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The Eastman School of Music will host the prestigious 40th International Viola Congress from May 30 to June 3. Though the Congress will not be held until next month, the selection process began in 2010 when the former president of the American Viola Society Juliet White-Smith personally invited the Eastman viola department to present a bid.

This is a competitive application process, “sort of like cities bidding to host the Olympics,” according to Phillip Ying, associate professor of string chamber music at Eastman.

This is not the first time that Eastman has held the Congress, having hosted the fifth International Viola Congress in 1977. This is, however, the first time the Congress is hosted by a repeat venue.

The theme of this year’s Congress will be “What’s past is prologue,” a quote from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

“I am confident that they will leave here with marvelous memories and a renewed appreciation for Eastman,” Jamal Rossi, executive associate dean at Eastman, said.

The Congress will consist of acclaimed international violists ranging from orchestra principals to up-and-coming star students. It will be a five-day-long consortium with around 20 performances as well as 40 or more discussions, lectures and master classes.

Student viola choirs from Eastman, the Beijing Central Conservatory, University of Michigan and SUNY Potsdam will perform at the Congress banquet and daily morning wellness sessions.

“This is essentially a world-class music festival centered around the viola,” Associate Professor of Viola at Eastman Carol Rodland said.

Rodland believes this is a very special opportunity not only for Eastman, but also for the Rochester community as a whole.

“It will benefit our students, as it brings the superstars of the viola world to our doorstep,” she said.

The Congress will also benefit the Rochester community because all events will be open to the public.
There will be collaborations with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra for two concerts as well as with WXXI for a live radio broadcast.

Furthermore, viola makers, bow makers and other related vendors in the industry will make an appearance with  exhibit tables for participants to explore.

Another part of the Congress is the Young Artist Competition for violists ages 16 to 22. Contestants who have previously applied were chosen to compete by an independent panel of judges. Each contestant that applied was given a number to ensure that the judges did not know the identity of any of the applicants. Twelve semi-finalists have been selected to compete on Saturday, June 2.

Two Eastman students — junior Molly Goldman and senior Samuel Pang — were chosen to advance to the live rounds. Each contestant in the live rounds will perform a piece by David Liptak, an Eastman faculty member. Prizes include the Benoit Rolland Award as well as significant cash prizes donated by The String House of Rochester, Signorelli String Instruments LTD and Nocon and Associates.

All Congress events are open to the public. For a roster of musicians and a schedule of events, visit

Rosenthal is a member of the class of 2012.

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