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Alton Symphony Orchestra

Past Conductors

Leon Burke III (2011-2013)

Leon Burke III is a native St. Louisan, where he attended Mc Bride High School and John Burroughs School. He holds music degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory and the University of Kansas. Burke studied as a Fulbright Fellow in Paraguay. Burke has served as Conductor/Music Director of the Lawrence Chamber Players, the Hutchinson Symphony, and the McPherson Symphony. He has been on the faculties of Baker University, Sterling College, Hutchinson Community College, and Webster University. Burke is an active member of Unitarian Universalists Musicians Network (UUMN). He served as a member of the UUA New Hymn Resource Task Force, which was appointed in the Fall of 2003 to create a new congregational hymn resource.

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Leon Burke III (2011 - 2013)

Leon Burke III is a native St. Louisan, where he attended Mc Bride High School and John Burroughs School. He holds music degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory and the University of Kansas. Burke studied as a Fulbright Fellow in Paraguay. ​Burke has served as Conductor/Music Director of the Lawrence Chamber Players, the Hutchinson Symphony, and the McPherson Symphony. He has been on the faculties of Baker University, Sterling College, Hutchinson Community College, and Webster University. ​Burke is an active member of Unitarian Universalists Musicians Network (UUMN). He served as a member of the UUA New Hymn Resource Task Force, which was appointed in the Fall of 2003 to create a new congregational hymn resource.

Edward Dolbashian (1993 - 2010)

Edward Dolbashian was appointed Music Director and Conductor of the Alton Symphony Orchestra in 1993. He is also Music Director of the Missouri University Philharmonic in Columbia, Missouri, a post he has held since 1984, and Music Director of the Compton Heights Concert Band, to which he was appointed in September 1998. He was also appointed Music Director of the Clayton Symphony in Fall 2001. Mr. Dolbashian began his musical training as a student at New York’s famed High School of the Performing Arts. Upon graduation, he entered the Hartt College of Music, in Hartford Connecticut, where he earned his degrees in oboe performance. Mr. Dolbashian’s conducting career began when he accepted the directorship of the Holyoke Symphony Orchestra in Holyoke, Massachusetts. His orchestral conducting studies took him to the prestigious Pierre Monteaux School of Orchestra Conducting in Maine, studying under Charles Bruck; and to Yale University, where he served as student conducting assistant to Otto Werner-Mueller en route to earning a Master of Musical Arts degree in Orchestral Conducting. Further studies took place at the Tanglewood Institute, with Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Andre Previn, and Gustav Meier, and the Boris Goldovsky Opera Conducting Seminar. Before coming to Missouri, Mr. Dolbashian was a member of the Hartford Symphony for 11 years and was principal oboe of the Hartford Chamber Orchestra, the Goldovsky Opera Company, and the Hudson Valley Philharmonic. He made his solo oboe debut in Town Hall, NY, NY, 1969. In addition to his duties as Music Director of the Alton Symphony, University Philharmonic, and the Compton Heights Concert Band, Mr. Dolbashian also maintains an active guest conducting schedule. Most recently he appeared as guest conductor of the 1998 International Festival of Music Orchestra in Belem, Brazil, and as guest conductor of the Londrina Symphony in Londrina, Brazil.

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Dr. James Richards (1991-1993)

James Richards serves as chair of the Department of Music and conductor of the University Orchestra. He holds a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music and degrees in orchestral conducting and music theory, as well as a Performer's Certificate in Violin, from the University of Texas at Austin. He studied orchestral and opera conducting with Walter Ducloux, Paul Vermel, and Gustav Meier, and was selected to participate in the Conductor's Program of the Aspen Music Festival. Dr. Richards is conductor and music director of the Saint Louis Chamber Orchestra and artist-in-residence at Maryville University. He also serves as the conductor and music director of the Gateway Festival Orchestra of St. Louis. Prior to this appointment, he served as Conductor of the Kirkwood Symphony for nineteen seasons and as associate conductor of the Kammergild Chamber Orchestra. He has appeared frequently as a guest conductor and clinician for band and orchestra festivals throughout the United States, including guest appearances with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra Discovery Series. Dr. Richards has served the American String Teachers Association with the National School Orchestra Association at the state and national levels in a variety of capacities and currently is President-elect of the Missouri Chapter of the ASTA with NSOA. He as served as a reviewer of new string literature for the American String Teacher journal. He was recently invited to present at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago and has served as national chair of the ASTA with NSOA Merle J. Isaac Composition Competition since 2001. As a violinist, Dr. Richards has performed with a variety of ensembles including the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Illinois Symphony Orchestra, the Kammergild Chamber Orchestra, the Fox Theatre Orchestra, the St. Louis MUNY Orchestra, and the Landolfi String Quartet. In 1999, Dr. Richards received a University of Missouri Research Board Grant to study Baroque violin performance and to participate in the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute. In 2000, Dr. Richards was the recipient of the St. Louis Suburban Music Educator's Association's Merit Award "in recognition of significant contributions for the advancement of music education." In 2002, Dr. Richards was received the Artist/Teacher of the Year Award from the Missouri chapter of ASTA with NSOA.

Clarence Drichta (1979 - 1990) and (1964 - 1968)

Clarence J. Drichta attended the Milwaukee Public Schools. He studied at Alverno College of Music and Wisconsin College of Music, Milwauke, Wisconsin on piano, violin, viola, bass viol, French horn, trombone, and in theory, harmony, and conducting. ​ He also attended Northwestern University School of Music in Evanston, Illinois and studied violin under Angel Reyes, Harry Farbman, and studied conducting under Nicolai Gogotasky. ​ Drichta studied conducting at Tanglewood under Seymour Lipkin and Eleazar de Carvalho.  ​ He was a professional violinist and bassist with symphony orchestras and musical show orchestras in the Milwaukee, Chicago, Albany, and St. Louis areas. Drichta was the Concertmaster and assistanc conductor of the Millikin Civic Orchestra (Decatur, IL) and Springfield Symphony (Springfield, IL) under Paul Skinner and Harry Farbman. In Missouri, he was a member of the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra under Theodor Avitahl, University City Symphony under William Schatzkamer, associate conductor of the Midwest Opera Company (St. Louis), conductor and musical director of the St. Louis Concert Chorale and Ancora Musica. ​ Drichta was the conductor or other various studio, professional orchestras, and ensembles in the Chicago and St. Louis areas for radio and television productions as well as a guest conductor of various community and school festival orchestras.

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Kaid Friedel (1968 - 1979)

Kaid Friedel, a member of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, was born in Kansas, and began his study of the French Horn there. Later the family moved to Nebraska where Ward Fearn, the 2nd Horn player of the Philadelphia Orchestra was also a resident. After graduating from High School he went to Philadelphia to continue his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music and with Mr. Fearn. In 1955, following a four year stint with the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, D.C., Mr. Friedel went to the Kansas City Philharmonic as Principal Hornist. After eight years there, he came to St. Louis as Associate 1st Horn, where he is now in his 11th season. Since 1955, he has appeared as soloist in the Mozart 3rd and 4th Concertos, the Strauss Concerto in Eb, the Benjamin Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, the Concerto for Horn and Strings by Gordon Jacob, the Mozart Concertante for Four Winds and Orchestra. He has also done extensive work in the Chamber Music field, both Woodwind and Brass, being formerly a member of the St. Louis Symphonic Brass Quintet. He is a member of the faculty at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, of Washington University in St. Louis, and former faculty member at Greenville College. Mr. Friedel is also a member of the faculty woodwind quintet at S.I.U., Edwardsville.

Max Steindel (1948 - 1964)

Born in Munchen-Gladbach (Province Rhineland), Max Steindel is the son of The Royal Musical Director, Alvin Steindel, a famous violinist and violoncellist, being 'cello pupil of the great masters, Grutzmacher and Joseph Werner. In his early youth, Steindel toured Europe with tremendous success both a violin soloist and 'cello soloist. Later he married and settled in Munchen-Gladbach, and became the Director of the Munchen-Gladbach Symphony Orchestra. Steindel started the study of the Violoncello with his father, at the age of five years, and at the age of eight was quite a sensation in the leading capitals of Europe, traveling with the famous Steindel Trio and later the Steindel Quartette. Max was honored with numerous decorations, by the various Royal Families, such as King Leopold of Belgium, Countess Vladimir of Russia, Countess Olga (sister to the former Czar of Russia), President Emil Loubet of France, King Ferdinand of Rumania, King Wilhelm II of Wurtemburg (this Monarch bestowed the title of "Koeniglicher Musik Director," Royal Music Director, upon Steindel's father), and many others.

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Dr. Bethuel Gross (1945 - 1948)

Dr. Bethuel Gross was a gifted organist and musician. He composed music to go along with a poem called "Lamentations on Christmas." This piece was performed with Gross playing organ and directing the choral group at Garrett Seminary. Like most of his other compositions the music was fairly modern sounding. Ever the performer, Gross cut a Valentino-style appearance with a broad red ribbon worn diagonally across his chest and his glossy black hair while he conducted from the piano. Dr. Gross resigned from the orchestra and returned to his home in Chicago in 1948. *The ASO is looking to expand this section. If you have any information that would help us have a more complete biography for Dr. Bethuel Gross, please contact us at

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