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IU Summer String Academy celebrates 25th year

Celebration highlight includes concert featuring commissioned work by William Harvey

WHAT: IU Summer Music Festival String Academy Birthday Celebration
WHEN: Tuesday, June 30, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Recital Hall
TICKETS: $6 students/$12 general public or Festival Pass. For more ticket information, see, stop by the Musical Arts Center Box (101 N. Jordan Ave.) office M-F, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., or call 812-855-7433.

This summer marks the 25th anniversary of Indiana University's prestigious Jacobs School of Music Summer String Academy, which brings together students and renowned faculty from around the world.

Led by Jacobs Professor Mimi Zweig, the Summer String Academy is geared toward serious students ages 12-18 who wish to study violin, viola or cello in an intensive environment. The four-week curriculum began June 20 and runs through July 18 and includes private lessons, chamber music, master classes, performance opportunities and attendance at the concerts of IU's 2009 Summer Music Festival.

Summer String Academy

Associate Professor Brenda Brenner conducts the String Academy Chamber Orchestra.

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"It's very intensive," said Zweig. "The whole purpose of students being here is that they can get a sense of what it takes to pull themselves up to the next level -- hopefully, in a very inspiring way and because they're surrounded by young people who are striving for the same goals."

This year, more than 80 students are enrolled for the academy; they come from throughout the United States, Canada, China, Taiwan, Sweden and France. Past years have included students from Tunisia, Spain, Switzerland, Japan and Korea.

Summer String Academy faculty includes Rebecca Henry, currently at Peabody Music School, who was an initial faculty member; violinist Erin Aldridge, an alumna from the first-ever summer string academy and associate professor of violin and director of orchestras at University of Wisconsin-Superior; internationally known violinist Sarah Kapustin, who was a student in one of the first IU Summer String Academies; co-directors of the String Academy, cellist Susan Moses and IU Jacobs Associate Professor Brenda Brenner, and Chih-Yi Chen, a Jacobs lecturer in piano. Additional faculty members travel from the Liszt Conservatory (Csaba Onczay) and University of Wyoming (Sherry Sinift and James Przygocki).

The nearly dozen master classes offered this summer will be taught by renowned musicians, including Jacobs professors Atar Arad, Henryk Kowalski, Mauricio Fuks, Alan DeVeritch, Mark Kaplan and newly appointed Jacobs Professor of Violin Jorja Fleezanis.

"Graduates of the String Academy end up performing throughout the world as soloists, orchestra members and concertmasters," said Zweig. "As I go about teaching in different places across the country and around the world, I meet people who will say, 'I was at the String Academy 20 years ago.' They talk about how much it meant to them to be here, how it was a life-altering experience to be in the intensive IU environment and to hear their peers playing at such a high level. For many, they say the academy was the inspiration that pushed them to want to be a professional musician."

Summer String Academy

Summer String Academy Director Mimi Zweig (left) works with student Brian Allen.

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An academy highlight will be the String Academy 25th Birthday Celebration, scheduled for 8 p.m. June 30 at Recital Hall. In addition to performances of pieces by Bartok, Sharara, Mozart, Cowell and Rangbaran will be a commissioned duo for violin, Music of Dialogue, by violinist William Harvey in honor of the occasion. Harvey will perform the concert with violinist Erin Aldridge and pianist Cory Smythe, another Jacobs alumnus, who has been associated with the Summer String Academy for 10 years.

Academy students have full schedules during their intensive month living on campus at IU Bloomington. Among master classes, private lessons, four hours of daily practice and chamber music are opportunities to attend Summer Music Festival performances and to work with successful professional musicians.

"Many of the students play sonatas with professionals, which is very important growth experience for them," said Zweig. "The last Friday of every String Academy, every teacher has a studio class recital. The goal is to have every student play something on that day to become aware of the progress made over the four weeks."

Concurrently during the Summer String Academy is a 10-day Retreat for Violin and Viola Teachers that allows attendees including public school teachers, studio teachers and orchestra players to observe the String Academy's approach to teaching young people.

Looking back on the origins of the Summer String Academy, Zweig recalls with amusement and awe how easily she found support for her "brainchild." Inspired by her observations at Meadowmount School of Music in Westport, N.Y., Zweig went to then-Jacobs Dean Charles Webb with her idea to start a program at IU.

"I was totally young and clueless," she said, laughing. "I said, 'Can I please start a summer program?'"

When Webb learned that the program would be self-supporting, he gave her the okay. "It took about four minutes to be born," she said. "I asked him about this years later. He said that if he has confidence in a person, he unlocks the door and lets them do what they can do -- and now that I'm in an administrative role as String Academy director, I try to emulate this philosophy."

About Mimi Zweig

Zweig is a former member of the American Symphony Orchestra, Syracuse Orchestra, Piedmont Chamber Orchestra and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Her teachers include Louis Krasner and Tadeusz Wronski. Since 1972, she has developed pre-college string programs at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and the String Academy of Wisconsin at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and, in 1975, began the Jacobs School String Academy. This school has been the inspiration for many other string programs created in this country and abroad. She has given master classes and pedagogy workshops in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Israel, Japan and Europe.

She has recently produced, an innovative Web-based teaching tool. In the spring of 2006, American Public Television released the documentary "Circling Around-The Violin Virtuosi," which features String Academy students. The String Academy and Mimi Zweig are recent recipients of a Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation grant, which supports the teaching of gifted violinists. Her students have won numerous competitions and teach and perform worldwide.

More Information

For more information about the Jacobs School of Music's summer programs and academies, see For information about the Summer Music Festival, see