An adventuresome string chamber ensemble, the Fairfax County-based Virginia Virtuosi is making itself known to diverse audiences of all ages in varied venues throughout Northern Virginia and well-beyond.
Founded only a few years ago, the Virginia Virtuosi has partnered with the Virginia Commission on the Arts and its Touring Assistance program, the Arts Council of Fairfax County and its Creative Arts Program and local Fairfax County parks to bring a unique music education style to children and families.
“The touring assistance program is designed to ensure that all Virginians have the ability to enjoy high quality performances by our state’s finest touring artists,” said Foster J. Billingsley, Executive Director, Virginia Commission for the Arts. The performers are selected based upon their artistic quality and “the ability to provide inspiring, entertaining and educational programs for the citizen’s of Virginia.”
Only a few months ago at Green Spring Gardens the group had a very interactive performance for families called, “Concerto for Basketball.” The event included audience participation with key use of the sound effect of a child dropping a basketball. The group was even dressed informally, some in basketball attire to take away any stuffiness.
“There is nothing better than the joy in taking your children to a park and seeing great entertainment,” said Judith Pedersen, Fairfax County Park Authority.
The Virginia Virtuosi also performs “Rhythms from Around the World” playing music from countries such as Argentina, Kenya, Japan, and Spain to teach about the elements that make world music unique. Another performance is “Animal Rescue: A Musical Adventure!” using musical call and response with the audience to help rescue imaginary animals in all sorts of peril.
According to Centreville native Mark Bergman (bass), the group set out “to educate and excite about the classical music tradition” and in an interactive manner. “Telling is not teaching ... our goal is creating an environment that fosters connection and understanding.”
“Young audiences are great because they respond to music in a natural, uninhibited way. They haven’t been taught that classical music is supposed to be ‘serious,’” added Bergman.
The group has expanded its musical repertoire to not only schools and parks, but also to families and adults at community centers and concert halls throughout the area, indicated Nancy Jin (violin), one of the group’s founding members.
“A lot of times, the songs we play are recognizable folk songs or classical music that has been popularized by the media (movies, commercials, etc). It’s always fun to have the kids guess what song we just played!” said Jin, a native of Fairfax.
For Vienna resident Marta Howard (viola), “The educational programs we perform involve the audience in active listening: We will give them an idea of something to listen for during one of the short pieces and expand on that as the program continues.
“There is an endless range of color and style in classical music. There is definitely something for everyone, and I am thrilled whenever I learn that my performances were a stepping stone for someone’s wider musical discoveries,” added Howard.
Next up for the Virginia Virtuosi Concert Trio is an adult-focused performance at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia in a celebration of songs of freedom.
“We want to support local, regional and national artists ... Virginia Virtuosi has a great reputation for quality, so it was a natural fit for us,” said Dan Kirsch, Cultural Arts Director, Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. The performance is open to JCCNV members and non-members.
One of the several works to be played will be a piece written by Ferdinand Hiller, a close friend of Beethoven’s. The piece is one of yearning melodies, like a journey. Another piece will be French composer Darius Milhaud’s “The Creation of the World,” a work that may remind listeners of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” but pre-dates it.
“I believe humans need music; that is why it has stood the test of time ... Being able to connect to another person’s emotions by interpreting notes on a page, this is the gift that musicians offer to our world,” said June Huang (violin) of the Virginia Virtuosi.