Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music has announced that Victor Yampolsky, the school's Carol F. and Arthur L. Rice Jr. Professor in Music Performance, will retire at the end of the academic year.
Yampolsky is currently the school's Director of Orchestras, and also serves as the Music Director of the Omaha Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, he has previously held positions such as the Music Director for Wisconsin's Peninsula Music Festival and the Scotia Festival of Music in Nova Scotia.
Born in the Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan in 1942, Yampolsky grew up in Moscow. He studied initially with David Oistrakh, who at the time, played a lot of chamber music with Yampolsky's father. At age 23, he won a chair in the Moscow Philharmonic, where he stayed for eight years and advanced to the rank of Assistant Concertmaster. In 1972, however, Yampolsky's brother decided to move to Israel; Yampolsky then knew he would no longer be allowed to tour with the orchestra, as authorities would deem him a security risk.
After eventually deciding to leave the Soviet Union, Yampolsky met with Leonard Bernstein in Italy. Bernstein arranged for Yampolsky to go to Tanglewood that year, where Yampolsky won a seat in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. However, Yampolsky ultimately wanted to be a conductor, and gave up his BSO job to pursue conducting opportunities in Nova Scotia. In 1984, he took up the role of Head of Orchestras at Northwestern and has been there ever since.
Yampolsky has been particularly renowned for his teaching. His students can be found conducting orchestras all over the United States. Many of them characterize Yampolsky as a treasured friend as well as a mentor, describing him as warm, caring, and passionate.
“He’s definitely one of those life-changing teachers,” said Aviva Segall, who is currently Musical Director and Principal Conductor of the Omaha Area Youth Orchestra. “I have so much respect for him because he has this amazing ability to be larger than life and yet has such a deep and genuine caring for all his students.”
For his final year at Northwestern, Yampolsky has planned a series of concerts that will feature composers that have shaped his career.
"My programs will represent a musical homage to great masters of orchestral music, as viewed nostalgically back from today,” Yampolsky said. “You will see the deep thanks to Beethoven and Brahms in October; to Debussy, Messiaen and Honegger in November; and to my time as a violinist of the Boston Symphony, performing light classics for the holidays, with a program conducted by my students.”