Philip Stoltzfus Named New CVRO Concertmaster

Paul Niemisto, Conductor of the Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra, has announced that CVRO member Dr. Philip Stoltzfus, has been named the new Concertmaster of the Northfield based ensemble as of March 2021. Stoltzfus has a music major in violin performance from Goshen (IN) College, where he studied under Lon Sherer. In high school he studied under Paul McEnderfer at James Madison University. In elementary and junior high school, he studied violin through the Suzuki Method at the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City, IA, one of the first Suzuki programs in the country. 

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Stoltzfus performed the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the CVRO recently and has been a soloist several times in his career, including playing the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky concertos. He has played over the years with nine different community or semi- professional orchestras. Nearly every June since 1992 he has performed at the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival (Harrisonburg, VA). He plays in the 1st violin section of the festival orchestra and regularly performs chamber and solo works at the festival. 

Stoltzfus has an M.Div. and Th.D. in modern theology from Harvard Divinity School. He has taught theology, ethics, philosophy, biblical studies, and peace studies at Bethel College (KS), St. Olaf College, the University of St. Thomas (Justice and Peace Studies department), and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. He currently teaches at the University of St. Thomas in the Theology department and serves part-time as Ministry Staff at Faith Mennonite Church (Minneapolis). He is author of Theology as Performance: Music, Aesthetics, and God in Western Thought (New York: T. & T. Clark, 2006), and is co-founder and co-chair of the Music and Religion Group of the American Academy of Religion. 

Stoltzfus has played in the violin section of the Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra for most of the past 15 seasons. He and his wife, Candace Lautt, live in Northfield.

Prof. Gail Nelson recently retired from the Mathematics Department at Carleton College and has moved away from Northfield. Her bachelor’s degree from UND is in mathematics and music. Although her career is in the former, Gail devoted much time to the latter including weekly meetings with some fellow CVRO member to read string quartets. For several years Gail has attended the weeklong Chamber Music Conference at Interlochen, MI. She was a member of the CVRO for over fifteen years. She soloed with the CVRO on several occasions, most recently with Vaughan-Williams “Lark Ascending.”

The Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra, a program of the Northfield Arts Guild, was formed in 1979, thus just having observed its 40th Anniversary. Unfortunately, many of the planned anniversary events including the premier of a new work dedicated to the CVRO and the featuring of a guest soloist, have all been postponed. CVRO members eagerly hope that regular rehearsals can resume this fall. Please see for details about future plans, how to become a playing member of the orchestra, and how to support the activity.