In Memory of Vincent J. Lionti
On April 3, 2020, the GWYOA family lost our beloved Youth Symphony conductor, Vincent J. Lionti.
The GWYOA Board has created a retrospective of our 2019-2020 season. It was a time that was born with the promise of extraordinary events, uprooted by the pandemic, broken by our need to mourn, yet ultimately strengthened by our passion to heal and build. We can never be the same, but remain committed to embracing the memory of Vincent and strengthening his mission.
GWYOA 2019-2020: A Remembrance
By Richard Cuneo
March 11, 2021
As it has every year since the late 1950s, the Greater Westchester Youth Orchestras Association began a new season in September of 2019 with an excited and exceedingly talented group of young musicians gathering to rehearse. Led by three conductors with decades of combined classical music experience, the GWYOA orchestras set their sights on the first major concerts of the 2019/2020 season: the 2019 Winter Concert, and the 2020 Lewis-Lionti Sonata Concert.
Meeting weekly at the Valhalla campus of Westchester Community College (WCC) – which was the long-time home of the GWYOA – the three orchestras got right to work, essentially sight-reading at a first rehearsal on September 9. From there, the 200+ musicians that made up the Elementary Strings, Junior Strings, and Youth Symphony, moved through a series of 13 intense rehearsals. Their final practice, on December 9, saw three performance-ready orchestras that were eager to take the stage for a concert. And on December 15, 2019, they did exactly that, thrilling a sold-out Winter Concert audience at WCC's Hankin Academic Arts Building with works by composers including Mozart, Corelli, Bartok, Verdi, Wagner, Sibelius, Shostakovich, and Gershwin.
After a short holiday break, the orchestras gathered at WCC once again on January 6, 2020, and on January 13, the Youth Symphony held its annual Lewis-Lionti Sonata Concert. At this event, the orchestra performance was combined with solo performances from Senior Youth Symphony members, who treated the audience to works by Massenet, Paganini, Mozart, Charlier, and Mendelssohn. The day before that performance, the World Health Organization (WHO) released information about a novel coronavirus outbreak that had originated at a seafood market in Wuhan, China. As reported by the WHO that day, there was "no infection among healthcare workers, and no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission."
Behind the scenes, the volunteer Board of Directors for the GWYOA was hard at work, organizing the weekly rehearsal process, overseeing seating auditions, managing the finances of the organization, and planning for the major event of every season – the Spring Gala Concert at Lincoln Center's David Geffen Hall.
On January 27, as the three orchestras continued the rehearsal process, taking on a new set of pieces by the likes of Handel, Respighi, Berlioz, and Havorsen (to name but a few) and with the Spring Gala always in their minds. In the few weeks since the WHO announcement, the coronavirus had become a larger event. On the same day as the rehearsal, CNN reported that more than 2,700 cases had been confirmed in mainland China and 82 people had died. As well, there were more than 50 confirmed cases in 13 places outside of mainland China, including at least five in the United States. Based on that news, the GWYOA Board started taking actions to assure the safety of the musicians during rehearsal. Still, as detailed by ABC News, "The U.S. had faced a variety of infectious diseases in recent decades – SARS, MERS, avian flu, Zika, Ebola and others – and it was unclear how this new coronavirus would be notably different."
Throughout the month of February, all three orchestras continued to rehearse weekly at the WCC, while the GWYOA Board monitored health guidance coming from state and federal authorities. Based on that guidance, the Board continued to plan for the completion of the season and a successful Spring Gala. In March, however, that process came to a pause.
On March 9, CNN reported that the novel coronavirus, now more frequently referred to as COVID-19, had infected more than 108,000 people around the world and killed more than 3,800. And on March 13, the WCC announced that it would close its facilities for two weeks in order to help control the spread of the virus. That same day, then-President Trump declared a national emergency so as to free up federal resources. According to CNN, the U.S. now had 1,596 cases in 47 states and the District of Columbia, and 41 people had died. During what was believed to be only a short break, the GWYOA Board met regularly to navigate the organization through the growing crisis.
But on April 3, the Board received news that forever changed the organization.
On that day, Vincent Lionti, the conductor of the Youth Symphony, passed away from complications related to COVID-19. Vincent's career with GWYOA began when he was only 12 years old (as an orchestra musician playing under his father, Victor, who conducted the Youth Symphony for 27 years). Vincent led the Junior Strings from 1993-1997 and became the conductor of the Youth Symphony in 1997. Faced with the growing global health crisis and with enormous grief at the loss of Vincent, the Board made the unanimous decision on April 21, 2020, to cancel the remaining 2019/2020 season. While still processing the loss of a dear friend and cherished colleague, the Board began creating a series of tributes to Vincent while also acknowledging the Senior Youth Symphony musicians who had their final year with the GWYOA so unexpectedly cut short.
While there were no additional formal events in the 2019/2020 season, the Board forged on with plans for future seasons. Always looking to exceed government health and safety guidelines, the Board managed to virtually re-organize the remaining GWYOA musicians, audition new musicians, and plan for a virtual 2020/2021 season that all hope will evolve into a more-traditional "live" series of events.
While the GWYOA has been tremendously impacted by the pandemic, the Board remains committed to developing young people's musicianship through rehearsing and performing together; helping students develop self-esteem; and promoting harmony in our ethnically diverse community through training in classical music.
Vincent J. Lionti photobook
Prepared by the GWYOA Board of Directors, featuring the brilliant photography of GWYOA concert photographer Robert Plotkin.
A Virtual Symphony Tribute: Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus. In Memory of our Conductor, Vincent J. Lionti
This tribute reflects the dedication of all members of the Youth Symphony. As a group, they refused to let COVID-19 prevent them from “getting together” to play one last time in memory of their Conductor, Vincent Lionti. Working at home, each musician recorded their part of Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus (arranged for full orchestra by Marc Garetto, Harmonie Editions), with the final compilation created through the hard work of Interim Conductor Kathleen Feldman, GWYOA Board Member Grace Baccay, and JLK Productions.
Thank you, Mr. Lionti, our beloved conductor, for many years of instruction, inspiration and exquisite music.
- The Greater Westchester Youth SymphonyClass of 2019-2020
Members of the Metropolitan Orchestra viola section and Joyce DiDonato perform “Ombra mai fù” from Handel’s Serse in a video tribute to Vincent Lionti shown during the April 25, 2020, At-Home Gala. Edited by Pete Scalzitti.
PBS NewsHour feature "Faces of COVID"
If you missed the PBS NewsHour feature "Faces of COVID" which was broadcast on Friday evening, April 17, 2020, honoring five individuals who fell victim to this horrible virus - including Vincent Lionti. It can be found here: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/remembering-some-of-those-lost-to-covid-19
Vincent Lionti, 1959-2020
The Met mourns the loss of Vincent Lionti, a violist in the Met Orchestra, who died April 3 from complications of the coronavirus. A beloved member of the orchestra since 1987, Vincent held bachelor's and master's degrees from the Juilliard School and was a mentor to young musicians. Our thoughts are with his family, loved ones, friends, and colleagues.
In 2018, Vincent was honored as part of the Met's annual Service Awards ceremony, in which he was recognized for 30 years of distinguished artistry with the company. Below are General Manager Peter Gelb's remarks from that occasion.
Vincent was only 28 when he won his audition to join the Met Orchestra in 1987, but he already had four years with the Detroit Symphony and two years as a substitute with the New York Philharmonic behind him. Before that, he had the finest musical training, earning his bachelor's and master's degrees at Juilliard, where the view of the Met from his teacher's studio window provided ongoing inspiration. His teacher was none other than his father, Victor, who guided his son's musical education from the beginning, starting his son on the piano when he was very young and then teaching him to play his own instrument of choice, the viola, at age 13. Victor, who we're delighted to have with us here today, is a very accomplished musician in his own right, having played in both the Rochester Philharmonic and U.S. Marine Band.
When Vincent won his position at the Met, he borrowed his father's viola, an instrument that Vincent had always coveted. Vincent never returned it, having played on it throughout his entire Met career. I think at this point Victor has decided to let him keep it.
Of all the momentous events that have taken place during Vincent's years at the Met, the most meaningful one for him occurred during an intermission of Pelléas et Mélisande in 1995, when he met his future wife, Kristin Bostrup, a former Met marketing staff member who was visiting her friend, Met orchestra office manager Rachel Hocking. Of course, this initial encounter between Vincent and Kristin could have taken place in only one location—the Met's cafeteria, where romance inevitably blossoms.
One thing led to another, and soon enough Kristin Bostrup became Kristin Lionti, Vincent's wife of now 21 years. For them, the Met became even more of a family affair in 2011 and 2012, when Vincent and Kristin's son Nicholas, then about 10 years old, appeared as a super in 13 performances of Nixon in China and Macbeth. Kristen and Nicholas are both here today to help us celebrate Vincent's award.
When Vincent isn't at the Met, he spends much of his time conducting the Westchester Youth Symphony in Westchester County, where he grew up. This endeavor continues his father's legacy, as Victor conducted the same youth orchestra for 27 years until passing the baton to his son in 1997.
In addition to Victor, Kristen, and Nicholas, Vincent's sister Kathryn and her husband Colin are with us today. Thank you for being here.
Congratulations on 30 outstanding years, Vincent!Photo and text courtesy of the Metropolitan OperaLink to this web page
Vincent Lionti, Violist and Youth Orchestra Conductor, Dies at 60
He was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for three decades, and also led an ensemble of young players in Westchester County.
By Neil Genzlinger
April 6, 2020
For more than 30 years, Vincent J. Lionti, a violist with the Metropolitan Opera, sat in the pit looking up at dimly lit conductors. But in Westchester County, N.Y., he had a different stance: Mr. Lionti stood on the podium looking out at the players of the Westchester Youth Symphony.
"I especially delight in seeing the look of accomplishment on these young musicians' faces when they walk offstage after a concert, into the wings where I like to stand and congratulate them," Mr. Lionti told the Met Orchestra Musicians blog in 2014.
Mr. Lionti died on Saturday of complications of the new coronavirus, the Metropolitan Opera said in a posting on its website. He was 60.
Leading the youth orchestra was something of a familial calling. The conductor before Mr. Lionti took up the baton was his father, C. Victor Lionti.
Vincent began playing with the ensembles of the Greater Westchester Youth Orchestras Association when he was 12. He led the Westchester Junior Strings, another of the association's ensembles, for four years before taking over its Youth Symphony, in 1997.
As a 21-year-old violist, Mr. Lionti was among five young musicians introduced by Isaac Stern in 1980 at a concert of chamber music at Carnegie Hall billed as "Isaac Stern and ..."
He performed extensively thereafter, appearing as a soloist and in a variety of small groups as well as with orchestras.
Mr. Lionti, who was born on April 9, 1959, held bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School. Before joining the Met Orchestra, he was a member of the Detroit Symphony for four years and a substitute for the New York Philharmonic for two.
In addition to his father, Mr. Lionti is survived by his wife, Kristin (Bostrup) Lionti; a son, Nicholas; and a sister, Kathryn.
In 1998 Mr. Lionti led the Youth Symphony in a concert that he later remembered as one of the most moving experiences in his musical career. It was at the New York School for the Deaf in White Plains, N.Y.
“All of the people came in, sat as close to the orchestra as they could, on the floor,” he said in a 2006 interview with The Journal News of Westchester. “We had a gigantic orchestra, 110 players making quite a sound in a gymnasium, and I’m sure they could feel the vibrations.”
Link to this article
Obituary: Metropolitan Opera Orchestra Member Vincent Lionti Dies of COVID-19
By Francisco Salazar
April 4, 2020
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra has announced that member violist Vincent Lionti has died of COVID-19.
The orchestra announced the news via social media stating, “We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of one of our own. Vincent Lionti passed away due to complications related to Covid-19. ‘Vinnie’ joined the viola section of the MET Orchestra in 1987. We offer our condolences to his family & friends. We’ll miss you, Vinnie.”
Lionti joined the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra on September 1, 1987 after having played with the New York Philharmonic from 1981-1983. He was also a member of the Detriot Symphony from 1983-1987.
During his time in Detroit, Lionti was a faculty member of the Macomb Community College, a member of the Lyric Chamber Players, the Renaissance City Chamber Players and a founding member of the Ventura String Quartet.
The accomplished musician also served as guest Principal Viola for the Indianapolis, New Jersey, American Symphony Orchestras, and the Santa Fe Opera.
Lionti served as conductor at the Greater Westchester Youth Orchestras Association, the Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing, the Downtown Sinfonietta of White Plains and of the Merrick Symphony Orchestra. He conducted the NYU Steinhardt School Symphony Orchestra and led numerous All-State student orchestras.
He held a Bachelors and Masters degrees from The Juilliard School, where he was a teaching assistant and Principal Viola of the Juilliard Orchestra.
Lionti leaves his wife Kristin and son, Nicholas Lionti, who appeared onstage as an extra on the Met stage in “Nixon in China” and “Macbeth.”
Link to this web page