Settlement Showcases Advanced Study Ensemble Students

Students of Settlement Music School’s Advanced Study Ensemble performed for the first time at the school's newest branch in Willow Grove.

Twenty-two very talented young musicians performed in the Willow Grove Branch of on March 11.

Each year Settlement hosts its Advanced Study Ensemble Recital as part of its Joseph and Marie Field Chamber Music Program. The young musicians, who were mostly in their early teens, represented the most talented and dedicated from the school’s six branches, located in and around the greater Philadelphia area.

The March 11 event was the first time the Willow Grove Settlement branch hosted the Advanced Study Recital, which drew nearly 150 people in the audience.

“It was an outstanding representation by the audience,” Patricia Manley, Willow Grove Settlement branch director, said. “Everybody is welcomed to attend.”

The Advanced Study Recital, like many of Settlement’s recitals, is free and open to the public.

According to Manley, the chamber music program is a major program for the school. In addition to their individual instrument studies, the advanced study ensemble students also meet as an ensemble once a week throughout the year, under the guidance of their ensemble coach.

“They have really excelled in this program,” Manley said.

According to Linda Reichert, who coaches the Benjamin and Carol Auger Contemporary Piano Quartet, most of the students in an advanced study ensemble often opt to continue their musical studies at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia; which was founded in 1924 and has its roots in Settlement.

“They are considered ‘pre-professionals,’” Helen Eaton, executive director of Settlement Music School, said of the advanced study ensemble students.

According to Eaton, Settlement students of all ages and capabilities are encouraged to study chamber music. And, while some of the overall student body continue on to become professional musicians, Eaton said that the school’s focus is rather on helping students achieve personal high expectations.

“The philosophy of the school is getting students together to give them education through music,” Eaton said. “Our job is to provide the highest quality of instruction.”

According to Settlement literature, the school has instructed nearly 300,000 students since its founding in 1908. While a nonprofit, the school does charge a tuition, and grants nearly $2-million a year in financial aid to its students.

Eaton said that students participating in the advanced study ensemble do so through an endowment from a sponsoring donor. The endowment helps to pay for the weekly coach and ensemble time, provides a stipend to the student and reduces their tuition. 

“It’s a gift to be able to play chamber music,” Clare Bradford, 16, said. “This program is wonderful for young students.”

Clare, who has been with Settlement for four years, also takes private lessons with Kendall Yumi assistant principal Cello of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Clare was the cellist in the Myer Schwartz Piano Trio, during the March 11 recital.

As with all the advanced study ensemble students at the event, it was clear they were enjoying the opportunity to perform.

“I can speak for all of us, yes, we love to perform,” Clare said. “We all have the same understanding and are influenced by the music.”

Clare performed pieces from Anton Arensky’s "Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 32," and greatly credited the performance’s success to her ensemble coach Sandra Carlock.

During the recital, the students exhibited passion and, at times, unbridled elation, while performing works by several famed composers, including Sergei Rachmaninoff and Ludwig van Beethoven.

However, one composition performed by the advanced study ensemble students was of particular note, as it was written by one of the advanced study ensemble students.

“I try to fill in a landscape and set a narrative behind it,” Chason Goldfinger, 16, said. “And the piece works itself out.”

Chason, who started at Settlement’s Germantown branch seven years ago, composed "Bitva, Op. 6," which was performed by the Benjamin and Carol Auger Contemporary Piano Quartet.

In his introduction, Chason described his composition in two parts: the first, more powerful section asked the audience to envision two great armies on opposing hills, preparing for battle. The second provided the emotions of a lone soldier overlooking the dead from both sides, “outwardly lamenting, ‘Why did this have to happen?’” he said.

Chason, who also plays viola in Settlement’s Gail W. Snitzer String Quartet, said that this isn’t his first composition to be performed in front of a large audience.

According to a related Settlement press release, Chason composed "Bitva, Op. 6 for Piano Quartet" at 14-years-old. With it, he had become a finalist in the 2010 and 2011 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer’s Award. He has also been featured in the Atlantic Music Festival in Waterville, Maine; the Cleveland Institute of Music; and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

When asked about performing and having his compositions performed in front of large audiences, both in the Philadelphia area and afar, Chason responded with a smile.

“I’ll admit,” the young musician said. “It feels good.”


The March 11 Settlement Music School’s Joseph and Marie Field Chamber Music Program’s Advanced Ensemble recital at the Willow Grove Branch of Settlement:


Gray Charitable Trust Piano Trio

Performing: Trio in G minor, Op. 17 – Clara Schumann

I. Allegro moderato

  • Brenden Zak – Violin
  • Cameron Clarke – Cello
  • Peter Wang – Piano

Coached by Sandra Carlock 


Ann Newman String Quartet

Performing: Two Movements for String Quartet – Sergei Rachmaninoff

I. Romance, II. Scherzo

  • Dora Von Trentini – Violin
  • Arianna Schickel – Violin
  • Christopher Smith – Viola
  • Jeffrey Han – Cello

Coached by Sidney Curtiss


Benjamin and Carol Auger Contemporary Music Ensemble Quartet

Performing: Bitva, Op. 6 – Chason Goldfinger

  • Michael Sha – Violin
  • Jenna Sobolewski – Viola
  • Fifi Yeung – Cello
  • Alison Hsieh – Piano

Coached by Linda Reichert


Gabriel Braverman String Quartet

Performing: String Quartet No. 7 in F Major – Ludwig van Beethoven

Op. 59, No. 1, “Rasumovsky”

I. Allegro

  • Helenmarie Vassilou – Violin
  • Carolyn Semes – Violin
  • Tiffany Laraia – Viola
  • Bradley Berman – Cello

Coached by Sidney Curtiss


Myer Schwartz Piano Trio

Performing: Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 32 – Anton Arensky

III. Elegia – Adagio, IV. Finale – Allegro non troppo

  • Austin Berman – Violin
  • Clare Bradford – Cello
  • Serim An – Piano

Coached by Sandra Carlock


Gail W. Snitzer String Quartet

Performing : String Quartet in F Major – Maurice Ravel

III. Trés Lent , IV. Vif et agité

  • Beatrice Hsieh – Violin
  • Amy Semes – Violin
  • Chason Goldfinger – Viola
  • Zachary Mowitz – Cello

Coached by Sidney Curtiss


The Willow Grove branch of Settlement Music School hosts monthly performance hours, and are free and open to the public. Its next special performances will feature a duo piano recital on April 20 and an Annual Concert on April 29, at 3 p.m.

For more information, visit www.smsmusic.org or call 215-320-2684 to R.S.V.P.


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