Violapalooza 2016

Violapalooza 2016 in Kalamazoo

By Karin Loberg Code


MASTA Outreach Grant helped fund a successful event for area high school viola players. Violist Katrin Meidell from Ball State University was invited to Kalamazoo on Saturday, February 13, 2016 for a full-day workshop, master class, viola choir coaching and concert with eighteen West Michigan-area high school violists and a few eighth-graders. The event took place in the beautiful Light Fine Arts Building on the campus of Kalamazoo College.

The day began at 9:45 am with stretching and yoga for string players. Karin Code led the initial read-through of several viola group pieces that were being prepared for the afternoon concert. After that relatively short rehearsal, three of the students were invited to play a solo with piano accompaniment for Dr. Meidell in a master class format. She reviewed some important technique challenges that violists have to tackle including finding bow weight from the back, engaging your bow pinky, and how to approach left-hand position and chords.

After the master class, students were able to spend some downtime having lunch and talking with the faculty about various musical and non-musical topics. A lecture on the anatomy of hearing and hearing health was presented by Dr. Meidell as a powerpoint. The students were very engaged as they learned the implications of not protecting their ears in many various situations including playing viola! Dr. Meidell has a special mission to help students protect their ears for a lifetime of non-assisted hearing. She recommended the website for simulated hearing loss examples.

A short faculty viola recital was then presented. The students were presented with the music of Elliot Carter, Paul Hindemith and Rebecca Clarke–all twentieth century pieces. We had break-out sectionals which employed the talents of two additional area professional violists and a final group rehearsal before presenting our festival concert in Dalton Theater at Kalamazoo College. The featured work was J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto Number 6, movements 2 and 3. After many weeks of preparation in the private teachers’ studios, the performance was quite unforgettable. We included the two original viola da gamba parts, transcribed for viola, and the continuo part was played by pianist Gunta Laukmane and cellist Luke Cook. There were other notable works performed by the choir including several by fellow violist, Michael Kimber and a charming yet challenging six-voice arrangement of Mr. Sandman by CSO violist Max Raimi. Dr. Meidell graciously assisted us on various voices. Our 2016 Violapalooza ended around 4:40 PM.

A big thank you to MASTA’s Outreach Grant Program for making this opportunity available to us and our students in Western Michigan. Hopefully, we can continue this event in years to come. You can check our website at to check on updates.

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