Hudson Valley Musicians

From classic rockers to child prodigies, the Valley is home to a seemingly end­less number of gifted musicians representing every genre and age group. This all-access pass introduces some of the area’s leading established artists, each paired with a promising local up-and-comer. Take a glimpse at some of the hottest talent north of NYC


From left to right: Cellists Cicely Parnas, Susan Seligman, and violinist Madalyn Parnas

Photographs by Michael Polito

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Susan Seligman

Instrument: Cello Currently lives in: New Paltz Hometown: Joliet, Illinois Has been playing cello for: 45 years
When Seligman first visited the Valley, she fell in love with the area. In the decades since, she has become principal cellist with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, taught at Vassar, and is now a SUNY New Paltz professor.

Why the cello? It was my mother’s idea. I was tall for my age in fourth grade and when I was choosing an instrument, the orchestra director suggested cello. I was instantly attracted to it. I believe there is a right instrument for every person, and I was lucky to discover early that the cello was mine. Any other instruments? I play a little piano, but not enough that I would perform publicly. How many cellos do you own? Actually only one. I probably should have another one to play outdoors, but I don’t. I’ve had this cello for almost 20 years. Favorite thing about performing? I find it to be very enlivening. I like the feeling of interaction, both with who I’m playing with and with the audience. Professional highlight? There is a concerto by Brahms that has a huge cello solo. I got to play it with [pianist] Emanuel Ax; that was really fabulous. Best thing about living in the Valley? It’s so beautiful. I love to go up to Mohonk and hike; I have a route that goes by the duck pond. In your free time? I love to garden. During the summer I plan to spend a couple of hours a day in the yard. Current gig? I’ve been playing with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic since 1981, but I’ve been a principal cellist since 1984. I occasionally play with the Innisfree Piano Trio; we perform concerts throughout the region. And I’m a member of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic String Quartet. What’s next? I would like to explore other musical options beyond classical or chamber; for example, I played with a flamenco musician this spring and it was a lot of fun. Crossovers [between genres] are fun. Classical musicians love to feel cool.

cicely and madalyn parnasMadalyn, left, and Cicely Parnas

Cicely & Madalyn Parnas

Name: Duo Parnas Currently lives in: Stephentown
Besides being performance partners, the members of this classical duet have a special bond: they are sisters (no, not twins — although they are often mistaken to be). Madalyn, 19, plays violin, while Cicely, 17, is a cellist. Both picked up their instruments at age four, and have since performed challenging, classical masterpieces with the ease and grace of performers two, three, even four times their ages. They recently returned from their first European tour.

How did you get started? Madalyn: Our grandfather, Leslie Parnas, is a world renowned cellist, and he was the main reason we were both interested in playing classical music. Any other influences? M: My first teacher had a deep love of music, and she taught me to love it more, too. She was very into teaching the passion of playing, which is easier for a five-year-old to learn, instead of just teaching the technical side of it. Cicely: Actually, our whole family is into music — we were constantly surrounded by it. M: We’re also both very influenced by the French brothers Renaud and Gautier Capuçon. They have a balanced career of solo, duet, and collaborations. European highlights? C: We went to London, Paris, and Berlin. We all loved Paris the best. This trip was life-changing, but the highlight was when we met with the conductor of one of the largest symphonies in France. He invited us to play six concerts next year. Any other instruments? M: I also play some piano and have taken voice lessons. C: I play guitar and I do some songwriting. M: Her guitar playing has been compared to Joni Mitchell. What does Duo Parnas sound like? M: We play strictly classical music, but we are also in two trios with pianists; these are less exclusive. Favorite thing about performing? C: I like having the opportunity to share great music with all types of crowds. M: Same here. And I really love bringing classical music to younger crowds. Hobbies? C: Horseback riding. We have four horses. M: I love playing tennis. And reading. C: Definitely reading. I went through a lot of books last summer. Future plans? C: Madalyn graduated [from the College of Saint Rose] and I plan to finish my undergrad there later. But we’ve been accepted into Indiana University’s Jacob School artist diploma program. [Susan Seligman also studied there.] We’ll start in the fall, and yes, will be rooming together; we get along really well. The duo is really important to us, and we want to keep it going as long as possible.

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