Currently serving as a Conducting Fellow at the Long Beach Symphony and an Associate Conductor at the Westside Youth Orchestra. Pola Benke’s ascent in the world of conducting exemplifies the harmonious blend of talent, dedication, and a relentless pursuit of musical excellence.
Her journey as a conductor set sail four years ago when she enrolled in a conducting program under the guidance of Christopher Russell at Azusa Pacific University. Concurrently, she took private lessons with Jonathon Heyward. To further refine her skills, she also studied under the mentorship of Tomasz Golka.
Pola’s talent was acknowledged early on when she was selected for the summer program with Maestro Neeme Järvi. She was invited to the Dartington Music Festival in England to serve as a Fellow Conductor where she worked under the guidance of Sian Edwards. Noteworthy among her recent accomplishments is her invitation to the esteemed Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, where she had the privilege of collaborating with Cristian Macelaru.
As an accomplished cellist, Pola Benke understands the intricacies of musical performance and how to communicate with musicians to achieve the desired artistic interpretation. Her background as a musician has also given her the ability to analyze and interpret scores with a high level of detail, enabling her to lead ensembles with precision and nuance. This knowledge and experience are invaluable assets in the craft of conducting and allow her to bring a unique perspective to her work as a conductor.
Pola’s passion for contemporary music has led her to collaborate with living composers, as she seeks to showcase new and innovative works. She also advocates for female artists and often performs their works. Her musical influences include Krzysztof Penderecki, Igor Stravinsky, Thomas Adès, Jennifer Higdon and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, among others.
Daniel Gee is a conductor, composer, and educator based out of Southern California where he is currently pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of Southern California. His present conducting duties include serving as Assistant Conductor of the Long Beach Symphony, Associate Conductor of the USC Apollo Chorus, and as the Artistic Director of Choirs at Evergreen Baptist Church of San Gabriel Valley. He has previously served as Associate Conductor of the USC Oriana Women’s Choir, during which he commissioned and premiered a new choral work for treble voices by composer Emma Lou Diemer. Other conducting duties have included serving as Guest Conductor of the Global Harmony Symphony, Associate Conductor of the USC University Chorus, and Assistant Conductor of the Westmont Orchestra.
As a composer, he has fulfilled commissions for ensembles in the Santa Barbara and Los Angeles music communities, including the Quire of Voyces, the Westmont Orchestra, and College Choir, and the Westridge School Chamber Orchestra. His choral music has been published by Colla Voce Music on the Jo-Michael Scheibe Choral Series. Daniel has taught as an adjunct instructor of theory and composition at Westmont College, where he also founded the Westmont chapter of the Pi Kappa Lambda music honors society.
Daniel received his Master of Music degree from USC where he studied conducting with Jo-Michael Scheibe and Nick Strimple and composition with Morten Lauridsen and Sean Friar. Daniel completed his undergraduate work at Westmont College, majoring in both Music Composition and Philosophy, where he was graduated summa cum laude as First Senior of his class.
Daniel also continues his work as a string educator, having taught private cello for over ten years. He has lead rehearsals and sectionals for youth orchestras across the Greater Los Angeles area including the Pasadena Youth Symphony Orchestras and the Claremont Young Musicians Orchestra.