BY RUTH RICE
As principal bass player for Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Nathan Santos adds some pluck, at least on the strings.
Santos has been a member of the symphony since 1995 and principal bass since 1998.
His father, Rosendo E. Santos Jr., an internationally renowned composer, came to America from the Philippines.
"He studied with Aaron Copeland and others," Santos said. "While he was studying for his master's and doctorate at West Virginia University, he met my mom in the choir and they got married."
Other composers in the Santos family tree are Nathan; his older brother, Erik; and younger brother, Jason.
When he was 5, Santos began taking piano lessons then progressed to playing the clarinet, saxophone, guitar, bass, percussion and taking voice lessons.
Originally from Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Santos got his undergraduate degree in 1992 from Wilkes University and earned a master's degree in 1994 from the University of Miami.
He came to Johnstown during his senior year at Miami to perform in a choral program at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center.
That is where he met his wife, the former Kristen Shaw, who also was taking part in the program.
"We kept in touch and it became serious," Santos said. "She's a Reading native and moved to Westmont when she became choral director at Westmont Middle School in 1993."
"I moved to be with her. We met in Johnstown and ended up here."
He got married the same year he joined the symphony - 1995.
After moving to Johnstown, Santos found it challenging to create a musical career.
He got his first orchestral work with Westmoreland Symphony, then was able to get involved with Johnstown Symphony when a position came open.
Hooking up with Michael Bodolosky, who taught music at Richland High School at the time, gave Santos more musical opportunities.
"Mike graduated from the same high school in Reading as my wife - 30 years before," Santos said. "They studied with some of the same people.
"When she first moved here, she talked with Mike."
Bodolosky set up some private music lessons for Santos and hired him to play in some University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown theater productions.
When Bodolosky put together his big band, Jazz in Your Face, Santos was a part of it.
"He calls me first for jazz gigs," Santos said. "Everyone works around my schedule. Mike has been an instrumental person in my life, performance-wise. That's the great thing about playing bass. You can work quite a bit."
Santos has worked with local jazz personalities such as John Pencola, Don Aliguo Sr. and Dick Napolitan.
He also sings in an a cappella quintet, White Noise, and Acousticity, an acoustic trio that performs the music of James Taylor, Grateful Dead, Bob Marley and their own compositions.
Santos has been an active member of the Chamber Orchestra of the Alleghenies since its inception in 1998.
He recently became coordinator of youth music at Westmont Presbyterian Church, where he is associate director of the music ministry.
Santos has shared the stage with Bernadette Peters, Lou Christie, Bruce Hornsby and Olivia Newton-John.
On Jan. 15, Santos performed with the Anzolone Brothers at New York City's Lincoln Center as part of the Martin Luther King Day celebration.
"It was out of the blue," Santos said. "Their bass player became ill, and they know me and my family. We did one song between acts. I've never played New York before."
Santos also has two part-time teaching jobs involving music.
Since 2002, he has been a professor of bass studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches bass in the formal music program and a class on teaching stringed instruments, which is required for all music education majors.
He has been a voice teacher and lecturer at St. Francis University, Loretto, since 2005.
Santos also was professor of bass studies at Penn State and had a three-year teaching position at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in 1998.
As a composer, Santos has arranged, orchestrated and transcribed for Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and written and orchestrated music for Johnstown Symphony Orchestra.
"As I'm composing more, I'm getting commissions to write," Santos said.
Being so busy with his music, Santos doesn't have much time for anything else but family.
He is the father of Ross, 8, and Ariana, 7.
"All my hobbies involve music," Santos said.
"When I'm into it, I'm into it."
BY RUTH RICE
- Note Worthy
- Head of the brass Keith Eisensmith has been with the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra since 1998.
'I like it where I am' | Somerset man is second bass in symphony
As second bass for Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Brian Zeigler of Somerset has the height to handle his large instrument.
At 6 feet 6 inches tall, Zeigler has no problem keeping his bass upright.
- Violinist a zealot for school music programs As a member of the first violin section of Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Jean Sedlar of Richland Township has a history of championing the cause of music programs at a grade school level. She has been with the symphony since 1973, a year after she arrived in Johnstown to teach history at Pitt-Johnstown and has played regularly, except when she has been on sabbatical.
- Percussionist snares orchestra's second spot As second percussionist for Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Michael Vatavuk sometimes clashes with the rest of the orchestra. “I play bells, cymbals, bass drums and snare drums,” said Vatavuk, who lives in the Somerset County community of Blough. “All percussionists play different instruments.”
- Leader of the pack | Bassoonist in charge of woodwinds As principal bassoonist for Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Michael F. Kokus is in the spotlight at every concert. “I’m expected to play all the solo lines. At every concert, I play things no one else plays, by myself,” he said. A relatively new member of the symphony, Kokus has been principal bassoonist since 2007. “I became a sub in 2004, then went from sub to second bassoon,” Kokus said. “I became principal in 2007.” Being a lead player in the woodwind section means that Kokus has to be in control.
- NOTE WORTHY | JSO's lead pianist learned at mom's knee Beth Good of Hollsopple is a key player. She has been a member of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra since 1979 and its principal pianist since 1998. Good grew up in Davidsville, and hardly remembers a time when she didn’t play the piano.
- Teacher enjoys playing on other side of podium As bass trombonist for Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Roger Johnston of Somerset bridges the musical gap between the two other trombones and the tuba.
- Symphony trombonist overcomes horn failure As second trombonist for Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Dana Menser of Somerset can’t let anything slide. Menser started playing with the symphony in 1976, after graduating from Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Winchester, Va.
- Clarinetist relishes seat in middle of the action As second clarinetist for Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Rebecca Catelinet of Westmont keeps in harmony with the rest of the orchestra. While the principal clarinetist has more to play, including more solos, the second clarinetist adds harmony and sometimes plays together with first clarinetist, Catelinet said.
- Symphony musician glad he switched horns As principal French horn player for Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Dennis Emert is glad he didn’t follow his childhood dream of playing the saxophone. Emert, who lives in Monroeville, began lessons on the French horn in sixth grade, when no one wanted to play the horn, including him.
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