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27-year-old Paraguay native to head QCSO youth groups

27-year-old Paraguay native to head QCSO youth groups

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Ernesto Estigarribia

DAVENPORT — About 18 months after the last permanent music director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra Youth Ensembles left for a new job, the board has hired a replacement.

Ernesto Estigarribia, a 27-year-old native of Paraguay and doctoral candidate in orchestral conducting at the University of Minnesota who is studying with QCSO conductor Mark Russell Smith, will be the new head of the Youth Ensembles and assistant conductor for the professional QCSO.

“Ernesto is passionate about music and its profound ability to enrich and shape young lives,” Smith said in a QCSO release.

“I know that the young musicians of the QCSYE will be inspired by his energy and enthusiasm for music and the arts,” Smith said. “He will be a fantastic addition to the Quad City Symphony family, and is poised to make a tremendous impact on the lives of many Quad-Citizens.”

After three years, Ben Klemme stepped down from the position in May 2017 to become the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association’s music director. A search committee received more than 40 applicants for the job from across the U.S. and other countries.

Daniel Chetel, director of the Augustana Symphony Orchestra, was interim conductor for the QCSO Youth Symphony and Youth Philharmonic orchestras last school year. Christopher Ramaekers will remain as interim conductor through a transition to summer 2019.

Estigarribia is currently music director of the Southeastern Minnesota Youth Orchestras and conductor of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies’ Sinfonia East. Smith also is artistic director of the Youth Symphonies, which is made up of several groups.

Estigarribia — who will complete his doctorate next May — has co-directed the Campus Orchestras at University of Minnesota, been an assistant conductor of the University Symphony Orchestra and the University Opera Theater, and is a recipient of the James Sample Fellowship.

“He will bring energy and enthusiasm to his engagement with the student musicians,” Annette Tephly, QCSO education committee chair, said in the release. “I look forward to him enhancing the musical excellence of the youth ensembles.”

Estigarribia has performed as a violinist and conductor in North and South America, the Caribbean and Europe. In 2017 he was the first Paraguayan guest conductor to appear in the International series of Orquesta Sinfonica del Congreso Nacional (Paraguay) and was invited to return this year.

“I am thrilled to have Ernesto joining our team, not only because of his great musicianship and technical skills, but also because of his passion for working with youth and the vision he has for our youth ensembles program,” said Brian Baxter, QCSO executive director.

Baxter said that as part of the search, two finalists were brought in to rehearse with the Youth Symphony and Youth Philharmonic. Students and parents had input into the hiring, he said.

The five ensembles — which serve about 300 area students — include the Youth String Ensemble, Prelude Strings, and Youth Choir, each which has its own conductor. Estigarribia, who will conduct the top two orchestras, will start working part time in March 2019 while he completes his studies. He will become a full-time worker over the summer.

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Jonathan is a reporter for the Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline.com.

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