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Editor's Weekly: Chamber music makes connections

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 27, 2011 - Last week, the Beacon reported on some extraordinary local teenage musicians who earned national recognition at the Fischoff chamber music competition.

If you're wondering what the future might hold for such dedicated students, check out the new Gesher Music Festival of Emerging Artists this week. Among the performers are three women - Sara Sitzer, Tessa Gotman and Jeanine Markley -- who once were part of the same local programs that produced the Fischoff award winners.

I knew these young women when they were in high school because my own children were involved with them in the Community Music School's prep program and the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. These two invaluable local resources help aspiring musicians get the coaching and practice they need to succeed as professionals while also serving the interests of those who will always remain amateurs.

Sunday at the Gesher festival's kickoff concert, it was fun to see that the women still exude the enthusiasm I remember from high school while displaying the prodigious skill they've developed over a decade of intense study.

Sara's mother, Kathleen Sitzer, organized the festival as an outgrowth of her work at the New Jewish Theater. She had noticed a relative dearth of chamber music in St. Louis County and leaned on Sara for musical expertise as artistic director.

Sara has been playing with the New World Symphony in Miami, which helps some of the nation's finest young musicians make the transition from conservatories to careers. Sara recruited Tessa, who will start a job this fall with the Phoenix symphony, and Jeanine, who is headed to an orchestra in Copenhagen. The festival also features several other musicians and composer George Lam, whose unaccompanied cello work will premiere here.

Gesher means bridge in Hebrew, and the festival showcases the bridges that connect Jewish music and themes to classical music. At Sunday's concert, I was thinking of other bridges - the bridges St. Louisans have built to carry teenagers' dreams to reality, the bridges that bring their talents home again for us to enjoy.

(Editor's note: The Beacon is involved with the Gesher festival through a cross-promotional sponsorship agreement that led to creation of audio interviews with the musicians. Independent of the sponsorship agreement, the Beacon also reported in arts coverage on creation of the festival.)

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