Choral music has always been an active component of Blackwelder’s musical life and he has led performances of the Downer’s Grove Oratorio Society, Camerata Singers of Lake Forest, Waukegan Festival Chorus and numerous university, church and temple ensembles. Formerly the conductor of the early music ensemble Ars Musica Chicago, he led that group in numerous concerts and recordings over 8 concert seasons. As an accomplished professional singer, he performed frequently under such conductors as Robert Shaw, James Levine, Sir Georg Solti, Claudio Abbado and Margaret Hillis while a member of the Aspen Chamber Choir and Chicago Symphony Chorus.
A former Music Director of the Hinsdale Chamber Orchestra, he continues to attract and delight audiences with fresh, innovative programming and an informal and appealing concert style. Highlights of past seasons include performances with celebrated flautist Carol Wincenc, Metropolitan Opera soprano Nancy Gustafson, Ruben Gonzalez and John Sharp of the Chicago Symphony, and the NIU Philharmonic with soloists from the famed Vermeer Quartet. Guest conducting engagements include the Richmond, Bremerton and Sacramento Symphonies, as well as the Chicago String Ensemble, where he was praised for his “warmly expressive” conducting by Robert Marsh of the Chicago Sun-Times.
A native of North Carolina, Blackwelder was the first undergraduate to receive a Bachelor of Music in conducting and voice from UNC-Chapel Hill. During his studies for the Master of Music degree at Northwestern University, he assisted Grigg Fountain with the Alice Millar Chapel Choir in addition to his duties with orchestral and opera groups. Professional study includes four seasons with the renowned Aspen Music Festival and master classes with Sir Georg Solti, Max Rudolf and Erich Leinsdorf.
Marek holds degrees from Northwestern University, Wayne State University and the Academy of Music in Prague HAMU. He has appeared with orchestras in the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Canada and the USA, and has served on the faculties of Loyola University and De Paul University. He is the Artistic Director of Musica Lumina Ensemble and Conductor/Founder of the Niles Metropolitan Chorus. In four seasons the NMC/ML has performed major works of the repertoire: Requiems of Mozart, Faure, Rutter; the Magnificats of Pärt, Bach and Pergolesi; Haydn’s Creation, Rossini’s Stabat Mater, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, a yearly Handel’s Messiah, and the St. John Passion of J. S. Bach.
Past Music Director of Opera Las Vegas, he accompanied aria recitals and conducted complete staged performances of Puccini’s La Boheme, Donizetti’s L'elisir d'amore, Mollicone’s The Face on the Barroom Floor and a Puccini 150th celebrating operas of Puccini including excerpts from La Boheme, Madama Butterfly, Tosca, Manon Lescaut, Turandot, La Fanciulla del West, La Rondine, and Gianni Schicchi.
He founded the Las Vegas Diocesan Cathedral Choir and the Las Vegas Peoples Valley Chorus which performed Requiems by Faure, Rutter and Brahms, Handel’s Judas Maccabeus, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Vespers, Rossini’s Stabat Mater, Vivaldi Juditha Triumphans and a yearly Handel’s Messiah. As Assistant Conductor of the Elgin Symphony he conducted Young People’s Concerts and performed with Victor Borge; he was also Music Director of the Valley Civic Orchestra and conducted the Elgin Area Youth Orchestras.
A composer of over 100 works, he was commissioned in 1989 for a setting of Psalm 145 for the Papal Mass in Detroit and for a Magnificat by the Lira Singers for their 25th Anniversary. In addition to awards from the Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society, he was presented with the Pulaski Award for his contributions to Polish American Culture. Rachelski enjoys collaboration as recital accompanist for a rich variety of musical artists, both instrumental and vocal.