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Maestro Michael Nowak

Music Director

Michael Nowak began his music studies in the Rhode Island public school system, where he learned violin, clarinet and tuba. His interest in composition and conducting led him to Indiana University, where he met and became a student of the legendary violist, William Primrose, who inspired him to devote himself to the viola. Nowak has served as Assistant Conductor and violist with the Dallas Symphony, conductor of the Young Musicians Foundation Début Orchestra and the Monterey Chamber Orchestra, and has appeared in guest conducting engagements with the Oregon Mozart Players, the Oregon Bach Festival Chamber Orchestra, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, and the University of Southern California Chamber Orchestra. As a violist, he was a member of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra with Sir Neville Marriner until 1980. He made his début as a conductor at Carnegie Hall in April 2001 with the San Luis Obispo Symphony.

In addition to his duties as Music Director of the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society,           Mr. Nowak is also Artistic Director of Orchestra Novo in San Luis Obispo County. Maestro Nowak is active as a recording musician and conductor in the motion picture industry. Among the many notable films conducted by Michael Nowak are Academy Award-winning Life of Pi, King Kong, Under the Tuscan Sun, Bobby, American Gangster, Disney’s Bedtime Stories, The Kite Runner, and The Accountant. He also conducted the highly popular ABC TV show Once Upon a Time for 7 seasons.

Mary Beth Woodruff replacement photo sept 2019

Mary Beth Rhodes-Woodruff


Mary Beth Rhodes-Woodruff grew up in Southern California and began studying the violin at the age of 7. She attended high school at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy in northern Michigan. Following graduation, she went on to the New England Conservatory of music and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she majored in both chemistry and music and was awarded an Advanced Music Performance Scholarship. While in Boston, she was a member of the Boston Philharmonic, Emmanuel Music, the MIT Chamber Music Society, and the New England Chamber Orchestra. She attended Carnegie Mellon University for graduate school to study with Andres Cardenes, concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony. After obtaining her Master’s Degree in Violin Performance, she joined the faculty of Biola University Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles where she taught violin, viola, music history, strings literature/repertoire, strings pedagogy, and was head of chamber music studies.

In 2005, Ms. Rhodes-Woodruff left Biola and focused on both performing and teaching privately in the Santa Barbara community. In 2008, she founded Santa Barbara Strings, a multi-tiered string orchestra program for young musicians from age 4-18 serving children from 26 different schools in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Currently, she is Conductor and Artistic Director of Santa Barbara Strings, serves on the MIT Educational Council, is the Santa Barbara Representative for the Royal Conservatory of Music Development Program and has a violin/viola studio of 30 students.