Robert Vodnoy doesn't stay in one place very long.
Vodnoy is a full-time music professor at Northern State University, where one of his main jobs involves running the Aberdeen University/Civic Symphony. He is in his fourth season as conductor of the Huron Symphony Orchestra, which presents four concerts a year.
“I go to Huron about once a week for the month before the concert,” he said.
He is also the music director of the Whiting Park Festival Orchestra in Whiting, Ind., which is about 20 minutes from Chicago. The Whiting Park Festival Orchestra, which Vodnoy founded in 2000, is a professional summer festival orchestra that presents five concerts each year — four of them between July and Labor Day.
Vodnoy, who has worked at Northern since 2005, has a home in Porter, Ind. During the school year, he returns to Indiana about once a month. He also spends his summers there. Each summer, he serves as an adjunct professor in the graduate school at Valparaiso University. His home is about 15 miles north of Valparaiso.
Vodnoy's wife, Kayla, is the head of the foreign language department at Chesterton High School in Chesterton, Ind. During the school year, the Vodnoys see each other about once a month. She's coming to Aberdeen the weekend of Oct. 18-21, when Vodnoy will conduct the Huron Symphony and the pit orchestra for Northern's production of “Legally Blonde — The Musical.”
At Northern, Vodnoy works individually with violin, viola, cello and double bass students in his studio as well as teaching classes. In addition to conducting 17 concerts a year, he performs two or three times a year on his 1932 Iginio Siega violin, which he bought in 1974.
“I would say that my life is fantastically rewarding, sometimes exhausting,” Vodnoy said.
Fortunately, Vodnoy likes to be busy.
His busiest month of the year might be December, “because all three orchestras that I conduct are having holidays concerts,” he said. “I have a holiday concert in Indiana on Dec. 1, and I have a holiday concert in Huron on Dec. 7 and I have a holiday concert here at Northern on Dec. 9.”
Vodnoy, 64, has an apartment in Aberdeen, three blocks from campus.
When the school year ends in mid-May, Vodnoy returns to Indiana, where he remains until mid-August. The morning after the third Whiting Park Festival Orchestra concert of the summer, “I jump in the car and drive back because we start in-service here,” Vodnoy said.
After in-service and the first week of classes, Vodnoy flies back to Indiana “because I have one more concert to do there,” he said, referring to the Labor Day weekend concert.
At Northern, Vodnoy is an associate professor of strings and director of orchestral activities.
Vodnoy, who grew up in South Bend, Ind., earned bachelor’s and master's degrees — the latter in composition — from Hartt College of the University of Hartford. His doctorate in orchestral conducting is from Indiana University.
Vodnoy was 57 when he arrived at Northern to begin his first full-time college job. But he has taught at Valparaiso as an adjunct professor since 1998.
Before arriving at Northern, he was the music director of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, based in St. Joseph, Mich., between 1975 and 2005. He was also music director of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, based in Munster, Ind., from 1976 to 1996.
“Before I came to Northern, I had a pretty broad-ranging professional career,” Vodnoy said. “I've conducted concerts with artists like Itzhak Perlman, Andre Watts and Marilyn Horne. I conducted with professional orchestras in Prague and Seoul, Korea. I conducted the Mississippi Symphony. I conducted one of my orchestras on the stage of Orchestra Hall in Chicago.”
But he “would say quite honestly that the work here, conducting this kind of an orchestra, coupled with the teaching, is the most challenging and rewarding part of my career,” he said.
NSU Dean of Fine Arts Alan LaFave said the “orchestra has grown both in size and in quality under his leadership.” Members of the orchestra are “playing literature that they've never been able to play before. And they're playing it very well,” LaFave said. “It's just great to see that part of our program being executed at such a high level.”