String Academy fosters young musicians

Marlena Wagschal, 10, plays the first movement of a Vivaildi concerto Tuesday at Bloomington High School South. She has played the violin since she was 4 years old.

Marlena Wagschal, 10, plays the first movement of a Vivaildi concerto Tuesday at Bloomington High School South. She has played the violin since she was 4 years old.

By Alyssa Schor

Amy Lidell wants to be a professional violinist.

Every Saturday, she and fellow members of the Jacobs School of Music String Academy rehearse group pieces. She also meets with a chamber ensemble once a week and attends a private lesson at least once a week.

In between lessons and rehearsals, Lidell said she just practices and practices.

The 18-year-old has been playing the violin since age five, following in the footsteps of her older brother. She began her violin career with the String Academy, which is open to children ages five to 18.

“They made me into a player,” Lidell said. “They have amazing teachers and opportunities for us.”

String Academy violin students, known as the Violin Virtuosi, are preparing for “Whiz Kids,” where they will perform with members of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra.

The concert will take place on Nov. 16.
Virtuosi members will perform a Vivaldi concerto and Kreisler’s “Praeludium and Allegro” with the orchestra. The students play both pieces from memory.

Their first joint rehearsal took place Tuesday night at Bloomington High School South.
Brenda Brenner, co-director of the academy and one of its violin instructors, said the students performing in this concert are of the most advanced skill levels the program has to offer.

These levels, she said, are called master class, violin ensemble and violin virtuosi, which is the highest level.

“We take these kids from the beginning to playing artist’s literature and learning to play not only alone, but together as a chamber ensemble,” Brenner said.

Matteo Vidali, 12, said he has played violin for about nine years.

He said at that time, a family friend told his parents about the String Academy.

“I just like playing music,” he said. “I like the group lessons especially because you get to meet with your friends once a week and play fun pieces.”

Brenner, who has taught students in the academy for 21 years, said a program like this gives these students a creative outlet through music.

“It enriches one’s life,” she said. “It’s something they can do their entire life. It gives them a support group of people who are developing the skill at a high level.”

Brenner said about 110 violin students and about 30 cello students enroll in the program each semester. She said the students become great friends in addition to learning music.

“They love each other like brothers and sisters,” Brenner said. “They really care about each other.”

Nicholas Hersh, music director of the BSO, said he had heard about the String Academy, although he had never heard them play until Tuesday’s rehearsal.

“This is one of the premiere young violin ensembles in the country,” he said. “They are absolutely great. I have no worries.”

Donna Lafferty, executive director of the BSO, said seeing the students perform with the adult orchestra gives her hope for the future of classical music.

“It makes me cry with happiness,” Lafferty said. “It’s beautiful, watching how dedicated they are. These kids are making me believe there’s a really positive future.”

Although the private and group lessons and daily practice is a lot of work, Vidali said he always has fun playing and rarely gets tired of it.

“Sometimes I feel like I want to give up,” he said, “but then the next day I just want to do it again.”

Follow reporter Alyssa Schor on Twitter @SchorAlyssa.

© Indiana Daily Student 2013

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