About Us – Music Directors

Catherine Birke

Nassau Symphony Orchestra | Music Director

Catherine Birke is an accomplished violinist who holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Temple University (where she studied with co-concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, William DePasquale), a Master of Music degree from the University of the Arts, and an Advanced Certificate in Music Theory from Berklee College of Music. Birke is currently on the faculty of the Herricks School District, where she is the High School Orchestra Director and conducts four thriving string orchestras. Her ensembles consistently earn the highest rating of “Gold with Distinction,” at the NYSSMA Major Evaluation Festival, as well as other regional festivals and competitions. Under Birke’s direction, the Herricks High School Chamber Orchestra won 1st Place High School String Orchestra in the American String Teachers’ Association (ASTA) 2018 National Orchestra Festival, held in Atlanta, GA. Other recent credits for the Herricks HS Orchestra program include a 2018 performance at the NYSSMA All State Winter Conference, and 3rd Place finishes in The American Prize competition in two categories in 2019: High School Orchestra Performance and The Ernst Bacon Prize for Performance of American Music.

Birke’s small chamber ensembles at Herricks consistently earn high honors as well, including annual participation in the Long Island String Festival Association (LISFA) Chamber Music Festival and the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society’s Young Musicians Program (YMP) competition. As part of YMP in 2018, the Herricks Cello Quartet gave the NYC premiere of Bryan Wysocki’s piece, “reOrient,” at Alice Tully Hall. In 2019, the Herricks Cello Quartet and the Herricks Clarinet Trio, both coached by Birke, participated in the Music for All (MFA) National Chamber Music Festival held in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Birke is the Director of Strings at the New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA) School of Orchestral Studies, an intensive residential summer program for advanced high school musicians co-sponsored by the Philadelphia Orchestra. At NYSSSA, Birke directs the String Orchestra, teaches sectionals for the Symphony Orchestra, and oversees all string chamber music. In addition to serving as a regular string sectional coach for the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (MYO), she spearheaded the MYO Summerfest, a fully virtual chamber music-based program, as Artistic Director in 2020. Mrs. Birke is an adjunct faculty member at Hofstra University, currently teaching undergraduate String Methods and Independent Study in Violin Pedagogy.
She is a sought after Guest Conductor, most recently conducting the 2019 NYSSMA Zone 13 Area All-State Junior High School Orchestra and the 2018 NYSSMA Zone 9 Area All-State High School Symphony Orchestra. She maintains active membership in numerous professional organizations and has served as both an orchestra chairperson and a Vice-President on the Executive Board of the Nassau County Music Educators’ Association (NMEA). When she is not teaching, Birke can be found playing violin with numerous orchestras and opera companies in the NY metropolitan area, most notably the South Shore Symphony (Concertmaster) and Long Island Lyric Opera (Concertmaster). She has played under such conductors as Charles Dutoit, Russell Stanger, Luis Biava, John Douglas, and Scott Jackson Wiley.

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