Masterful musicians

Abbie Ringdahl, 7, left, and Ashlee Hirji, 6, pass a cup back and forth during an exercise as part of a four-day advanced string instrument institute hosted by the Gainesville Suzuki Players. The institute, held at P.K. Yonge School, brings young musicians and orchestra instructors from around the country together.

BRANDON KRUSE/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 5, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 5, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

Classrooms were transformed into concert halls Friday as nearly 100 young string musicians from around the state gathered at P.K. Yonge School for an intensive four-day music education program hosted by the Gainesville Suzuki Players.


If you go

  • What: Gainesville Suzuki and Advanced String Institute public performance

  • Who: Viola, violin and cello players from around the state will perform

  • When: 1:30 p.m. Sunday

  • Where: P.K. Yonge School Auditorium, 1080 SW 11th St.

The Suzuki and Advanced String Institute, which began on Jan. 3, offered violin, viola and cello students the opportunity to train with 12 of the country's most renowned music instructors and conductors.

From 7-year-olds flawlessly plucking "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on violins to college students perfecting adaptations of Mendelssohn and Mozart, every corner of campus was filled with the hum of classical music the past few days.

The workshop will culminate in a concert at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the P.K. Yonge Auditorium that will feature three orchestras and select solo performances. The show is free and open to the public.

"I can't believe they got all of these great instructors to come together," said Hilary Green, a local mother whose 8- and 10-year-old daughters are viola and violin students. Green's daughters, and several other students, had the opportunity to train with composer Terry Durbin, who traveled from Kentucky for the event.

"He's one of the most sought-after clinicians in the country," said Aria Christiansen, a local violin instructor who helped coordinate the event.

The institute also welcomed composer and arranger Michael McLean from California, who was once commissioned for a performance at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II.

Violin and viola masters Almita and Roland Vamos traveled from Chicago, where they currently work as professors at Northwestern University.

"It was a different learning experience," said viola student David Derrico, 19, after a personal session with Roland Vamos. Derrico, a graduate of Buchholz High School, recently moved from Gainesville to New York City to begin his first semester at the Manhattan School of Music. Derrico started playing violin with the Gainesville Suzuki Players at age 4. He learned the viola at age 5.

The Gainesville chapter of the Suzuki Association of the Americas was founded in 1969 by local music instructor Sonnhild Frey Kitts.

The program incorporates the teachings of late Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki, who created the "mother tongue" method of music education. His internationally popular theory applies the principles of language auisition to learning an instrument.

"If young children can speak complicated languages like Japanese at such early ages, they should be able to learn music," Kitts explained.

Suzuki stressed the ideals of parent responsibility, loving encouragement and constant repetition.

In accordance with the Suzuki teachings, Kitts and other local instructors offer lessons to children as young as 3 and 4.

"There's nothing like playing a string instrument for brain development," Kitts said.

Institute director and violin instructor Kim Chalmers said the Suzuki program is especially active in Gainesville because of a trickle-down effect from the academic community.

"Highly educated people want their kids involved in string instruments," Chalmers said.

For more information about Sunday's performance or lessons with Suzuki instructors, contact Aria Christiansen at 262-5101.

Vanessa Garcia can be reached at 352-338-3166 or

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