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MSMTA/ASTA Strings Plus Festival 2014

by Judy Silverman

The cafeteria and main classrooms at the Mondzac Performing Arts Center at Landon School in Bethesda were alive with the sounds of strings and piano on March 2, 2014. The Strings Plus Festival, a chamber music festival/competition for strings and other instruments co-sponsored by ASTA MD/DC Chapter and MSMTA was held that morning.

Co-Chaired by Kelly Hsu and Judy Silverman, the Festival attracted 42 ensembles and 120 children performing duets, trios, quartets, quintets, and sextets for strings and (occasionally) piano. Twelve teachers coached participating ensembles: Lori Barnet, Claudia Chudacoff, Helen Fall, Kelly Hsu, Dorée Huneven, Laurien Laufman, Chang Liu, Duck Hee O’Donnell, Jean Provine, Yacov Shapiro, Judith Silverman, and Cathy Stewart. Monitors included Barnet, Chudacoff, Fall, Huneven, Laufman, Liu, Provine, Silverman, Stewart. Gracious hospitality was provided by O’Donnell and Shapiro.

We were delighted to have the following judges who are all fine players and chamber musicians: Evelyn Elsing, Elizabeth Richards, and John Richards.

Groups were placed on the basis of the size of their ensemble and average age of the participants. Music ranged from elementary to advanced and included the following composers: Bach, Mozart, Nelson, Dvorak, Beethoven, Brahms, Shostakovich and Schubert.

It was a joy to see so many children enjoying playing chamber music with one another. Even the youngest groups showed evidence of fine training in chamber music. The oldest groups showed a sophistication beyond their years. One judge, Evelyn Elsing said she was extremely impressed with the quality of playing. Another judge, cellist Elizabeth Richards, said she was hoping to have her students participate next year. A participating teacher wrote to the chairman that all six of her students who played that day enjoyed it so much that they want to do it again next year!

We’d like to express much appreciation to Earl Jackson, Music Department Chairman at Landon School and Paul Scimonelli, Landon School Director of Strings, for making it possible to rent the Landon School for this festival. Paul, an ASTA member, spent the entire morning of the festival helping us with chairs, stands, pianos and much else to facilitate the success of the festival. He commented that the level of playing was extremely high and all the youngsters were wonderful. The Mondzac Performing Arts Center on the Landon campus is beautiful and the rooms are spacious and accessible.

Listed below are the kinds of ensembles that participated.
  Duets: 23 groups
  Trios: 6 groups
  Quartets: 11 groups
  Quintets: 2 groups
  Sextet: 1 group

Photo 1: Co-chairs Kelly Hsu, left, and Judy Silverman, right, in the lobby of the Mondzac Performing Arts Center.
Photo 2: Judy Silverman welcoming youngsters arriving to play.
Photo 3: Parents and students in the warm-up room.
Photo 4: Cafeteria at Landon used as a warm-up room for chamber ensembles.
Photo 5: Practicing a duet.

Photo credits: Dorée Huneven

2014 Strings Plus Festival 1

2014 Strings Plus Festival 2

2014 Strings Plus Festival 3

2014 Strings Plus Festival 4

2014 Strings Plus Festival 5

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