New Symphonic Association trio earns ‘zeal’ of approval

IRSA Board Members [Photo: Kaila Jones]

Expanding the reach of classical music is at the heart of the board of directors of the Indian River Symphonic Association, a cultural organization that for the past 27 years has brought world-renowned orchestras to perform in Vero Beach.

To that end, the board has recently installed three new members who are likely to be familiar to everyone in Vero’s musical world – Jacob Craig, Andrew Galuska and Matthew Stott. The men are young enough to have a voice in the area’s younger demographic, but wise enough and experienced enough in serious music to know that the classics are called “the classics” for a reason.

The three bring energy to the now 10-person board, says Susan Smith, a longtime supporter and current board president. They also are well connected with younger people, already engaged in studying music, and have good access to the broader community of families, she explains.

“My dream is they will attract younger people to be subscribers,” she adds.

Certainly, the three new board members are passionate about doing exactly that.

At 33, Craig is the youngest of the three. As director of music and arts at First Presbyterian Church of Vero Beach, Craig oversees multiple activities, including the chancel choir, the handbell choir and the youth string orchestra. A virtuoso pianist in classical and jazz, Craig has a doctorate in sacred music with the Graduate Theological Foundation at Oxford University in England. He is also an accomplished bagpiper and is pipe major of the Vero Beach Pipes and Drums.

Knowing Craig’s reputation, Smith saw him at a gala and asked him then and there to join the IRSA board. He accepted.

“The mission of IRSA is bringing world class music to Vero Beach, which is definitely the most unique place I’ve ever lived,” Craig says. “It’s a small town of people who are incredibly bright, successful and cultured. They understand what excellence is and are not hesitant to have that around them.”

Craig also agreed to chair IRSA’s scholarship and music education committee, which had a budget of $12,600 this year. Scholarships have assisted students at the Vero Beach High School Orchestra and the Gifford Youth Orchestra, and have been given to area college students.

He hopes to grow the scholarship budget and to make the educational component of the committee more robust.

“I want to set up criteria for what we think is the most impactful education for budding musicians,” he says. “It could be as simple as providing reduced ticket prices for students, or set up workshops or master classes for students and teachers.”

Galuska has excelled beyond his 43 years. He is director of music and fine arts at the very active Community Church of Vero Beach, the venue for IRSA concerts. He is also dean of the Treasure Coast Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, a most prestigious national organization headquartered in New York City. An award-winning organist, Galuska is a music composer and has had premieres of his compositions in the United States and in Europe.

Smith had heard so many good things about Galuska that she sought him out in hopes that he could help expand IRSA’s reach.

“I wanted to join because I think it has amazing programming,” Galuska says. “Our little beach town community brings in some of the finest orchestras in the world and I wanted to be a part of that.”

IRSA hosts the Brevard Symphony Orchestra for its annual Fifth Grade Concert, and Galuska would like to see them add opportunities for the students to get hands-on experience. Additionally, he believes discounted student “rush” tickets, typically offered an hour or less before a concert, could offer greatly reduced prices for high school and college students.

He says connecting IRSA programming more solidly with schools and programs that involve young people will help “carry on the tradition” of classical music. He hopes his involvement will bring a new point of view, a younger one and one that carries with it innovation. Those are needed, he says, to keep IRSA’s mission alive in the years to come.

“Each generation values different traditions,” he says. “Each generation has a different set of goals. I think youthfulness and innovation are very important to keep an organization fresh and alive.”

“IRSA is housed at the Community Church, they have their offices here,” Galuska adds. “This is the first time since Ray Adams (an IRSA founder and former music director at the church) will be involved with IRSA. It’s a high honor for me.”

A recipient of numerous music educator awards, Stott, 42, studied conducting at the Juilliard School and has led several orchestras throughout the state. While serving as director of orchestras for the Indian River County School District, he took the Vero Beach High School orchestra to perform in prestigious venues around the country, including the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Lincoln Center in New York City. Now retired from the school district, he serves as music director at King’s Baptist Church in Vero Beach.

When Smith sought him out, Stott immediately said “yes” in order to give back to an organization that has been supportive to student orchestras and individual students pursuing music studies in colleges. He hopes to help IRSA continue to bring in the world’s best orchestras and to grow its programming.

“There’s a delicate balance between beloved classics and exciting new music; being able to provide a balance that will be appreciated by the audience and challenge the audience,” Stott says.

He says two of the biggest obstacles for IRSA to overcome are time and money. To do so, Stott says, you have to grow interest in the classics. He is hoping to work with the orchestras to allow students to come in and watch a “sound check” rehearsal, which many do not allow. Stott would like to find a way for them to make special considerations.

“Sometimes, younger people are hearing those beloved classics for the first time; maybe they’ve not heard Beethoven’s 5th Symphony before,” Stott says. “That’s why I’m most interested in serving on the board. I have spent most of my life working with students and I want to see this art form continue to flourish.”

IRSA’s 2020 season was cut short due to COVID-19.

The exciting 2021 season begins Jan. 12 with the Moscow State Symphony, featuring violinist Blake Poulitol. On Jan. 19 IRSA hosts the Kuanas Symphony Orchestra of Lithuania with Robert McDuffie. The Brevard Symphony Orchestra returns for its annual Pops Concert Feb. 5, followed on March 14 when the BSO features violinist Siera Huang and on April 9 when the orchestra features pianist Joyce Yang. On Feb. 19 the acclaimed Philadelphia Orchestra performs with conductor Sir Andrew Davis. And on March 23 Maestro JoAnn Falleta returns with the Buffalo Philharmonic featuring violinist Pavel Sporcl.

“Were pulling together our 2022 and 2023 seasons now,” Smith says, adding that she hopes these three new board members will encourage others to get involved or attend their concerts.

“The whole thing about giving back to the community: The only thing you can’t add back is nothing,” says Craig, noting that getting involved can only make things better. “This community has added an extraordinary amount to my life. I want to give back. I love this community.”

For more information about the Indian River Symphonic Association, call 772-778-1070 or visit

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