Rico McNeela is a faculty member of Missouri Western State University, where he conducts the college orchestra, teaches music classes and gives individual lessons on violin, viola and cello. He comes to Western from the University of Toledo in Toledo, OH. His position there was Director of Orchestral Activities, and he was the conductor of the University Symphony Orchestra. He also teaches studio violin and viola lessons, and coaches Chamber Music. Before joining the UT faculty in the fall of 2002 he taught at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville for eighteen years. He has also taught at Illinois Wesleyan University, and Allegheny College.
His ancestry is Italian, and Irish. He was born in Pensacola, Fl while his father was an officer in the US Navy stationed there as a flight instructor. His first musical instruction began at age three with piano lessons from his mother who was a successful singer and pianist. By the age of six however, he retired from his pianistic pursuits, and at eight years old, and at his own request, began what would become a lifelong study of the violin. Because of his father’s Naval career the family moved frequently during his early years, and his beginning violin studies were with several teachers, and on both east and west coasts. By the time he was a teenager though, the family’s wanderings had ended and he attended Jr. and Senior High School in Norfolk VA where he studied with Dora Mullins (then Short), concertmaster of the Norfolk Symphony, and first violin in the Feldman Quartet.
He holds Bachelor and Masters degrees from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he studied with Paul Makanowitzky, Eugene Bossart, Steven Errante, and Gustav Meir. He also studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music with David Cerone and Linda Sharon.
He has performed extensively throughout the United States as conductor, violinist, violist, and chamber musician. He has conducted ballets for the Arkansas Ballet, and the Toledo Ballet, and opera while at the University of Arkansas. He has performed as concertmaster with orchestras including: the North Arkansas Symphony, the Saginaw Symphony, the Allegheny Symphony, and the Canary Islands International Opera Festival Orchestra. He has also performed in the Toledo Symphony, the Tulsa Philharmonic, the Norfolk Symphony, the Jackson Symphony, the Ft. Smith Symphony, and the New York City Opera touring company.
He has over 30 years experience teaching at colleges and universities, and has a deep commitment to Music education. He conducted the North Arkansas Symphony Youth orchestra for over eight years. and has conducted Regional Honors Orchestras in Ohio and Arkansas. He regularly appears as a guest clinician for orchestras throughout the northwest Ohio, southeast Michigan region.
He spends summers teaching at the Lake Luzerne Music Center in Lake Luzerne, NY, and performing in the Lake Luzerne Chamber Music Festival. In the past he has also served on the faculties of the Allegheny Music Festival, the Arkansas Music Festival, and the Hot Springs Music Festival.
Missouri Western State University and the Saint Joseph Symphony have shared a special relationship for more than two decades. Following a long tradition of cooperation, symphony music director Rico McNeela is also a member of the University’s music department faculty. He conducts the college orchestra, teaches music classes and gives individual lessons to student string players. The Symphony and the University share the salary for the position, allowing the conductor to serve both organizations and enhance the quality of music education and entertainment in the community. A number of University music instructors are regular members of the orchestra. Several members of the University faculty and staff serve on the Symphony’s board of directors, committees and task forces. Many music students work as volunteers in Symphony programs and the Symphony provides free or discounted tickets to all members of the University community. Both organizations continue to develop new ideas to enhance and strengthen the partnership and with it, the arts across our region.