Student Spotlight: Victoria Petrak - Conductor, Performer and Educator

Conductor, performer, and educator.

Victoria Petrak fills all of these roles while attending Kent State University. Here, she is pursuing her master’s degree in orchestral conducting with Dr. Jungho Kim. Concurrently, she teaches orchestra in the Shaker Heights school district and also works at summer music camps and festivals. She earned her bachelor’s of music education and bachelor’s of music in violin performance from Baldwin Wallace University.

A performer from a young age, Victoria has always had a passion for orchestral music. However, it was not until later that she discovered her interest in conducting. Victoria says, “I love the collaboration of everyone’s parts working together to create so many sound possibilities. I have played under some amazing conductors and as a violinist I often got the melody, but I really wanted to be involved in every part of the orchestra.”

“I am also interested in programming for orchestra,” Victoria continues. “And I wanted to have an impact on what music is being heard and played to include more composers’ viewpoints.” This has led her to conduct several world premieres to diversify the music that orchestras perform. But, this has not detracted from keeping the older traditions of classical music alive. However, she says that interpreting it in a way that is relevant to today is important.

On March 8, Victoria will lead the KSU Orchestra in Verdi’s Prelude to Act 1 of his famous opera, “La Traviata” and Liszt’s “Les préludes.” Both pieces are based on literature and demonstrate the narrative qualities of music. “Music and literature,” Victoria says, “are both art forms that can communicate to the audience experiences outside their own, while making it relatable in some way to their own lives.”

Verdi’s “La Traviata” is derived from Alexandre Dumas fils’ literary work, “The Lady of the Camellias.” The Prelude to Act 1 foreshadows the tragic ending and leads to an outpouring melody later sung by Violetta, the heroine, expressing her love. Victoria says, “The juxtaposition of the preludes opening somber theme and the subsequent love theme is stark, but some sadness still remains in the love theme in the falling pitches, as Violetta’s love is not destined to last.”

Similarly, Liszt’s “Les préludes” was also originally inspired by a piece of literature—a poem by Lamartine that explores war and peace. Victoria says, “[It] is considered one of the first symphonic poems, meaning it has a similar structure to a four-movement symphony but combined in one movement, and inspiration is often drawn from something extra-musical that adds a program to the music.”

The program also will include an intermezzo from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, the first movement from Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherezade,” and Ravel’s beloved “Mother Goose Suite.” Tickets are $8-$15 and free for 18s and under as well as full-time Kent Campus undergraduates. They can be reserved at


Written by: Alena Miskinis, Writing Intern

Contact for media: Andrew Paa, Marketing Assistant | 330-672-0894

POSTED: Monday, March 2, 2020 11:44 AM
Updated: Monday, March 2, 2020 11:47 AM