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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 3, No. 39

May 16, 2007 at 4:56 PM

5/13/07 – In 1993, violinist Stefanie Kitts was in a car crash so severe that she was in a coma for three months and her doctors urged her mother to consider removing her from life support. Today, Kitts is married with a new baby, and her 73-year-old mother, Sonnhild Kitts, still teaches 10 hours of violin lessons a day. Stefanie, former violinist with the Gainesville Chamber Orchestra, has not regained her violin abilities, but otherwise, life is good. Very good, reports the Gainesville Sun.


5/13/07 – The Chicago Tribune Sunday magazine contained a brief item about a young Brazilian violinist, Deborah Wanderley dos Santos, who was born into poverty and largely self-taught. When Richard Young, violist of the Vermeer Quartet, was in Brazil performing with Brazilian Alex Klein, former principal oboe of the Chicago Symphony, Klein wanted Young to hear the young woman play. “She was very talented and expressive, but not as developed musically as you usually see in a 19-year-old,” Young told the newspaper. He worked out a deal with North Park University in Chicago: In return for the school giving her a full ride, Young joined the faculty and now teaches dos Santos for free. Young and Klein have since collaborated on a benefit recital in Chicago to raise dos Santos’s living expenses. Her goal is to return to Brazil and teach in a new program modeled on Venezuela’s that stresses classical music as a way out of poverty.

Musician News

6/10/07 - Cleveland Orchestra violist Richard Waugh will undertake a cross-country bicycle ride in June to honor the memory of colleague Charles Barr, a bassist in the orchestra who was killed in a bicycle accident last August. Waugh’s 3,000-mile, 17-day ride will raise funds for the Musical Arts Association, the parent organization of The Cleveland Orchestra, through the endowment of the newly created Charles Barr Memorial Chair. Waugh will leave the Pacific shore at San Diego on June 10 and head for Tybee Island, just east of Savannah, Georgia. The average daily ride will be about 170 miles. Orchestra musicians initiated the creation of the Charles Barr Memorial Chair in the bass section. It is first endowed chair of its kind, as funds will not be coming from a single donor, but rather from multiple donors in the community. To learn more about Waugh’s initiative, visit

5/19/07 – The Prince George (BC) Citizen reports that five professional musicians who were raised in Prince George will perform a special concert, The Boys Are Back In Town. The featured performers include violinists Karl Stobbe, Jonathan Crow and Darryl Strain. Stobbe is the associate concertmaster of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and concertmaster of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. Crow, 29, has been the concertmaster of the Montreal Symphony since the ripe old age of 24. Strain has performed with the CBC Vancouver and Vancouver Symphony orchestras. Hosted by the Prince George Conservatory of Music, The Boys Are Back In Town concert will be recorded live by CBC Radio for later broadcast.

5/13/07 – According to the Aurora (IL) Beacon News, Itzhak Perlman made a point of welcoming a group of beginning violin students onstage with him after a two-hour long recital last week. “The Fox Valley Academy of Music Performance in January began providing aspiring string musicians ages 9 to 12 the opportunity to study and perform music regardless of income. The nonprofit organization is giving these youngsters access to professional instruction, instruments and a chance to perform with an orchestra in an after-school setting at O'Donnell Elementary School on Aurora's East Side….For most of the youngsters, it was their first time in a concert hall.”

5/13/07 – It’s unusual for major newspapers to review youth orchestra concerts, but the Cleveland Plain Dealer sent its critic to the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra’s closing concert. “[Fourteen-year-old] Caroline Goulding played the Tchaikovsky concerto as if she'd been living with the piece her entire, short life. The violinist, a student at Gilmour Academy, easily surmounted the work's technical obstacles, of which there's a bounty. But Tchaikovsky's expressive lines also were shaped, rather than merely executed, with tonal warmth and fine attention to detail. Everything in the violin part could be heard, down to the subtlest trill and quickest flourish. Goulding, playing a 1617 Amati violin on loan from the Stradivari Society of Chicago, had a tendency to rush here and there, but who wouldn't at this age, in this piece? It will be fascinating to hear her perform the concerto in a decade or two, when her amazing abilities go through the natural maturation process.”

5/11/07 – Conductor Sir Simon Rattle’s tenure as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic has been marked by controversy. Read The Guardian’s profile of the maestro for a better sense of Rattle’s goals: “In his five years with the Berlin Philharmonic, Simon Rattle has grappled with conservative critics and the language barrier... What he is attempting is to have it both ways: to open Berlin up as an orchestra in terms of its repertoire and its relationship with the city, and develop the ensemble as the definitive orchestra in the core German tradition. It's not something you can do in five years, or even 10: it's a project that could last Rattle the rest of his musical life."

5/11/07 – The Victoria (BC) Times Colonist noted that Victoria violinist Nikki Chooi, 17, gave a concert in Victoria last weekend before “heading off to two of the world's biggest classical music competitions. He will compete in the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in Auckland later this month and the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, in which he is the youngest violinist and the only Canadian. In fact, he is the first Canadian violinist to be invited to compete since 1962.”

Orchestra News

The Nashville Symphony is hosting a weeklong exchange with the music director and four musicians (all wind players) from the Orquesta Sinfónica de la UNCuyo in Mendoza, Argentina.. In September, four musicians and one administrator from the Nashville Symphony will travel to Mendoza to perform and work with the Orquesta Sinfónica de la UNCuyo. American conductor David Handel, music director of both the Orquesta Sinfónica de la UNCuyo and the National Symphony of Bolivia, proposed the exchange after David English, a Nashville native and entrepreneur living in Mendoza, recommended the orchestra. Handel has performed similar exchanges with the National Symphony of Bolivia between the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the New World Symphony.

5/14/07 – The Great Falls Tribune (MT) reports: “The Great Falls Symphony lost two of its primary musicians in a plane crash. Jennifer ‘Jenny’ Sengpiel and Kyle Mills were not only members of the orchestra, said Executive Director Carolyn Valacich, they were also engaged to be married the end of this summer ... They were killed when a plane they were scheduled to skydive from crashed slightly after takeoff Saturday morning. Also killed in the crash were 28-year-old Troy Norling, the pilot, from Onalaska, Wisconsin; Joel Atkinson, 25, a tandem instructor from Kalispell; and another 25-year-old tandem instructor, Dave Landeck of Missoula ... Tom Little, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said it was too early to tell what caused the crash, but he said it appeared that the plane made a 180-degree turn just after takeoff and was only about 500 feet high before it plummeted to the ground. Valacich said Sengpiel was a principal oboist with the Symphony orchestra and Mills was a principal French horn player.”

5/13/07 – According to the the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, founded in 1974, ran into serious financial problems in May 2005, canceled the last two programs of the season and has been on hiatus since. Now the organization has raised enough money to pay off its old debt. Although the musicians were never paid for the two canceled concerts, many of them will return to play the upcoming program, which calls for a string orchestra of 22."

5/13/07 – According to the Associated Press, President Bush attended the huge Virginia Symphony concert honoring Jamestown’s 400th anniversary. Virginia Symphony Music Director JoAnn Falletta was conducting a 400-piece orchestra made up of Virginia Symphony members and youth orchestra musicians from around the country. “It took [Falletta] a few seconds on Sunday to realize someone behind her was motioning for a try. President Bush. She gave him her baton and stepped aside. Gesturing exuberantly, the president led the orchestra during part of its performance of ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’ ‘We didn't expect him to know the score so well,’ Falletta said afterward. ‘He was not shy about conducting at all. He conducted with a great deal of panache.’ ”

Other Music News

5/11/07 – Finally, some good news from the Telegraph (UK): Classical music's constantly predicted death may be limited to the baby boom generation, if radio listening numbers coming out of the UK are to be believed. According to reports, Classic FM is seeing large numbers of kids under 15 tuning to their station.

From Heather Stewart
Posted on May 16, 2007 at 10:59 PM
Jonathan Crow is no longer concertmaster of the OSM.
From Eugene Chan
Posted on May 16, 2007 at 10:59 PM
Unless there's a meaning of "invited" I'm missing, Nikki Chooi (as good as he is) isn't the first Canadian violinist at the Tchaikovsky in 45 years. Judy Kang represented Canada in 2002.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on May 17, 2007 at 12:22 AM
You should put David Handel's name in bold. He's a violinist, or at least he used to be. He was my stand partner in high school.
From Dessie Arnold
Posted on May 17, 2007 at 5:20 PM
The Charles Barr Memorial Chair may be the first endowed chair of its kind in the Cleveland Orchestra, but not everywhere. We musicians of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic honored our piccolo player, Mary Beth Gnagey, who passed away suddenly in 1995 by mounting a campaign to raise the funds to name our piccolo chair after her. It's very comforting to know that your friend's name will always be associated with the chair s/he occupied.
From Robert Berentz
Posted on May 18, 2007 at 1:55 AM
What a great uplifting group of articles. Good job, I really enjoyed reading them.

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