Academic Program at Centre College
Larry Bitensky is W. George Matton Professor of Music at Centre where he teaches composition, music theory, musicianship, and world music. He was named a Centre Scholar in 2012, and has served as chair of the music program.
Known for music described as “extraordinarily sensitive and beautiful” and “speaking directly to the heart,” composer and pianist Bitensky has been hailed for works that are satisfying for performers and communicative to audiences. With their emotional intensity, directness, lyrical and sinuous melodies, and funky, polyrhythmic grooves, his works range from wistfully nostalgic, deeply sad, and evocative, to exuberant, playful, and ecstatic.
Educated at Skidmore College, the New England Conservatory of Music, Ithaca College, and Cornell University, Bitensky’s musical personality is rooted in a range of influences. He often seeks to merge the complex structures and expressive range of the classical masters and the innovations of the 20th-century greats with the melodic and rhythmic invention and improvisatory flow of musical traditions from India, Indonesia, the Islamic and Jewish worlds, jazz, and the Grateful Dead. His travels as part of the College’s study abroad program have also allowed him to explore the musical cultures of Morocco, Spain, Turkey, and Bali.
Bitensky first came to national and international attention with a series of works inspired by Jewish musical tradition and culture. In these he developed a free, quasi-improvisatory lyricism and melodic richness that has become one of his signatures. These works include the award-winning Mishb’rey Yam, a song cycle based on Hebrew texts of the great medieval poet Yehudah Halevi; “…a perfect rest,” an orchestral rhapsody based on the traditional Jewish memorial chant; Awake, You Sleepers!, a concerto for trumpet and wind ensemble based on the sounds of the shofar; and Rapture, a piano work based on Chasidic folk melodies.
He has also received attention for works based on his long association with world-renowned trumpeter Vince DiMartino. These include Awake, You Sleepers!, described as “one of the finest additions to the trumpet and wind ensemble repertoire to date;” the polyrhythmic, jazz-infused “From those beginning notes of yearning,” for trumpet and piano; and the comic and macabre The Other Side, for trumpet and chamber ensemble.
A pianist since the age of six, Bitensky’s music is rooted in his sense of what is gratifying for a performer. He regularly returns to the piano as a source of renewal, and he has made numerous contributions to the contemporary piano literature. These include the brooding and melancholy The Alchemy of Solitude, the colorful and varied From the Corner Room, the poetic Scent of the World We Gave Up, Rapture, Shouts and Murmurs, and others.
Bitensky’s works have been recognized by numerous foundations and institutions: the Fromm Foundation, the Omaha Symphony, the New England Philharmonic, the Saint Mary’s University Kaplan Commissioning Project, the Big Ten Band Commission, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, the Columbia Orchestra, Jabez Press, the ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Award, the Kentucky Arts Council, the Music Teachers National Association, the Kentucky Music Teachers Association, the American Music Center, the Joyce Dutka Arts Foundation, the Friends and Enemies of New Music, the International Trumpet Guild, the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, the Modern Chamber Players, the Harrid Conservatory, the Society of Composers, Inc., Duquesne University New Music Ensemble, Ensemble X, and the ASCAP Foundation Young Composers Competition.
Recorded on Mark Records and Sea Breeze Vista records, Bitensky’s music has been performed by numerous ensembles and at various festivals around North America, Europe, and Asia. His music is published by Silly Black Dog Music.
File last updated: 10/16/13
Robert Seebacher joined the Centre College faculty as assistant professor of music and director of instrumental programs in 2017 and also teaches applied horn.
Seebacher is music director and conductor of the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra in Tennessee and assistant conductor for the National Chorale in New York. He has appeared with the Lexington Philharmonic, Youngstown Symphony, Warren Philharmonic and Mobile Symphony orchestras. Seebacher’s previously held positions include director of orchestras and conductor of opera at the University of South Alabama, music director and conductor of the Mobile Symphony Youth Orchestra, assistant conductor with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and Opera Theatre, and the Youngstown Symphony Youth Orchestra.
Seebacher served on the faculty of the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts until its elimination by the Department of Education. While in residence there, he conducted opera and taught conducting, music theory and history, as well as French horn. He has conducted numerous all-state and honors orchestras in Kentucky, West Virginia and Alabama. His guest artist collaborations have included those with Chee-Yun, Béla Fleck, Mark O’Connor, Midori, the Canadian Brass, Bella Hristova, Pablo Sainz Villegas, The Harlem Quartet, Arlo Guthrie, and Lynn Harrell.
Seebacher has participated in training workshops at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at the University of Michigan. He conducted the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra as part of their inaugural conducting symposium. His teachers include William B. Slocum, Stephen L. Gage, John Nardolillo, Emily Freeman Brown and Gustav Meier.
Seebacher earned a B.A. in music education from Youngstown State University; an M.M. in orchestral conducting from Bowling Green State University; and a D.M.A. in orchestral conducting from the University of Kentucky.
File last updated: 06/01/18
Johann Van Niekerk joined Centre’s faculty in 2015 as assistant professor of music. He is an active conductor, pianist, educator, writer and collaborative artist, originally from South Africa.
He earned his DMA in Choral Conducting from the University of Washington, his M.M. from Temple University and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He hails originally from the Republic of South Africa and has lived in the United States since 2009.
File last updated: 9/28/15
He has graced the most prominent stages across the globe. The London Times has hailed him as “one of the brightest natural talents to have emerged from the United States in recent years.” And now, world-renowned American tenor and Metropolitan Opera veteran Gregory Turay will share his talents at Centre College as the Alltech Artist-in-Residence.
Over the coming year, Turay will give a recital, offer vocal workshops and collaborate with Centre’s choral conductor Johann Van Niekerk. Turay will also teach an opera workshop during the three-week CentreTerm in January and collaborate with Centre Associate Professor Nathan Link, who specializes in 18th-century opera, on a team-taught course. And for a fortunate few, Turay will also offer private voice lessons.
The appointment exemplifies not only Alltech’s on-going support of the arts but also its continuing partnership with Centre. President John A. Roush could not be more pleased.
“Anything we do with Alltech occurs at the highest level, including our most recent partnership that brought the Vienna Philharmonic to the stage of the Norton Center for the Arts,” says Roush. “We remain grateful for Dr. and Mrs. Lyons’ vision and generosity, which benefits our students and entire campus community, not to mention the commonwealth and our region.”
Pearse Lyons is the founder and president of Alltech and was responsible for bringing the Vienna Philharmonic and talented Venezuelan virtuoso conductor Gustavo Dudamel to Centre as part of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™.
“Alltech’s continuing support of such endeavors,” Roush adds, “exemplifies how successful corporations can have a direct, immediate and positive impact for good in the lives of young people. Pearse and Deirdre’s commitment to Kentucky and the region is legendary.”
This type of support should come as no surprise. In 2012, Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education, honored Alltech as one of the Top 10 Companies Supporting the Arts in America.
A Lexington resident and alumnus of the University of Kentucky, Turay began his meteoric rise in 1995 when, at the age of 21, he won the Metropolitan Opera National Councils Auditions. After training in the Met’s Lindemann Young Artists Development Program, Turay made his Met debut in “Ariadne auf Naxos” conducted by James Levine. He has since appeared on the Metropolitan Opera stage for 10 consecutive seasons.
Turay’s impressive resume includes engagements with notable companies like the San Francisco Opera, Deutsche Opera, Santa Fe Opera and Boston Lyric Opera, and he has also performed with leading orchestras and prominent conductors such as Seiji Ozawa.
Since returning to Lexington, Turay has developed a long and deep relationship with Alltech through the School of Music at his alma mater. Highlights include performances at Alltech’s 25th anniversary of its presence in China and entertaining at Alltech’s annual dinner in Dublin, which honors members of Ireland’s diplomatic corps, including consuls general, ambassadors and other dignitaries representing more than 70 countries.
APPLIED MUSIC ADJUNCT FACULTY
Sallie joined the performing arts staff in August 2012 after four years as Academic Affairs Coordinator. Before coming to Centre, she worked as a freelance writer and photographer and as Outreach Coordinator for the local humane society. A native of Danville, she is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.
Staff Congress Representative
2012 — 2015
Zachary Klobnak is Centre’s Organist and Instructor of Organ, Harpsichord, and Piano. He is also Director of Music and Organist at the Presbyterian Church of Danville, where he directs the music program, administers the “Music on Main Street” concert series, and plays the church’s Taylor & Boody pipe organ.
A native of Iowa, Klobnak holds degrees from Luther College (B.A.), the University of Florida (M.M.), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (D.M.A.), where he held the Brownson Fellowship for organ studies. His principal organ teachers include Dana Robinson, Laura Ellis, and Gregory Peterson; he has also studied harpsichord with Kathryn Reed and choral conducting with Donald Nally, Fred Stoltzfus, and Timothy Peter.
Klobnak is an active recitalist, a member of the American Guild of Organists and the Presbyterian Association of Musicians, and studied French organ literature and design in Paris and in the Alps region of France. He has held church music positions in Illinois, Florida, and Iowa.
File last updated: 8/24/17