocala’s City Council from 2015 to 2021. He enjoys traveling, good company, and attending Jacksonville Jaguars games – and even once attended a game that the Jaguars won. In 2019, he married the love of his life and partner, Pamela Calero. Matthew and Pamela have one dog, Buckley, who is probably up to no good at this very moment.

Learn more at matthewwardell.com

MATTHEW WARDELL (b. 1983) began his tenure as Music Director and Conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra in 2009. When appointed Music Director of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, the Ocala Star Banner declared, “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.”

Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Wardell began his undergraduate work in percussion and composition at the University of Florida and received his Bachelor of Music cum laude at the University of North Florida working under Charlotte Mabrey. Wardell continued his education by earning a Master of Music at the University of Florida and is currently completing his Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree there with his mentor, Raymond Chobaz. Wardell has served as a guest conductor with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Gainesville Orchestra, Florida Youth Symphony Orchestra, and the Ocala Civic Theatre. In addition to purely orchestral pursuits, he thrives in the theatre and has appeared as conductor for the fully staged productions of A Little Night Music, La BohèmeToscaThe Miraculous MandarinPhantom of the OperaSusannahThe ImpresarioDido and AeneasDie FledermausSunday in the Park with George, and Camelot. As a composer, Wardell wrote music for the award-winning NPR podcast, Odd Ball, and co-wrote a new full-length score to the 1923 silent film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Wardell spent five summers at the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Musicians in Hancock, Maine studying with Maestro Michael Jinbo. He was fortunate to have been recognized as both an Osher and Quimby Family Foundation scholar and serve several summers in Hancock as an Orchestra Assistant. Wardell has been selected and participated in masterclasses with Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops and BBC Orchestra, Thomas Cockrell of the University of Arizona, and studied for an extended time with conductor and composer Peter WesenAuer in Salzburg, Austria.

Matthew is a champion of all kinds of music. He believes programming traditionally core repertoire hand in hand with underrepresented composers and new music believing that good music is just that – good music. He is a member of the American Symphony Orchestra League and has served on the boards of the Ocala Municipal Arts Commission (OMAC), Young Professionals of Ocala (YPO), and The Centers. In addition to his musical pursuits, Wardell is passionate about being involved in his community and served six years as an elected official on Ocala’s City Council from 2015 to 2021. He enjoys traveling, good company, and attending Jacksonville Jaguars games – and even once attended a game that the Jaguars won. In 2019, he married the love of his life and partner, Pamela Calero. Matthew and Pamela have one dog, Buckley, who is probably up to no good at this very moment.

Raymond Chobaz

Raymond Chobaz

Principal Guest Conductor

Raymond Chobaz, Professor of Music and Conductor Laureate of the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra

Raymond Chobaz holds the Provost’s UF Term Professorship and is music director and conductor of the University of Florida Symphony Orchestra and conductor of Dance Alive National Ballet. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and mathematics summa cum laude, and a Master of Arts degree in music theory. As an International Rotary Scholar at the University of Utah, he received both a Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting and a Ph.D. in music composition under Vladimir Ussachevsky. Post-doctoral studies allowed him to assist and work with Herbert Blomstedt in San Francisco, Kyrill Kondrashin in Amsterdam, Raphael Kubelik in Lucerne, Erich Leinsdorf in New York, Witold Rowicki in Vienna, Georg Tintner in Prague, and Pierre Boulez in Basel and Paris.

Chobaz is the recipient of numerous federal grants, scholarships, awards, and first prizes in both composition and conducting, which include the Leroy Robertson, Intercollegiate Bicentennial Composition Competition, Utah Composers Guild, Paul Sacher Stiftung, Martha Baird Rockefeller, Blomstedt International Conducting Award for Orchestral Performance and Symphonic Literature, the Beethoven Festival in Marienbad, and Czech National Opera and Radio Prague International Conducting Competition. As the top winner, he was invited to conduct all major symphony orchestras and opera companies in the Czech Republic and appointed conductor-in-residence of the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, the Marienbad International Music Festival with the West Bohemian National Orchestra, and the annual International Composition Workshop with the Olomouc Symphony Orchestra.

In recognition of his national and international accomplishments, Chobaz has received grants for Advanced Research in Music Performance from the International Research and Exchanges Board in Washington, D.C., US Department of Education, US Information Agency, US Department of State, US Army, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, and International Symphonic Workshops, Canada. Additionally, he has received various grants from the Florida Department of Cultural Affairs, which included the official representation of the State of Florida with Dance Alive National Ballet at the International Ballet Festival in Havana, Cuba, Florida Sea Grant, a special Research Leave by the Office of the Provost to work with Prof. Richard Ernst, Nobel Prize Laureate, at the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, and most recently, both a Distinguished Alumnus and Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Utah. This past fall, Dr. Chobaz has also been asked to take over the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra in Orlando.

During his tenure at the University of Florida, Chobaz has founded the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra and provided many new experiences for his students with internationally known artists, first-time ballet and opera productions, television and radio broadcasts, children’s and pops concerts, multi-media and interdisciplinary collaborations with painters, poets, writers, dancers, and ethnic ensembles, commissions and first performances that earned the orchestra an ASCAP Nissim Award for innovative programing.

Margaret Dixon

Margaret Dixon

Director of Education and Community Outreach

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.

Joshua L. Mazur

Joshua L. Mazur

Chorus Director and Assistant Conductor

Joshua L. Mazur, Conductor, enjoys a budding career as a singer, conductor, and educator. Most recently featured in the tenor roles of Don Jose (Valdosta State University Guest Artist) and The Phantom (Ocala Symphony Orchestra) he was seen previously in principal baritone roles such as Silvio (Imperial Symphony Orchestra) and Gianni Schicchi (Florida Southern College Opera Theater). He has sung on masterclasses for such artists as Stella Zambalis, Mark Thomsen, Thomas Potter, Victoria Livengood, and Jennifer Larmore. He won the TBNATS “Most Promising Male Singer” award three consecutive years and was the Florida state winner of the NATS Artist Award in 2014.

In addition to his work as a singer, Joshua is an accomplished pianist. He serves Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Gainesville, Florida as Director of Music Ministry and Organist as well as the Ocala Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Capella Nova, Inc. as Music Director and Conductor.

Joshua has composed music for choirs and orchestras as well as scored soundtrack music for the films AFTER MIDNIGHT (2016) and I JUST CALLED TO SAY I LOVED YOU (2018). In 2011 he recorded vocals to the soundtrack for THE VOICES OF MARIEL, a film about the participants of the Mariel boat lift in 1980. The film was screened at several national film festivals to great critical acclaim. He is published exclusively by Musicspoke.

Mr. Mazur holds a Bachelors degree in Voice Performance from Florida Southern College and a Masters degree in Voice Performance and Conducting from the University of Florida.

Abigail Mistretta

Abigail Mistretta

Assistant Conductor

Abigail Mistretta has recently been appointed as one of the Assistant Conductors of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra (OSO) under Maestro Matthew Wardell for the 2022-2023 season. Born in Ohio but raised along the Florida Gulf Coast, she considers herself a Florida native. Abigail eventually moved east to Gainesville where she studied at the University of Florida. She received her Master of Music degree in Instrumental Conducting with a concentration in Clarinet Performance in the spring of 2022. There she studied under the mentors of Dr. David Waybright, Dr. Raymond Chobaz, Professor Jay Watkins, Dr. Chip Birkner, and Clarinet Professor, Mitchell Estrin. While completing her graduate degree, she served as a teaching assistant with the University of Florida (UF) Clarinet Ensemble, Wind Symphony, Symphonic Band, Concert Band, and Gator Marching Band. She has had multiple appearances as a guest conductor with the UF Symphony Orchestra, Wind Symphony, Chamber Winds, and Symphonic Band. With these ensembles she rehearsed and performed a wide variety of musical literature by composers such as Leonard Bernstein and John Williams. She also has extensive experience performing chamber music such as Serenade No. 44 in D minor by Antonin Dvorak, Octet by Igor Stravinsky, and an arrangement of W.A. Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro for chamber winds. Abigail, also, actively served as the Conductor and Assistant Music Director for the Clarinet Ensemble under Professor Estrin. Abigail received her Bachelor of Instrumental Music Education, summa cum laude, in May of 2020 from the University of Florida. During her time there, she performed on both Bb and bass clarinet in the Wind Symphony, Symphonic Band, University Symphony Orchestra, and in the Clarinet Ensemble. In the summer of 2019, she had the opportunity to travel to France with the Wind Symphony as the principal bass clarinetist; there the group performed in the Festival des Anches d’Azur in La Croix-Valmer, a festival dedicated to bringing international ensembles together to make music along the Bay of Saint-Tropez.

In addition to her assignment with the OSO, Abigail has recently accepted the position of Associate Band Director of Freedom High School located in Orlando, where she works with Dr. Michael Antmann. Her duties consist of directing the Symphonic Band, and co-instructing the marching band and jazz ensembles. Prior to working in Orlando, Abigail has also worked with students at both the intermediate and collegiate level in the Florida Panhandle, Central Florida, and North Carolina. She is also an active performer, serving as the clarinetist in the OSO’s Wind Quintet and freelancing in both wind ensembles and orchestras around central Florida. Abigail has a passion for the orchestral genre, and the power generated by the symphony orchestra. Exposure to performing orchestral literature in college ignited an interest that was followed by opportunities to study with Dr. Raymond Chobaz and Dr. Matthew Wardell. She has always admired the work and sound of the OSO, and is thrilled to be joining the orchestra. Abigail is looking forward to working with Maestro Wardell and Maestro Mazur, bringing forth a wonderful season of music.

The Ocala Symphony Orchestra auditions for the 2021-2022 season are closed.

Please check back for more details. Announcements and positions will be included on this site as well as on the Ocala Symphony Orchestra and Reilly Arts Center Facebook pages. If you’d like to be included on our announcement list, please Email OSO Librarian and Personnel Manager, Margaret Dixon, at ocalasymphonyorchestra@gmail.com.

Our OSO Musician Spotlights

You’ve seen them up on stage, you’ve heard them play, but now get to know a little bit more about our talented OSO musicians!

Pamela Mireles – Violin

Margaret Dixon – Horn

Masatoshi Enomoto – Percussion

Sonya Leonore Stahl – Violin

Joshua Mazur – Chorus Conductor