By Lorin Enns
Violists from around the valley attend workshops, observe master classes, and showcase pieces at the annual ASTA viola fest. Photos by Lorin Enns.
The Nevada chapter of the American String Teachers Association held their annual “Viola Fest” at Coronado on Saturday, Jan. 27. The event is a day dedicated to the viola and all those who play it. Student violists from around the Las Vegas valley gather every year to improve techniques such as bow control, shifting, vibrato, and take advantage of the opportunity to have questions answered by skilled viola professionals.
“I met a lot of new people there, and it was a lot of fun,” Ben Boyle, freshman, said. “It’s important to have violas come play together because we have at least one thing in common.”
Upon arrival, students gathered in the theatre to meet and become acquainted with violists from other schools and to map out their classes. Courses varied based on skill level, allowing students to participate in workshops with people of the same skill set. After lunch break, players returned back to the theatre for a performance by a guest violist, UNLV’s Prof. Kate Hamilton, who has nearly 50 years of experience under her belt.
“Like any other group, [playing viola is] a shared passion,” Prof. Hamilton said. “I think [playing together] is very inspirational for young players.”
Aside from preparing various “Star Wars” pieces following the theme of the event, three student performers of varying skill levels were pre-selected by their teachers to participate in a master class with Hamilton. Each violist played a preselected piece for the entire group and received a critique. Prof. Hamilton walked them through their mistakes, allowing them to make changes, and teaching them as her teachers had for her.
“Anything I see the young students do, I was doing too at that age,” Hamilton said. “When I see a student not holding the bow well, I did that too. Someone showed me, and I just pass it on.”
A performance for friends and family rounded out the day, each group playing an arrangement from “Star Wars.” New friends gathered on the stage in their viola fest t-shirts, bringing the day to a bittersweet end.
“Viola fest this year was awesome,” Mr. Watson, orchestra director said. We had 99 violists come. I think a lot of kids got inspired.”