Anderson University's String Ensemble offers students a chance to hone their musical skills while having fun as part of a group of new friends with similar interests. The String Ensemble is open to both music majors and non-music majors who can read music and have played their instrument for a few years.
About 20 students make up the String Ensemble, which includes violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. They perform several times each semester in Daniel Hall, the highlight a one-hour recital featuring an entire program of string music. At the end of each semester, they combine with the Wind Symphony to create a full orchestra. And it is a tradition for them to play at the First Night Celebration each December and at the university's April Gala.
For a fall 2013 concert entitled "Suite Treats," the ensemble played the "Holberg" Suite by Edvard Grieg, "St. Paul's Suite" by Gustav Holst, and a movement from Carl Nielsen's "Little Suite." Music for spring 2014 will include the original stringed version of "The Barber Adagio."
To try out, students prepare a short selection from a piece they have worked on. They perform for either Joanna Lebo, director of the String Ensemble, or AU music professor Dr. David Stern. "We're open to a wide variety of skill levels," said Lebo. "Somebody shouldn't hesitate to try out because they think they're not good enough." Students selected for the String Ensemble can earn a university scholarship up to $6,000.
The benefits of being part of this group are many. First, students will improve their personal skill level on their instrument. Tips come not only from the director but also from each other in sectionals, which are student-led classes where each section of the Ensemble works on its part. "Students always come back with great ideas learned from each other, like a fingering that might simplify a difficult passage or how to use the bow a little bit better during a fast spot," said Lebo. Second, they will get to know a group of students who develop teamwork and camaraderie as they work together with the goal of performing. "Everybody in class ends up friends by the end of the year," she said.
About the Director
A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Joanna Mulfinger Lebo has a bachelor's degree from Bob Jones University and a master's degree in violin performance from the Peabody Conservatory, where she won the J.D. Van Huylsteyn Award for Academic and Musical Excellence. In addition to teaching violin and viola and directing the String Ensemble at Anderson University, Lebo is the Principal Second Violin of the Greenville Symphony and the Assistant Concertmaster of the Spartanburg Philharmonic. "She really is a very fine, accomplished musician, so to have her as our director is distinctive of our string program," Dr Perry said.
The youngest of 11 children, Lebo began to play the violin at the insistence of her mother, a violin teacher, though it was not until she attended a concert and met the violin soloist that her passion for the instrument was ignited. After her mother's death, Lebo inherited a violin made in 1653 by Nicolo Amati. Her mom had been saving money to buy "a nice old Italian violin," said Lebo. This was back in 1965 in Syracuse, New York. Her mom mentioned to her dry cleaner that she was looking for a violin, and he said another customer had one to sell. This other customer had retired from the Syracuse Symphony and didn't want to make any profit; her asking price was not only what she had paid for the violin in 1919, but it was also the exact amount that Lebo's mother had managed to save. "Old violins like this go up in value astronomically," said Lebo. "My mom would never have been able to afford it if she were charged the actual current value. We view this violin as a miracle that God was bringing into our family in a beautiful way."