The 2013 Chicago Viola Festival: Great Success and lots of Alto Clef

 2013 Chicago Viola Festival Recap

(Highland Park, Illinois) Violists took Ravinia by storm this past weekend to take part in the annual Chicago Viola Festival, a gathering organized by local non-profit music conservatory Midwest Young Artists. Over 50 musicians, 10 esteemed clinicians from as far away as Florida, and seven sponsors offering the highest quality instruments and accessories filled Bennett Gordon Hall, on the campus of the famous North Shore festival on March 17th
The 2013 event brought in new sponsors, almost twice as many attendees, and several new clinicians. Participants immersed themselves in a full day of classes and clinics, which included an Irish Fiddle workshop in honor of St. Patrick’s day, a lecture on the viola compositions of Brahms, and a class just for beginners to name a few. Also on the menu, an unprecedented number of master classes at the rate of almost two per hour. There truly was something for everyone, from beginners to veteran violists.
 The festival concluded with a recital by three festival clinicians, which inspired many of the students in attendance to practice with renewed vigor. Michael Strauss, principal viola of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and assoc. Professor of viola and chamber music at Oberlin, performed Lachrymae by Benjamin Britten. Dr. Katherine Lewis, assoc. Professor of viola at Illinois State University, performed Wild Purple by Joan Tower. Anthony Devroye, asst. Professor of viola at Northern Illinois University and member of the Avalon Quartet, performed the third movement of Brahms's E Flat Sonata for Viola and Piano.
After a splendid lunch donated by Giordano’s Pizza of Evanston, festival goers perused the beautifully crafted instruments and bows brought by local vendors whose sponsorship was integral to the continued success of the festival. One violist in particular was grateful for the assistance of top level sponsor Seman Violins of Chicago. Katherine Brown of Evanston encountered a malfunctioning door lock system that held her viola captive in her vehicle. Even with the aid of several staff and violists, it looked as though her much anticipated master class with Matthew Michelic of Lawrence University would be canceled. Seman Violins stepped in and loaned Katherine a top of the line instrument and bow to use for the day. With the aid of a technician to adjust the instrument and a tuning app on someone’s smartphone, Katherine was right on time and in tune for her one on one with Mr. Michelic on the stage at Bennett Gordon Hall. Said Brown: “I am so thankful for everyone’s help, this is what the music community is all about!”
Violist Katherine Brown made it to her Master Class with the help of Seman Violins of Chicago
Indeed, from the alto clef cupcakes baked by MYA Alum volunteer Rebecca Rudy, to the forging of new friendships and professional endeavors among participants, the Chicago Viola Festival exemplifies the sort of good natured fun and community that the Chicago music scene is known for.
2013 Viola Fest Clinicians :
Kate Lewis: Illinois State University
Erika Eckert: University of Colorado Boulder
Michael Strauss: Oberlin; Principal Viola, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
Anthony Devroye: Northern Illinois University
Charles Pikler: Northwestern University; Principal Viola, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Rami Solomonow: Depaul University; Chicago Chamber Musicians
Matthew Michelic: Lawrence University
Christine Due: ASTA String Teacher of the Year; Private Instructor
Sarah Montzka: Music Institute; Suzuki Faculty
Kenneth Martinson: University of Florida, President: International Viola Society
Midwest Young Artists thanks the 2013 Viola Fest sponsors for their support: Seman Violins, William Harris Lee and Company, Michael Becker Fine Violins, LTD, The Workshop of Eric Swanson, A440 String Specialists, Austin’s Violin Shop, and John Norwood Lee Bows.
Online Registration is available for the 2014 Chicago Viola Festival, which will take place again at Ravinia Festival on March 16th, 2014. Sign up at:, and learn more about Midwest Young Artists at: Find us on Facebook:


  1. THRILLED to know next year's date, I will spread the news! All of us from NIU loved all the offerings this past Viola Day. Something for everyone! So many amazing opportunities with outstanding clinicians. Thanks you!
    Ann Montzka Smelser

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