William Schatzkamer, Founder and Conductor Emeritus
William Schatzkamer was a founder of the Gateway Festival Orchestra and its first Music Director and Conductor. Known affectionately to many as “Willie”, he was born in New York City and received his musical training at the Juilliard School of Music. He was a fellowship student in piano under the celebrated teacher Alexander Siloti. In 1941, Schatzkamer was chosen from a field of sixty pianists to play Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in New York’s Lewisohn Stadium with a National Youth Administration Orchestra. From 1948 through 1950, Schatzkamer made recital and concert tours of the United States, Canada and Mexico under the direction of Columbia Artists M anagement. He played a total of 175 solo performances, including three very successful recitals in New York’s Town Hall. Immediately after the first of these Town Hall recitals, he signed a contract with RCA Victor. In 1951,
Schatzkamer joined the faculty of the Music Department of Washington University in St. Louis, and he held that position until 1987. He made his St. Louis Symphony debut in 1956. In 1964 Schatzkamer became the founding conductor of the Gateway Festival Orchestra of St. Louis. In that role he set the high musical standards that GFO musicians strive to achieve at every performance. He also served as the conductor of the Washington University Orchestra, the Northwest Plaza Orchestra, the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra, and the University City Symphony Orchestra. Maestro Schatzkamer retired from the GFO in 2002 at the age of 86, having established the GFO as a cultural treasure in the St. Louis area. He passed away in 2012.
Dr. James Richards, Conductor Emeritus
Dr. James Richards earned a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester and degrees in orchestral conducting and music theory as well as a Performer’s Certificate in Violin from the University of Texas at Austin. He completed advanced studies in orchestral and opera conducting as well as theory and composition. He held the position of Founders Professor of Music at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he chaired the UMSL Department of Music for six years, conducted the University Orchestra and served in a variety of leadership roles in the College of Fine Arts and the School for Fine and Performing Arts. He was an active violinist in the freelance community and conducted several local orchestras such as Kirkwood Symphony, Alton Symphony, The St. Louis Chamber Orchestra and others at different stages of his extensive career. He also frequently appeared as a guest conductor and clinician for symphonic band and orchestra festivals thoughout the United States.
Dr. Richards became Conductor of the Gateway Festival Orchestra in 2002, at a time when support for the orchestra was changing dramatically. In the GFO’s early days, rehearsals and concerts had been fully funded through the Musicians’ Performance Trust Fund set up in an agreement between the International Musicians Union and the recording industry. As the recording industry changed, the Trust Fund diminished and it became necessary for the orchestra to develop new sources of funding. Donors and grants became very important to the orchestra’s survival. Dr. Richards’ forward vision enabled the GFO to make that difficult transition successfully.
Maestro Richards retired from the GFO at the end of the 2018 season and relocated to California where he is currently Specialist in Orchestra and Strings for ECS Publishing Group.