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David Rudge
Music Director and Conductor

David Rudge, Music Director of the Erehwon Ensemble, has conducted orchestras on five continents to critical acclaim. While Director of Orchestras and Opera at the State University of New York at Fredonia he led the significant expansion of those programs over his 25 years. As Director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Guatemala he was credited with the dramatic rebirth of that orchestra. Described as “dynamic” and “electric,” Guatemala’s Prensa Libre wrote, “it has been many years since we have heard a symphony orchestra play with such inspiration.”

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As the first Music Director of the Rock Hill Symphony Orchestra, Rudge performed to full houses and led the organization through exponential growth. He founded the Eastminster Chamber Orchestra and was Assistant Conductor of the University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra, the Columbia Lyric Opera and Ballet, and the South Carolina Philharmonic. While with those ensembles, he was noted for his “Bernstein-like intensity” The State, Columbia, SC. He was chosen several times to prepare the Beethoven Chamber Orchestra for the International Workshop for Conductors in ZlÌn, Czech Republic. He has guest conducted the West Bohemian Symphony Orchestra in Mariánské Lázne, CR, and, as a two-time winner of the International Opera Conductors’ Competition, he was invited to conduct a complete production at the Silesian State Opera in the Czech Republic, and to lead the Vratza Philharmonic in Bulgaria. In 2012 he won the American Prize for Conducting and in 2020 the production of Massenet’s Cendrillon he conducted won first place in the National Opera Association Competition. 

As an Artistic Ambassador for the State Department, he spent two months in Damascus, Syria conducting the National Symphony and Chamber Orchestra. He has conducted the Opera and Orchestra at the Rome Festival, Italy, and has guest conducted such ensembles as the Dialecto Urbano Chorus, Caracas, Venezuela, the Giurgiu Philharmonic (Romania), the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, the Western New York Chamber Orchestra, the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia. Rudge has worked with some of today’s finest soloists, including Jeremy Denk, David Kim, Larry Combs, Carol Wincenc, Jeffrey Khaner, Gail Williams, Elizabeth Hainen, Jean-Luc Ponty, Charles Castleman, Mark O’Connor, Zuill Bailey, and Yo-Yo Ma. Dr. Rudge was awarded a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship to conduct in the Midde East. As a Senior Fellow, he spent many months in Egypt conducting the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra, the Cairo Opera Orchestra, Opera Chorus, and teaching at the National Conservatoire of Music. He recently returned to conduct the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, where the press called him “a proper maestro. . . grandly expressive.”

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Rudge, whose wide repertoire includes over 25 operas, has studied conducting at the Dartington School, England, the Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Pierre Monteux School, the Aspen Music School, the National Conservatory of Romania, and the Conductors Institute with Donald Portnoy and Harold Farberman. He also worked with such notables as Charles Bruck, Max Rudolf, Gunther Schuller, and Maurice Abravanel.  He has played as both a violinist and violist with a number of orchestras and chamber ensembles both in the US and abroad. He has also pursued baroque performance practice, as both a violinist and conductor, with the directors and members of the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.

Rudge has given numerous classes in conducting and violin internationally and has been coach and guest conductor of the Boston, Columbia, Houston, and Costa Rican youth symphonies, as well as many student honor-orchestras, such as the New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois All-State Orchestras. He was a faculty member at the Conductor’s Institute at Bard, and at the National ASTA Conference. He is the Director of the Musicianship Program for Music for People and for many years taught Free-Improvisation at SUNY Fredonia, where he also founded the Improv. Collective, a unique performing group dedicated to free improvisation for self-expression. More about his interest and work with free improvisation can be seen at www.nowrongnotes.com

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Essena Setaro
Operations Director

Essena Setaro enjoys a varied career as an orchestral musician, chamber musician, arts administrator, and educator. She currently performs as a violinist with Buffalo Philharmonic and also subs with the Annapolis Symphony, Chautauqua Symphony, Canton Symphony, Syracuse Orchestra, and Akron Symphony and has been a member of the Greenville, Asheville, Augusta, and Charleston Symphonies. She often served as Acting Associate Concertmaster and Acting Principal Second of the Hilton Head Symphony. and has also served as Guest Concertmaster of several ensembles. Recently she recorded Alexander Scriabin’s Symphony No. 2 (nominated for a 2024 GRAMMY), and Kodály's Symphony No. 1 and Háry János Suite with the Buffalo Philharmonic for the Naxos label.

Festival appearances include full fellowships at the Aspen Music Festival and the Brevard Music Center where she was student Associate Concertmaster of the Brevard Music Center Orchestra under David Effron. In 2010, Setaro was chosen to serve as Associate Concertmaster of the Castleton Festival Orchestra under the baton of renowned conductor Lorin Maazel. 

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A devoted teacher, Setaro has taught privately since 2002 and was formerly an instructor at Presbyterian College, Bard College, Dutchess Community College, Stringendo Orchestra School, and Columbia International University. Her students have held principal chairs in youth orchestras, honors orchestras, and All-State orchestras. Setaro has also worked extensively in arts administration for several summer festivals and regional orchestras including positions as Personnel Manager, Operations Director, Music Librarian, Publicity Chair, Sponsor Relations Chair, and Volunteer Coordinator. 

Setaro earned her B.M. from SUNY Fredonia where she studied violin with Alan Ross, Dr. Cornelius Dufallo and Dr. David Rudge. She pursued graduate studies at University of Maryland where she was coached by members of the Guarneri Quartet, studied viola with Michael Tree and Katherine Murdock, and violin with James Stern, Arnold Steinhardt, and John Dalley. Setaro received both her M.M. and D.M.A. in Violin Performance from USC as a student of Dr. William Terwilliger. Further study was with David Rudge, David Russell, Connie Heard and Sylvia Rosenberg. Setaro is an avid performer of new music, especially works inspired by folk music from around the world. She is fascinated by East European fiddle, Roma (Gypsy) music, and Klezmer and her dissertation Solo Violin Works Influenced by Romanian Lăutari Music is available through ProQuest. She has designed and performed several innovative multimedia recitals based on her research.

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