Spotlight on Agilent
George Yefchak -- A Man of
It can be said that Agilent
Lab's George Yefchak has a reputation for knowing how to play.
And yet, no one can accuse him of not knowing how to conduct
himself. In fact, George has frequently been the center of
attention when conducting others.
George, a Member of Technical Staff in the
Analytical/Medical Laboratory's Chemical and Biological
Systems Department, has many talents and interests, and one of
his more notable talents is in the field of music. George
began playing piano at age six. He took up the clarinet in the
fourth grade, and moved on to the oboe in high school,
continuing to play in various high school and college
ensembles. After a few months in grad school, he had to stop
playing oboe due to time demands. His hiatus lasted seven
Soon after joining HP, George heard about the
Hewlett-Packard Symphony Orchestra and became a member, at
first playing the synthesizer. It wasn't long, however, before
he returned to the oboe. Soon thereafter, the orchestra's
conductor left HP, and George filled in for a rehearsal. He
has been the principal conductor ever since. Dan Dickerman,
with HP, shares the duties as assistant conductor.
George says, "Conducting is really a great opportunity for
me. I actually get to have that experience every week, yet
there are many people working on degrees in conducting who do
not have an orchestra to conduct!"
When George started conducting the HP Symphony, his only
training in conducting was from a high-school music theory
course. He has taken to it quite well, and has now studied
privately with two conductors in the Bay Area. In addition to
actually conducting the musicians, many of his duties involve
organizing rehearsals and recruiting musicians. George also
designs the orchestra’s advertising materials and typesets the
George enjoys all aspects of conducting and notes that
conducting requires very different skills than those used when
performing on an instrument. "You don't have to worry about
whether you can play the notes or if your instrument is in
tune. But on the other hand, there are a thousand other
problems you do need to worry about."
Explaining further, he says, "There is a grammar to
conducting. Certain hand gestures mean certain things, and any
orchestral or band musician knows what they are. The movements
require practice, but once you get to the level where you know
what your hands should do, then the rest of the
responsibilities become a matter of prioritizing -- getting
the brass section to come in together at the precise moment or
making eye contact with the cello player for a solo, and so
forth, while ignoring something else that’s likely to work
well without your help."
The HP Symphony is not the only organization in which
George displays his musical talents. A fellow HP Orchestra
musician asked George to fill in with
Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra
(PACO) one night. That was about six years ago, and George is
still playing with them.
George has been playing oboe with the Redwood Symphony for
about six years as well. This orchestra plays mainly at Caņada
College in Redwood City and frequently attracts an age-diverse
audience of about 300-400 music lovers. One of George's
favorite musical experiences was when the Redwood Symphony
performed at Davies Symphony Hall, accompanying the San
Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. George considers himself quite
fortunate to have been given the opportunity to play at such
an exceptional venue.
The time commitment for three orchestras can be
significant. The HP Symphony has two concert seasons per year.
There are two months of weekly rehearsals per season. Half of
the rehearsals are held during the lunch hour, and the other
half are two-hour sessions held in the evening.
PACO has three rehearsals per concert. As part of the hired
winds, George typically performs in four to five "senior"
concerts per year, plus a few more with some of the younger
The Redwood Symphony is an even bigger time commitment.
With five to six major concerts per year plus children's and
summer concerts, this orchestra schedules three-hour
rehearsals every Wednesday night. Since George's hobbies
include typography and web design, he also serves as the
Redwood Symphony's webmaster and produces their concert
programs and publicity materials. (George designed the HP
Symphony web site but stepped down as webmaster after the
Symphony kicks off their 2000-2001 season on October 15
with a Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Mahler program. Tickets are
extremely reasonable at $12 for adults, and $6 for children,
and can be ordered by calling 650-366-6872 or online through
You can see Maestro Yefchak and Agilent Labs' Russell
Iimura, who plays timpani, at the
"Friends & Family" concert on Friday, November 10, in the
Oak Room, Building 48 at the HP Cupertino site. The theme of
the program is "Music Across America" and will feature the
world premier of "Duplex," a score written by orchestra
manager Herb Gellis. The concert is open to the public at no
charge and begins at 6:30 p.m. More details on the concert are
available on their website.
It's not every technology company that can boast an
orchestral conductor amongst its ranks. Labs is fortunate to
have a diverse workforce who possess amazing talents and
skills. You can learn more about George's interests outside of
work by visiting his website.
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note. I'd like to share your story. With your help, we can
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sense of community that helps make Agilent Labs a great place
October 6, 2000