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UM Music Majors Perform at National Conference

By Erin Garrett

University of Mississippi

University of Mississippi music professor Selim Giray (left) accompanies Ole Miss music students Paola Betanco, Keyu Zheng, Olivia Coyne, River DioLallevi, Linna Zheng and Holly Bleeden, and instructor Christine Kralik at the American String Teachers Association’s national conference in Orlando, Florida. The students were chosen through a competitive audition process to perform at the conference. Submitted photo

Six students in the University of Mississippi Department of Music recently showcased their talent at the American String Teachers Association‘s national conference in Orlando, Florida.

Arranged as a string trio and quartet, undergraduate music majors Linna Zheng, of Fulton; Holly Bleeden, of Chicago; and Keyu Zheng, of Qingdao, China; and music master’s students Olivia Coyne, of Mansfield, Massachusetts; River DioLallevi, of Franklin Square, New York; and Paola Betanco, of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, performed at an all-level chamber music master class session on March 17.

The group was selected following a rigorous audition process against other students from top music schools nationwide. As a result, they made up the only two student ensembles at the event.

Selim Giray, UM associate professor of music and director of orchestral studies, coached the students along with Christine Kralik, instructor in music.

“They performed brilliantly,” Giray said. “It was a great honor for our students to be invited and successfully audition for this. We were proud to represent the University of Mississippi at a national level.”

The ASTA is the nation’s largest organization for string teachers. More than 1,200 string teachers, students and musicians attended this year’s annual conference.

Notably, members of the celebrated Marian Anderson String Quartet led the master class and observed the students’ performance.

Linna Zheng played first violin with the quartet, performing the 1893 piece, “American” Quartet, IV. Finale, from Czech composer Antonín Dvořák.

“The full work was written during Dvorak’s residency in the United States, specifically Iowa, with much of the work’s influences coming from native folk tunes of the States,” said Zheng, who is a student ambassador for the Ole Miss music department.

“The movement we performed is lively and exuberant, with some contrast midway through the movement, and finally ending off with a powerful but energetic ending.”

Zheng and her fellow student musicians rehearsed weekly to prepare for the conference. She said she appreciated the opportunity to get feedback from other professors and students.

“Much work was put in to have the piece sound like the way we wanted it performed, and being able to showcase our hard work definitely feels rewarding,” she said.

“To be able to perform at the national level was not only an opportunity to connect with other great musicians but also a great opportunity to represent our university and the music department.”


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