by Dave Reed
What an outstanding three days it was attending the 55th Annual Michigan Youth Arts Festival at Western Michigan University, May 18-20. It struck me that exactly 40 years ago my brother Robert Reed and I were in the Michigan-ASTA Honors Quartet that performed at the festival. This festival was, and still is an important part of who and what I have been able to do throughout my career. There is inspiration everywhere you turn. Everything you could ever ask for from the arts is represented at MYAF. Best of all, it’s all free to anyone who would like to come and watch, look, listen, and experience the best of what our high school students have to offer (and it’s the only festival of its kind anywhere).
This year’s MASTA Chamber ensemble was Trio Brioso from Grand Rapids Christian High School. Trio Brioso began playing together in 2014. They are coached by Megan Reiter Crawford, with additional coaching from Susan Wiersma Uchimura. Trio Brioso is a featured performer in the 2017 Tuba Bach Chamber Music Festival in Big Rapids, Michigan. In 2015, Trio Brioso traveled to Perugia, Italy on a Sister Cities cultural exchange between St. Cecilia Music Center and Scuola di Musica La Maggiore. There, they performed their own concerts, studied and performed with young Italian musicians, and lived with local families. Trio Brioso performs often in the Grand Rapids area for public and private functions. The members of the trio are juniors Karl Falb, violin, Helen LaGrand, cello, and Mara Logan, piano. All three are high school juniors.
They were coached at this year’s festival by Libor Ondras, Ph.D. Libor Ondras is a viola recitalist, conductor and educator. He began his studies as a recipient of the Slovak Ministry of Culture fellowship to study viola at the prestigious Moscow Conservatory with Yuri Bashmet. To further his career and experience, Dr. Ondras continued his studies at the Academy of Music Arts in Prague, and completed his M.M and D.M.A. degrees at the University of Houston. Among the highlights of his graduate studies years are fellowships at the Pacific Music Festival established by Leonard Bernstein (Japan), the Aspen Music Festival, the National Orchestral Institute (University of Maryland), Encore (Cleveland Institute of Music), and Sir George Solti’s Carnegie Hall Project. Prior to coming to MI, Dr. Ondras served as Director of Orchestras at the University of Tampa, FL, where he also founded and lead Quartet-de-Minaret. Among their frequent chamber music appearances/residencies are such festivals as Haydn International Festspiele (Austria) and Sarasota International Chamber Music Festival.
Dr. Ondras has performed with the major orchestras throughout the US and Europe. He has given lectures and played recitals for the American Viola Society and International Viola D’Amore Society. His research and scholarly writings were published in the Journal of American Viola Society. Dr. Ondras is a Music Director of the Kent Philharmonic Orchestra, Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra, and a guest conductor for the Slovak State Opera. He serves as Director of Orchestras, String Specialist, and Assistant Professor at Grand Rapids Community College.
During the festival, the trio performed at the Welcoming Ceremony, the awards banquet for the Arts Educators of the Year, pre-concert music at the Gala Concert and as the feature ensemble of the Instrumental Showcase. The works they performed included:
Trio No. 2 in e minor, Opus 67 Dmitri Shostakovich
Trio, Opus 70 No. 1, “Ghost” Ludwig van Beethoven
I. Allegro vivace e con brio
La Muerte del Angel Astor Piazzola
A special Thank you to Marshall Music for the loan of an electric keyboard for use for the trio’s performance at the Educator of the Year dinner.
Our MASTA Teacher of the Year, Abigail Alwin (BMA’92, MMed ’08 University of Michigan), was also recognized at the Educator of the Year banquet as well as at the Gala Concert on Friday night. Abigail Alwin has a rich career as an educator and performer. Ms. Alwin is recipient of the Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award which recognizes music teachers across the United States for their leadership, innovation and pedagogy. As Director of Orchestras at Clague Middle School in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, Ms Alwin’s orchestras have been honored to perform at the Michigan Music Conference in 2013, and the 10th Anniversary Opening Collage Concert. Her young orchestras have consistently earned division I ratings at District and State Orchestra Festival, and have received the highest praise for their precision, energy and musicianship. She is proud to be part of a team of educators in the Ann Arbor Public Schools who have been recognized by the Grammy Foundation as well as the NAMM Foundation’s “Best Communities for Music Education.”
Ms. Alwin enjoys teaching as a guest clinician and has presented at the Michigan Music Conference on topic ranging from teacher wellness, string pedagogy, and composing with young musicians. Abby is deeply committed to helping all children have equal access to music education, through her work with the AAPS Comprehensive Outreach Music Program and the Meru Music Project in Meru, Kenya. Her classroom is utilized to collaborate for teacher training at the University of Michigan, and she enjoys mentoring student teachers. She has directed orchestras at the MASTA Strings Camps and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, and as part of a team of educators, represented the AAPS at the Forum 21 Symposium 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden. As a cellist, Ms. Alwin collaborates with local composers focusing on improvisatory and contemporary idioms as well as the folk traditions of the Balkans. In addition, Ms. Alwin is the Assistant Conductor of the Dexter( MI ) Community Orchestra.
Abigail was joined by her mother Anne Ogrin, a retired orchestra teacher in West Bloomfield, and her Assistant Principal Jennifer Daddow.
Congratulations and thanks to all of these participants for their hard work and great accomplishments. I am already looking forward to next year’s Festival and the great talent from our organization.