MATTHEW WARDELL (b. 1983) began his professional career as Music Director and Conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra in 2009, a position he continues to hold. When Matthew was appointed Music Director of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra the Ocala Star Banner declared that, “Wardell brings an impressive resume of musical and conducting training ... Maybe more important than his musical credentials is Wardell’s youthful enthusiasm and unabashed zest ... Wardell is not only a daring and dynamic choice as the Ocala Symphony Orchestra’s new conductor, but a smart one.” On the stage, he has publicly performed nearly 400 works in over 250 live performances including core orchestral works from all periods, concerti for voice and nearly every instrument, extensive pops offerings, film and multi-media works, and the purposeful inclusion of underrepresented composers and pieces. From the pit, Maestro Wardell has led 17 staged productions of large-scale opera, musical theatre, and ballet works including La Boheme, Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin, Cosi fan tutte, Sunday in the Park with George, Carmina Burana, A Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd. Matthew once conducted 2 performances of Puccini’s Tosca with only one day’s notice. The performances were hailed as “first-rate” and “inspiring.” His ability to step in at the last moment was described as a “magnificent feat … when the stakes were high, Mr. Wardell came through brilliantly and proved his mettle.”
In addition to his success on the podium and in the pit, Matthew has led and been responsible for nearly $7 million in private fundraising, over $3 million in grant acquisitions from the local to national level, and the creation and successive renovations of the Reilly Arts Center, a 30,000 square foot Ocala, FL performing arts facility that houses a 700-seat mainstage theatre, the NOMA black box, and the Ocala Symphony Community Music Conservatory.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Wardell received his Bachelor of Music cum laude (2007) at the University of North Florida working under Charlotte Mabrey. Wardell continued his education by earning Masters of Music (2010) and Doctor of Musical Arts (2022) degrees at the University of Florida under his mentor, Dr. Raymond Chobaz. Matthew spent five summers at the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Musicians in Hancock, Maine studying with renowned conducting teacher Michael Jinbo. Wardell has been fortunate to have been recognized as both an Osher and Quimby Family Foundation scholar. He is very proud to be part of the school’s long heritage of forming clear and dutiful conductors and considers Hancock a second home. In addition, Matthew has attended and participated in master classes with Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops and BBC Orchestra, Thomas Cockrell of the University of Arizona, and studied with conductor and composer Peter WesenAuer in Salzburg, Austria.
Matthew is a champion of all kinds of orchestral music. He enjoys programming and conducting core repertoire arm and arm with pops and new music believing that good music is just that – good music. He is a member of the American Symphony Orchestra League and serves or has served on the boards of the Ocala Municipal Arts Commission (OMAC), Young Professionals of Ocala (YPO), and The Centers. In addition to his musical pursuits, Wardell is passionate about being involved in the communities he makes music in. In 2015 was elected to Ocala's City Council - a position he proudly held for 6 years. He enjoys traveling, the good company of friends, and attending Jacksonville Jaguars’ games (even some they win). In 2019, he married the love of his life, Pamela Calero. Matthew and Pamela have one dog, Buckley, who is probably up to no good at this very moment.
“Maybe more important than his musical credentials is Wardell's youthful enthusiasm and unabashed zest . . . Wardell is not only a daring and dynamic choice as the Ocala Symphony Orchestra's new conductor, but a smart one.”
- Ocala Star Banner (July 2009)
"Dr. Wardell is simply exceptional as a musician and an arts entrepreneur. He knows how to strategize and implements solutions for musical communities to prosper."
- José Valentino, Latin GRAMMY® Award Winner, EMMY® Award Winner; Head of Music Business & Entrepreneurship at the University of Florida
“Powerful music filled the air and the audience sat with awestruck expressions as the UF Symphony Orchestra performed Thursday night . . . under the baton of conductor Matthew Wardell"
- Independent Florida Alligator (March 2009)
“[Matt] knows his scores and he knows how to organize and run a rehearsal with maximum efficiency and effectiveness. A large part of his success must be attributed to his fine, very clean, very clear baton technique. As a player I cannot say enough about how wonderful it is to work with such a conductor.”
- Dr. Arthur Jennings, Professor Emeritus, UF School of Music (November 2011)
“Wardell was nothing short of amazing . . . the audience having been taken on a wonderful journey, from death to resurrection.”
- Florida Weekly (January 2013)
“I thought [Matt's] conducting the opera last evening was absolutely superb. From my seat, it all worked perfectly—singers and orchestra completely in sync. Such a complex score handled so masterfully.”
- Dr. John Duff, former Director UF School of Music (April 2016 - Puccini's La Boheme)
“Under Wardell’s direction, the orchestra is bigger. It has its own performance hall. Shows sell out. OSO musicians perform in elementary schools. High school students attend OSO rehearsals.”
- Ocala Star Banner (December 2018)
“I have worked with many Conductors in my 40 years of performing and directing musical theatre and opera professionally and in academia. When I say that Matt is one of the very best, I say this having worked with both national and international conductors. Matt is a talented and vibrant conductor that inspires his orchestra players to do their very best playing in my observation during rehearsals . . . Matt also shows an awareness of current trends and is a true entrepreneur. I always look forward to my next collaboration with him and I recommend him without any reservations as one of the most talented and gifted conductors of our time.”
- Tony Ramirez-Mata, Professor, Head of Musical Theatre, UF School of Theatre and Dance (November 2021)