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Cedar Rapids Community Orchestra debuts new conductor at first performance since March, 2020

Cedar Rapids Community Orchestra Fall Concert

Sunday, Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. -- Kennedy High School Performing Arts Center, Cedar Rapids, Free


Conductor Dr. Ghyas Zeidieh leads the Cedar Rapids Community Orchestra in rehearsal. — Courtesy of CRCO

Dr. Ghyas Zeidieh has waited a long time to take to the podium and lead the Cedar Rapids Community Orchestra in concert.

The orchestra’s concert on Sunday, Dec. 5 will be a moment nearly two years in the making. The CRCO last performed in March of 2020. Since then, the ensemble has experienced both lows and highs as it mourned the loss of Marty Clancey, its founder and first conductor, who passed away in July 2021 and celebrated gaining nonprofit status.

Zeidieh, a cellist and conductor who grew up in Damascus, Syria, and earned his graduate degrees at the University of Iowa, had no doubt that this day would come — and that it would be well worth the wait.

He knew it from the moment he first stood before the orchestra during the search process. He felt something a mentor of his told him he would eventually find: a position that just feels like home.

“When I entered the room, I felt something different,” Zeidieh said in a recent Zoom interview. “I felt I belonged. I felt welcome.”

He joined an organization committed to welcoming any and all musicians who want to perform with a full orchestra. The full ensemble — strings, winds and percussion — is made up of nearly 70 musicians. It was much smaller when it started in 2013.

“It was as simple as a group of friends who wanted to play music. It was Marty and his gang,” Zeidieh explained.

Over time, more people wanted to be a part of the ensemble and Clancey was pleased to welcome all comers — a philosophy to which Zeidieh is also committed. There is no audition process.

Conductor Dr. Ghyas Zeidieh leads the Cedar Rapids Community Orchestra in rehearsal. — Courtesy of CRCO

“This is a place for everyone,” he said.

Sunday’s program will begin with works for strings, including “Spring” from Vivaldi’s 1723 The Four Seasons, which will feature concertmaster Jeff Tyler. The strings will also perform Song Without Words (2020) by Paul Sanho Kim. The CRCO’s performance is the Midwest premiere of Kim’s work, which is a meditation on the difficulties so many have experienced as a result of the pandemic.

“I relate a lot to it, because I lost my father due to the Coronavirus,” Zeidieh said. “So I dedicate this to him and to everyone who has lost loved ones due to the pandemic.”

After a short intermission, the full orchestra will perform Slavonic Dances Op. 46 (1878), No. 5 in A major (Skočná) and No. 8 in G minor (Furiant), by Antonin Dvorak and Peer Gynt Suite #1 (1888) by Edvard Grieg, a piece Zeidieh chose because it includes solos for many members of the ensemble.

Zeidieh is committed to featuring his musicians as prominently as possible because he is well aware that despite the fact that most have full-time jobs and family responsibilities, “they make time to come and play this beautiful music.”

Sunday’s concert is free, but the Cedar Rapids Community Orchestra gratefully accepts donations in any amount to help ensure this ensemble can continue to welcome artists and audiences to participate at no cost.


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