Weekender

Central Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association Family Concert aims for education, entertainment

Penn State School of Music student volunteer Akina Kondoh helps children with a quiz that’s part of the Central Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association concert.
Penn State School of Music student volunteer Akina Kondoh helps children with a quiz that’s part of the Central Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association concert. Photo provided

The Central Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association and the Penn State School of Music will present their annual Family Concert on Aug. 13, with piano and violin solos, piano duets and a trio of piano, violin and cello. Featured musicians are pianists Cecilia Dunoyer and Kristin Stephenson, violinist Juliette Greer and cellist Jonathan Dexter.

Each year, CPMTA’s goal is to bring Carnegie Hall-style performances to the community and make them affordable for everyone. As in previous years, there will be introductions to each piece and a music quiz to help children learn and stay focused throughout the concert. Local businesses have donated prizes to be awarded to children who complete the quiz. Music teachers and advanced students will be on site to mentor the youngsters with the quiz.

“Over the years, we’ve listened to and have appreciated the audience’s feedback, and we keep adjusting and improving to make the concert enjoyable for everyone,” said CPMTA member Fang-Mei Chu. “Their suggestions helped us bring variety to the program and keep it interesting. This event is not only a learning opportunity for the children, but also a learning process for us as organizers.”

The music quiz approach is one of the CPMTA’s highlights in educating the children, Chu said.

“When our association president, Wendy Bachman, attended the state conference and shared with other chapters what we did for the community, they were very impressed with our idea and effort,” Chu said. “I feel very blessed to meet and work with such passionate musicians who care so much about our community, especially our children.”

Featured violinist Greer has won Nittany Valley Symphony’s Ann Keller competition twice and performed with the symphony. She also won the Concerto competition at Williamsport and performed with the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra. In 2015, Greer won the Music Teachers National Association’s state level competition and represented Pennsylvania to compete with winners from 12 other states in the Eastern division.

“Her mother, Cecilia, is a very passionate pianist, has devoted so much effort for the Central Pennsylvania Youth Orchestra, and she brings great opportunity to music students in our community,” Chu said. “She will not only accompany Juliette for the violin performance, she will also play piano solo plus two-piano pieces with our original pianist Kristin Stephenson.”

Music has always been the center of Greer’s life and her family’s life. At 17, she is the youngest performer to have ever been invited to perform for the CPMTA Family Concert.

“I wanted to play the violin when I was 3, and started at 4,” she said. “I’ve been studying with Max Zorin, Penn State faculty, for four years and Daniel Han of the Philadelphia Orchestra.”

Dunoyer has been involved with CPMTA for more than 15 years and has performed in France, Scandinavia, Austria, Argentina and Mexico.

“Some of my most joyful performances have been those shared with my children, and especially most recently with Juliette, who is one of the most expressive musicians I have played with,” she said.

One of Greer’s highlights of the evening will be a piece by the violin virtuoso, Pablo de Sarasate. She will also play a movement of J.S. Bach solo unaccompanied Violin Sonata no. 2 in A minor. With her mother and cellist Jonathan Dexter, Greer will perform Anton Arensky’s Piano trio.

For this concert, Dunoyer will perform a variety of pieces, which shows off the many roles a piano can play in music.

“I will play some solo works by Chopin and Rachmaninoff — great Romantic repertoire for the piano that speaks to all audiences,” she said.

Dunoyer will be joined by violin and cello in performing work by Arensky, a Russian romantic. These melodies are passed from violin to cello, and to piano and back and forth.

“I will accompany Juliette in the spectacular Fantasy on themes from Carmen, where violin virtuosity is in full display around the Carmen tunes that we all know and love,” Dunoyer said. “We’ll end with two pianos dancing — or dueling — with humorous light pieces for two pianos, which should put a smile on everyone in the audience.”

Stephenson has been a member of CPMTA since she moved to State College four years ago.

“I’ve been performing almost all my life, since I played in my first recital when I was just 4 years old,” she said. “This will be the fourth annual Family Concert that I’ve performed in for CPMTA.”

Stephenson attended the New England Conservatory Preparatory School during high school, received her undergraduate degree from The Juilliard School, and recently completed her doctoral degree in piano performance at Penn State.

She will perform a solo piece by Francis Poulenc, one of her favorite composers for his lyrical melody and colorful harmony. She said she’s also excited to perform pieces for two pianos with Dunoyer.

Organizers believe that a musical event such as this brings a community together, as there is a genuine exchange between the performers and the audience.

“It may ignite an interest in children who may otherwise never have been exposed to a performing art,” Dunoyer said. “For those who already study an instrument, it gives them the chance to witness firsthand what their practice and lessons can lead to; therefore, be a great motivating experience.”

“We’ve designed the program to be educational for everyone, and children in particular,” Stephenson said. “Not only will they learn facts about the pieces on the program, but they will also be encouraged to listen attentively and discover what makes the music beautiful and communicative.”

Dexter will perform the first movement of Anton Arensky’s piano trio. Dexter played Arensky’s quartet at Music at Penn’s Woods music festival two months ago and is glad to be playing more music by the composer.

“I hope that this concert inspires more youth and that parents and students enjoy his work as much as I’ve enjoyed practicing it,” he said. “In the future, I’d like to see State College continue to be as active in the arts as it already is due to continued efforts by people like Cecilia Dunoyer and the CPMTA.”

“I hope that everyone has a good time, and that folks realize the magic of witnessing a live performance — music created in front of you — and an event that cannot happen again,” Dunoyer said. “We hope that the welcoming atmosphere combined with a compelling program, showing different combinations of instruments and performers, will make families want to attend more live music, which is very accessible within the PSU School of Music all year around.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: Central Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association Family Concert
  • When: 7 p.m. Aug. 13
  • Where: Esber Recital Hall, Music Building I, University Park
  • Info: fangmei_chu@yahoo.com
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