ECU School of Music professor Ara Gregorian, artistic director of the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival, performs on violin during the festival's inaugural winter workshop Jan. 5 - 10. The festival brought musicians from around the world to East Carolina University to rehearse and perform chamber music together. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Winter Workshop draws musicians from around the world to ECU

Jan. 8, 2015

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

Cellists, pianists, violinists and violists from around the world have converged at East Carolina University for its first-ever Winter Workshop.

The workshop, a new component of the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival, features 19 students who were selected from 150 applicants to perform and study with world-class artists – including four who teach at ECU.

The six-day session will culminate in two free public performances, at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 and 4 p.m. Jan. 10, in A.J. Fletcher Recital Hall.

“We are broadening our scope internationally,” said Ara Gregorian, the festival’s artistic director and professor of music at ECU. Participants ranging in age from 17 to 28 are coming from top conservatories and music schools including Eastman, Juilliard and Peabody.

The workshop is unique because of its compact nature and when it’s happening. Sessions like this are traditionally held in the summer, Gregorian said.

Students will go beyond their usual studies to collaborate and plan a public performance in a week’s time – something they may normally have an entire semester to do. Students work side-by-side with professional musicians through rehearsals or master’s classes, getting immediate feedback and gaining new perspective or encouragement.
Winter Workshop participant Mengwen Zhao practices with the ensemble during the workshop.

“Participants get first-hand knowledge on what being a professional musician means,” Gregorian said. “It’s an opportunity to collaborate on some of the greatest music ever written, and to learn to do that quickly, without sacrificing quality.”

Twenty-year-old Amelia “Mia” Dietrich, a violinist and Greenville native, returned home for the workshop. This is her first year at The Colburn School in Los Angeles after studying two years at ECU, and she has studied since the 8th grade with Gregorian.

The week is giving Dietrich the chance to build relationships, network and perform – things that can help launch a career, she said.

“Having the opportunity to interact with the artists is a good way to figure out if we want to do this (professionally) and if we’re good enough to do it,” she said. “It’s really so important for young artists like me, the workshop and the exposure it will bring.”

She will join friends studying in Boston, Chicago and New York whom she met through summer festivals who also were selected for the workshop. “All the schools will be represented and the fact that it’s happening in Greenville, North Carolina is really special,” Dietrich said. “It’s an honor to be a part of it.”

Dietrich said she has watched the Four Seasons festival grow the past 15 years. “I attribute most of my development as a violinist to the festival,” she said. “Four Seasons has provided me with everything I need to succeed.”

Faculty members learn from the mix of musical talents too. “Every time I perform with other people, it’s a learning experience for me,” Gregorian said.

Cellist Amit Peled, professor at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and one of the featured workshop artists, was eager to participate.

“What I’m so excited about is the collaboration with colleagues and to be able to play with outstanding students from all over the world and make music with them,” Peled said.

One of the best lessons for someone embarking on a professional music career is “to sit on stage with veteran musicians,” Peled said.

“There is no better place in the world” for the workshop, said Peled, who has played a dozen years with the Four Seasons festival. “Greenville is such a welcoming community.”

Local families like Jill and Paul Camnitz, who have hosted guest artists at ECU for many years, have two students this week. “We love the opportunity that Four Seasons provides this community in terms of the musical experience and for us, it’s a joy,” Jill Camnitz said.

Since neither are musicians, “it gives us a glimpse into another world that we didn’t know a lot about,” she said. “That’s been part of the pleasure of being involved.”

Organizers hope to offer the workshop each year.

“In many ways this is some of the most important work that the festival does - helping to nurture and shape future musicians,” Gregorian said. “We want to give then as much opportunity as possible to interact with different composers and different musicians.”

Workshop Students
  • Kate Arndt, violin, New England Conservatory

  • Yi-Yang Chen, piano, Eastman School of Music

  • Amelia Dietrich, violin, The Colburn School

  • Ari Evan, cello, Northwestern University

  • Julia Hamos, piano, Mannes College of Music

  • Ieong Cheng Katy Ho, viola, The Julliard School

  • Sahun Hong, piano, the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University

  • Lavena Johanson, cello, the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University

  • Matthew Kufchak, cello, the University of Texas - Austin

  • Orin Laursen, violin, New England Conservatory

  • Andy Liang, violin, University of Texas – Austin

  • Brian Lin, piano, The Juilliard School

  • Javier Iglesias Martin, cello, New England Conservatory

  • Niccolo Muti, violin, University of Texas – Austin

  • Victoria Pan, violin, private studies with ECU Faculty

  • Emely Phelps, piano, The Juilliard School

  • Blake Turne, viola, University of Texas – Austin

  • Mark Yee , cello, the Eastman School of Music

  • Mengwen Zhao, viola, Curtis Institute of Music
Featured Artists
  • David Bowlin, violin, violin faculty at the Oberlin Conservatory  

  • Nicholas Cords, viola, viola faculty at Stony Brook University  

  • Ara Gregorian, violin, distinguished professor of violin at ECU and artistic director of the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival  

  • Emanuel Gruber, cello, professor of cello at ECU     

  • Hye-Jin Kim, violin, assistant professor of violin at ECU  

  • Robert McDonald, piano, piano faculty member at The Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music  

  • Amit Peled, cello, professor of cello at the Peabody Conservatory of Music  

  • Keiko Sekino, piano, associate professor of piano at ECU

Pictured below are images from a practice session during the Winter Workshop.