Throughout his many years as a professional conductor and pedagogue, Dwight Oltman has mentored and nurtured the talents of countless young conductors. Here is what just a few of them have to say.


Ryan Haskins (USA)

Music Director and Conductor of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra

          "I regard Dwight Oltman as one of the most important and influential conducting mentors of my early years. 

           His wealth of knowledge and professional experience is unmatched by most. Dwight Oltman's passion and genuine approach towards teaching the next generation is something that every aspiring conductor should experience at least once in their career. 
         As a student, he was able to teach me effective baton technique/gesture, focus/fine tune my ear-training, and opened my eyes to what true score study/preparation was all about. Dwight Oltman gave me the tools to become an effective and efficient leader on the podium all while allowing me to develop my own musicianship and style.  Whether you are a conductor just starting a career or an experienced conductor who has been in front of orchestras for years, Dwight Oltman not only holds the keys to perfecting your craft but is exactly the teacher that can open you up to experiencing what it truly means to becoming a well-rounded conductor." 

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Thomas Dickey (USA)

2017 SMICI Full Participant

Director of Orchestral Studies, Oklahoma State University

"I greatly enjoyed my time at the first-annual SMICI.  Maestro Oltman is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to conducting pedagogy, technique, and performance practice.  The sessions devoted to psychological conducting, score study and interpretation, video reviews and critiques, and special topics such as ballet conducting and job applications were invaluable.  The musicians were top-notch and responded dutifully to each conductor, and the course was professionally organized from beginning to end.  I shall never forget Maestro and Mrs. Oltman's gracious hospitality and immense kindness, nor shall I ever be able to say enough good things about this course.  I highly recommend it to conductors of all ages and ability levels."


Jessica Wise (USA)

2018 SMICI Associate Conductor

“The Smokey Mountain International Conducting Institute is an inspirational experience filled with many conducting opportunities. It is an honor to work with Maestro Dwight Oltman. His educational influences will impact me throughout my musical career. I had the opportunity to work with musicians from all around the world, including conducting a professional orchestra. This was a valuable experience that I will use towards my profession. “

Jongjae Kim

Yongjae Kim (South KOREA)

2018 winner of the Pierre Monteux Prize

Music Director and Conductor of the Los Angeles Sinfonietta

“I really enjoyed my time at the SMICI. There were opportunities to learn about many topics ranging from career advice, psychological conducting, score study, rehearsal technique, interpretation, video evaluations, critiques and rehearsals with a great orchestra.  
I also received feedback from orchestra members after the rehearsals. Maestro Oltman also demonstrated to us his rehearsal technique based on his professional experiences.
This has been the most unforgettable experience I have ever had in my conducting life. Thank you to SMICI for this great experience!”


JoAnna Cochenet (USA)

Conductor and Music Educator

2017 SMICI Full Participant

"Maestro Oltman was a kind and patient teacher. It was really interesting to also learn about Maestro Oltman's professional experiences and teachers in his class-time with us, including that within the ballet field and as an expert in clarifying some historical music practices. The amount of contact time with professional and responsive musicians was incredibly valuable, and it was a pleasure to be able to work with and learn from such excellent musicians in such a beautiful location."

Jason Seber


Associate Conductor, Kansas City Symphony

"Dwight Oltman is one of the most influential mentors in my life and career. I had the privilege of studying conducting with Mr. Oltman when I was a violin performance and music education double major at the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music. I regularly attended his Conducting Seminar, played in his orchestra, and seeked him out regularly for assistance in my conducting training. Both as my conductor and as a teacher, he was exceptionally inspirational and practical, and his guidance and mentoring helped shape me into the educator and conductor I would soon become.

Mr. Oltman taught me many things, among them how to study a score in great detail, how to dive deep into the composer’s thought process, and perhaps most importantly, how to stay true to the score and the composer’s intentions. He taught me how to efficiently rehearse as well as open up my students’ minds to the full picture of the repertoire we were studying and performing once I became a teacher myself. His disciplined approach to preparation, comprehension, clarity in technique, and professionalism are second to none.

He has continued to serve as a mentor to me throughout my entire career. I will never forget when I had the opportunity to conduct my first Nutcracker, a work that he had led over 800 times with professional ballet companies in Cleveland, San Jose, and elsewhere. I watched him work in the pit one day in Cleveland and I met with him in his dressing room afterwards. He spent an hour taking me through the entire score, pointing out trouble spots for the orchestra, strategies on rehearsing, and some really fascinating elements of the score. When I went for my two rehearsals a few weeks later, everything he said would happen did in fact happen! I was incredibly grateful to have his insight and help as I rehearsed those two days. The success of the performances that followed were largely a result of his guidance.

Now as I conduct 60-70 programs a year with the Kansas City Symphony, I carry with me all the many positive attributes of an effective conductor that Dwight Oltman instilled in me. I am eternally grateful for his training, guidance, mentorship, and friendship."


Larry Strachan (Canada)

2017 SMICI 2nd Prize Winner

Artistic Director, Chamber Orchestra MUSAIC, Winnipeg

”SMICI was a wonderful experience in a beautifully picturesque setting.  Maestro Oltman's teaching was both engaging and forthright.  While reinforcing ideas that I have learned elsewhere he also brought forward concepts and approaches that were completely foreign to me.  I enjoyed the challenges presented and I'd like to thank SMICI for freeing my mind!”

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Hsuan Yu [Alex Lee] (TAIWAN)

Director of Orchestra, Southwestern Oklahoma State University

2018 SMICI Competition 2nd Prize Winner

“I enjoyed so much the time at SMICI as a conductor. I would like to thank Maestro Oltman for his dedicated and fantastic teachings. His knowledge and insight are inspiring and valuable. His wisdom about ballet conducting, music interpretation and conducting techniques truly help us be a better musician and an artist. The opportunity to work with the professional orchestra is another highlight of the program. The time to make music with the excellent orchestra to perform masterworks together is so unforgettable and enjoyable for me. SMICI is really a great program that all conductors should consider.”



Music Educator

2017 SMICI Auditor

"As an auditor, my time at Smoky Mountain International Conducting Institute was extremely beneficial.  I was not treated as a "second class citizen," as I was able to attend all of the events, lectures and socialization as the other participants.  I was able to network with conductors all over the world and learn first-hand from Maestro Oltman.  As a full-time music educator, I do not normally have time to carve out for baton training and technique so this time in the Smoky Mountains was one that I will always cherish.  Thank you, Maestro and the entire institute!"

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Inmo Kang (South Korea)

2018 SMICI Conducting Fellow

Honorable Mention in the 2018 SMICI Competition

“I had a great time at the Smoky Mountain International Conducting Institute with Maestro Dwight Oltman and amazing musicians, and I have gained a lot of conducting skills from Maestro Oltman through his professional experience that how to make the music, beating, and communication with orchestra. As well as, I am interested in ballet music and ballet conducting, I could learn the methods and characteristics of ballet conducting through Maestro Oltman’s over 30 years’ story of ballet conducting. The video evaluation session also helps me to develop conducting techniques. Also, I really enjoyed work with amazing orchestra. Waynesville is one of the best beautiful city in the U.S., and the FUMC has an amazing concert hall with incredible acoustics. I really enjoyed the nature and the institute, and I think that SCIMI is one of the best conducting institute in the U.S. for conductors.”


Lester Kong (Singapore)

2017 SMICI Winner of the Pierre Monteux Prize

Music Director, Macpherson Philharmonic Orchestra

"My time at the SMICI was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had in my conducting career. 
I gained much insight from Maestro Oltman, especially on how he listens to baroque and classical works and how one should try to deliver this in its purest form. 
This is an institute that is conducive, challenging yet supportive to conductors who want to continue to grow in their knowledge and skills. I personally benefited from the techniques that Dwight openly shared with us and apply it whenever appropriate. The opportunity to conduct and work with the wonderful orchestra was definitely the highlight of this Institute. It is an experience that conductors will definitely look forward to and they will benefit tremendously from such an interaction with these professionals."