Maestro Brian Onderdonk has become well known for his unique versatility on the podium and has amassed a repertoire of over 45 opera productions, including three operatic world premieres and a wide range of symphonic guest conducting appearances. For the past nine seasons Maestro Onderdonk has served as Music Director and Principal Conductor for Center Stage Opera, leading the company in numerous highly acclaimed staged productions. He was also recently appointed to the conducting staff with the Evansville Philharmonic as Youth Orchestra Music Director, conducting regular symphonic performances with the orchestra at the historic Victory Theatre in downtown Evansville. Maestro Onderdonk was honored to conduct performances of Eugene Onegin and Die Zauberflöte with the Burgas Opera and Philharmonic in Bulgaria. Other notable operatic endeavors have included productions of Carmen, La Traviata, Rigoletto,Faust, Cosí fan tutte, Don Giovanni, La bohéme, Madama Butterfly, Tosca,Barber of Seville, and Albert Herring.
Maestro Onderdonk’s symphonic repertoire has included Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3; Dvorak’s Symphonies Nos. 6, 7 and 8; Mozart’s Requiem and Symphonies Nos. 1, 25, 30, and 38; and Schubert’s Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6. Other favorites have included Bizet’s Carmen Suites; Copland’s Rodeo, Holst’s The Planets, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and Grieg’s Holberg Suite. In addition to these performances, he has been a guest conductor with the Rio Hondo Symphony Orchestra and served as guest Music Director of the UC Santa Barbara Symphony. Maestro Onderdonk also held the Conducting Fellowship with the nationally renowned American Youth Symphony in Los Angeles for five consecutive years.
Maestro Onderdonk received his DM degree at Indiana University, where he served as Assistant Conductor for the IU Opera Theatre, assisting world-renowned conductors David Effron and Arthur Fagen among others. In 2013, Mr. Onderdonk joined The Atlanta Opera as Associate Conductor for their production of Tosca, for which he conducted the student outreach performances at the Cobb Energy Center. He also had the privilege of performing with the internationally acclaimed Italian tenor trio Il Volo during their 2013 North American Tour, conducting symphony orchestras on such stages as the Gibson Amphitheater, the Detroit Fox Theatre, and Radio City Music Hall.
Over the course of his career, Mr. Onderdonk has shown particular interest in the field of modern opera, and in 2011 conducted the immensely successful World Premiere of Philip Westin's Marie's Orchard, commissioned and produced by Center Stage Opera. In addition, he conducted the workshop premiere of PQ Phan's new opera The Tale of Lady Thi Kinh with the 2011 Bloomington Summer Music Festival and has collaborated with the IU Opera Theater on the 2011 World Premiere of Bernard Rands' Vincent, as well as their recent production of Philip Glass' Ahknaten. In 2014, Mr. Onderdonk was invited to conduct David Chesky’s contemporary opera The Mice War in a joint production with Orchestra Miami and the Florida Grand Opera Resident Artist program.
Named Artistic Director of Bay View Music Festival in 2007, Dr. Chris Ludwa has proven himself to be a visionary leader, both on stage and off. At Bay View, he leads a 100-voice festival choir, 16-voice collegiate chamber choir, pops orchestra, and musical theatre productions that include such epic works as Ragtime, Titanic, and Les Miserables. In addition, he oversees over 30 faculty artists, 150 college musicians, 10 theatre technicians, and over 100 volunteers as the festival produces nearly 50 performances over two months each summer. Upon his arrival to this position, the century-old festival was in decline but is now thriving with nearly three times the programming and opportunities for collegiate musicians.
Ludwa currently serves as the Director of Music at The Federated Church in Chagrin Falls, OH where he leads 4 ensembles, collaborates with four others on the music staff, and presents an annual concert series. He enjoys music that includes early, modern, and popular genres, programming major choral-orchestral works as Messiah, Ein Deutsches Requiem, Symphony of Psalms, Rutter’s Feel the Spirit, and new, accessible choral masterworks such as Kelly Hale’s American Hymn Requiem. In northeast Ohio, Chris has a voice studio that prepares exceptional high school singers for their college experience, teaching numerous students enrolled in the prestigious Academy of Performing Arts in Chagrin Falls, a college preparatory program in theatrical training. In 2014, he founded Kaleidosong, a professional vocal ensemble that specializes in a huge range of styles such as Palestrina, R&B, jazz, American songbook, and spirituals.
At Indiana University, Ludwa conducted ensembles that ranged from the prestigious University Singers to the Grammy-nominated Singing Hoosiers, each to great acclaim. While pursuing his doctorate in Conducting, he guest conducted for both Butler University and Webster University, recruiting singers for the Bay View summer festival in both cases. Following this, Ludwa was hired as the Director of Performing Arts and Vocal Jazz Director for Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, OH, where he was responsible for programming a subscription series of award-winning artists such as Diana Krall, Bobby McFerrin, Harry Connick, and the New York Voices. Utilizing the world-class recording studios in the Tommy LiPuma Center for the Arts, his ensembles not only performed but recorded, giving students a unique experience working in the recording industry alongside engineers, professors, and music industry pillars. He also developed a series of interdisciplinary experiences that included dance, music, and drama, including a program called Mix, Blackbox Club, and several others. Seeing the challenges the college’s students faced, Chris established and produced numerous cross-disciplinary initiatives on how to increase the success of students in all disciplines by using the arts. An advocate for youth musicians, he has hosted OMEA Solo and Ensemble competition, produced workshops for local high schools, been featured as a guest clinician, prepared choirs for contest, and judged numerous high school choral competitions from concert to show choir. He remains actively engaged in numerous service organizations such as ACDA, OMEA, Americans for the Arts, and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, where he is one of 25 individuals selected for their Leadership Fellowship Program. He served as Repertoire and Standards chair for Indiana chapter of ACDA while working at Meridian Street United Methodist Church as their Director of Music.
In Indianapolis, he served for 10 years as Artistic Director of Encore Vocal Arts, a 36-member, professional caliber vocal ensemble. While there, the group made three recordings and completed ten seasons of innovative concert programming, establishing itself with a unique voice in innovative, multi-disciplinary presentations. Knowing the budgetary challenges of church and school choirs but recognizing the importance of exposure to choral masterworks, Ludwa commissioned new orchestrations of numerous works, hoping this would open access to this literature beyond a performance with piano alone. Major projects of the ensemble included several tours; a new setting of Haydn’s Creation in Spanish as part of a Latino-Hispanic initiative; a seven-school collaborative performance of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem in German; a tribute to Fred Waring as the father of popular choral music and the predecessor of the show choir movement; and Cole Porter Radio Hour, a biographical revue that received rave reviews and over 7 performances to date. An avid fan of increasing the accessibility of choral music, he has conducted Carmina Burana three times, once with aerial dance and another using fire to enhance the elemental connections in the piece. Ludwa has also dedicated much time to producing music by Indiana composer Malcolm Dalglish, whose Appalachian-based choral music features unique interpretive and stylistic techniques.
In addition to spending much of his time with choral ensembles, Chris is a seasoned orchestral conductor, having held positions with Bloomington Pops Orchestra, Bloomington Symphony, Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, and Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra. As a devotee of the musical theatre, he has worked for Indianapolis Opera as Apprentice Conductor/Outreach Administrator and guest conducted for numerous organizations including Butler University Lyric Theatre, Webster University Opera Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Edyvean Repertory Theatre, Indianapolis Civic Theatre, College Light Opera Company. Having developed a fondness for old theatres, he was instrumental in the renovation of historic John M. Hall Auditorium in Petoskey, Michigan and spearheaded a massive initiative in Indianapolis to re-open a 700-seat auditorium after having been dormant for 40 years. The hall is in use today by several Indianapolis arts organizations and continues to work toward a full renovation.
After witnessing the power of the arts to motivate and create community, Ludwa is convinced that the wave of the future is to integrate aesthetic process into education, business, government, and daily life. In this role, he has worked for Cuyahoga Community College, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Leonard Bernstein-inspired Artful Learning School Reform Model at the GRAMMY Foundation, and International School of Indiana. Ludwa has also participated in the Thought Leader Forum at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, a leading institution in the application of aesthetic process in leadership and editing his book on that topic. He has taught arts integration courses, workshops, and lectures at the Bay View Association, Butler University, and Indiana University and is a recipient of the Lilly Endowment-funded Creative Renewal Fellowship Grant, which he used to explore drumming, communication, and values in Ghana, West Africa. Ludwa is seen as a visionary in anticipating the trajectory of music industry, education, and support for the arts and loves to be a catalyst in helping organizations in their strategic planning.
Having achieved his pilot’s license as a hobby, Ludwa is married to his best friend, Melissa, who is a constant source of inspiration, fun, and intellectual conversation. She is an independent college counselor and Music Together teacher. Chris and Melissa are parents of two boys, Alexandre (6 y.o) and Elliott (4 y.o.).