SCARSDALE, N.Y. -- Naomi Graf created the Viola Club at Hoff-Barthelson Music School in Scarsdale in 2002. Now, the group is thriving, mature and ready to showcase its expertise in front of the world’s most accomplished and studied violists.
Graf will take eight members of her high school division to perform at the American Viola Society Festival at Oberlin College in Ohio in June. The Viola Club will also perform at Hoff-Barthelson's "Music of Our Time Festival" on May 15 as a prelude to the Ohio trip.
“This is our first time performing at an international festival,’’ Graf said. “It’s quite prestigious. I’m very proud of my students. They've worked hard to practice and prepare for this event. It’s amazing how much the Viola Club has grown. Students from all over Westchester, Chappaqua to Rye, come to participate in the Viola Club program at the school."
The Viola Club will perform two pieces in Oberlin, each about eight minutes in duration. To be selected to perform at the American Viola Society Festival, Graf submitted a video of the students. A committee reviewed the videos and selected just three groups that would be invited to the festival. “I know my students are high quality,’’ Graf said. “Still, it's always a pleasant surprise to be invited. It's a nice feather in our cap to be selected."
One of the pieces that Graf’s students will perform is "Good Working Order", a composition written by Hoff-Barthelson faculty member Conrad Winslow. This piece was commissioned for the Viola Club in 2014 specifically to include multiple level parts so that all ages and levels can perform together. It is quite unique. The high school students will perform a version of this piece at the Music of our Times Festival this coming May.
“It’s been amazing to work alongside the composer,’’ Graf said. “Winslow asked the students for their input and incorporated their suggestions into the composition, such as special effects. He wrote it specifically for the Viola Club. Winslow worked with the students explaining his inspiration and vision of the piece. It’s been an extraordinary experience.”
Graf, faculty member of Hoff-Barthelson Music School where she is also the Director of the Viola Club and Director of the String Chamber Music Program, is an accomplished violist. She received a Bachelor’s degree from The Juilliard School and a Master’s degree from Yale University. She started the viola program 14 years ago with one student. The Viola Club has grown gradually and is now divided into five different classes from pre-school to high school age. The groups combine for special events and performances throughout the year. She now teaches 30 students with multiple ability levels, including one special collection of high school students that is among the best in the country.
“I think they’re a little nervous, but they’re thrilled,’’ she said. “It’s going to be a life changing event to be around the world’s most renowned violists.”
Donations to help defray costs for the students to attend the festival in Ohio are greatly appreciated. Contact Hoff-Barthelson Music School at 914-723-1169 to make a tax deductible donation. More information about the school is available on its website .