Performing Arts Highlight: the String Department

Performing Arts Highlight: the String Department

Friends’ tradition of joyful music-making is reflected in the passion and enthusiasm of our outstanding faculty, and in the seriousness of purpose with which our students approach each performance. Music at Friends is a community – a cherished aspect of School life that inspires and connects us to one another and to people everywhere.

The orchestras at Friends offer string music instruction to all levels of players covering a wide variety of musical genres. Five different String Orchestras at Friends meet during the school day. In addition, we have a Fiddle Club, and various Chamber groups that take place outside of the daily classes. An advanced Upper School Chamber Orchestra meets at the end of the school year for intensive rehearsals leading up to our Spring Concert. Every group performs at least twice per year and often times more. 

Our String Department, chaired by Performing Arts Department Chair and Orchestra Director Kirsten Walsh, offers our students many opportunities to make beautiful music together in a variety of ways. Here are some of this year’s highlights. 

Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra

In addition to playing and practicing during the school day, our musicians often nourish their talents in extracurricular programs. Currently, there are six Friends School musicians who also play in the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra (BYSO): Agnes Loper '31, Eleanor Eisenberg '31, Charlotte Andrews '27, Aubrey Guertin '27, Julia Reifsnyder '27, and Oliver Wu '26. As members of the orchestra, the students learn from local professionals and BSO musicians and perform their concerts at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. 

Members of the BSYO ensembles are invited to compete in the annual concerto competition. The concerto competition is open to all members of the BSYO and contestants are "adjudicated on overall impression, technique, tone, intonation, rhythm, ensemble, dynamics, and musicality" according to the audition guidelines. This year, Eleanor Eisenberg ’31 won the competition in the youngest age group of the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra. She will play Vivaldi’s A minor violin concerto on stage at the Meyerhoff on May 21.

Maryland Music Educators Association All-State Junior Orchestra

Our strings musicians are often recognized for their talents. Maryland Music Educators Association (MMEA) hosts a yearly audition across the state of Maryland to select top musicians to participate in an intensive weekend of music rehearsal and performances. Recently, Julia Reifsnyder '27 and Charlotte Andrews '27 were selected for the MMEA All-State Junior Orchestra, which culminated in a performance the weekend of February 17-19, 2023.

Fiddle Club

Friends Fiddle Club has been operating for 10 years and was originally started by student demand. The group meets weekly before school and has evolved into a robust program. There are now two levels that range from 5th grade to 12th grade. In January 2023, 13 Friends Fiddle Club students from the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools attended workshops on fiddling, dancing, and singing at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, N.Y. This was a collaborative effort between Friends School and Roland Park Public School.  Students and faculty studied with Jay Ungar, the composer of Ashokan Farewell from Ken Burn’s Civil War documentary, and many other renowned folk musicians.

Friends School’s music programming is robust across all divisions. We are lucky to have such talented faculty who help our students discover their passions and lead them along their musical journey each and every day.