Monday, June 3, 2019

Suzuki Strings 36th Annual Spring Concert

It was an emotional evening as we paid tribute to our founder and long time director, Sara Penny, who is stepping down from her role after 36 years. Lindsay Szczesny shared these heartfelt words:
"36 years ago the Suzuki Strings of Cedar City held their first spring concert. What a joy it has been too see this program flourish for all these years. Sara Penny's vision, leadership, fortitude, musical wisdom, good sense, and ultimately her love for children has made this program possible.
"She was inspired by the philosophy of Dr. Suzuki, who believed that every child can learn to play beautiful music if given a nurturing environment and effective teaching. Against all odds Sara Penny ran with that philosophy and started Suzuki Strings to complement what was happening in private lessons. She herself gained Suzuki teacher training by going to music workshops and institutes.
"Sara has been the first to teach hundreds of children to hold a bow for the first time- with the bent thumb and curved pinky. Sara thinks big and makes big things happen, but she knows it happens in the little things like writing a blog post, sending an email, scheduling a building... or in a curved pinky.
"With gratitude we say we love you. Thank you!"

The students played a beautiful concert.  Thank you to all who participated, students, teachers, pianists and family.  We love you and appreciate all of your support.  We are looking forward to seeing you in the fall!  Have a great Summer!  

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Survey Link

At our Suzuki Strings group program, we always strive to provide the best possible experience for you and your student. We enjoy and have enjoyed having you as a part of our Suzuki Strings family.  Whether you have been involved in the past or are presently enrolled, we would invite you to take a few minutes to complete a short survey about our program.  Please click the link below:

Survey 2019

We look forward to your responses and very much appreciate you taking the time to give your honest feedback.

Best regards,
The Suzuki Strings Team

Rocky Mountain Strings Perform with Suzuki Strings in Cedar City

Rocky Mountain Strings, a performing group based in Salt Lake City, came to Southern Utah and performed with the Suzuki Strings on April 25th, 2019. It was a delightful evening with impressive artistry and musicianship shown in each selection.

The evening began with the Mack Wilberg arrangement of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing featuring the local Red Rock Singers and the guests playing the 2-part violin accompaniment arranged by Michael McLean. Steve Meredith directed the ensemble.

Steve Meredith conducts Red Rock Singers and Rocky Mountain Strings 

Photos by Desmond Penny

The Rocky Mountain Strings then played the following pieces:

Millionaire's Hoedown by Herman Clebanoff

Salut d'Amour, Op. 12 by Edward Elgar
Introduction and Polonaise, No. 12 by Carl Bohm

Caprice No. 24, Op. 1 by Niccolo Paganini
Navarra, Op. 33 by Pablo de Sarasate

Csardas by Michael McLean
Greatest Showman Medley by Benji Pasek and Justin Paul, arranged by Michael McLean
Danse Hongroise, Op. 6 No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninov

Then the Suzuki Strings, both past and current, joined the stage to play with the Rocky Mountain Strings for the following songs. A small adult ensemble joined to accompany the final three pieces.

Concerto in A minor, 1st Mvt by Antonio Vivaldi
May Song, a folk song
Long Long Ago, a folk song
Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, 1st Mvt by Johann Sebastian Bach

Photo by Gary Arnell

The evening was a tremendous success and the audience was held captive by the heartfelt music. 
Thanks to all who attended and performed!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Concert with Young Artist Chamber Players and Suzuki Strings Cedar City

Thanks to everyone involved with the April 13 concert with the guest musicians from Salt Lake City. Special thanks to Jack Ashton for his dedicated service to music throughout the state and inspiring leadership. 

Videos links to performances:

Spring by Vivaldi, 1st movement, with combined orchestras

Attack on the Windmills by Don Quixote by Telemann

Minuet 3 with minor section

Corrente by J. S. Bach

Solitude on the Mountain performed by Young Artist Chamber Players

Concerto for Two Celli, Allegro, by Vivaldi

Suzuki Strings students, teachers, and pianists at April 13 concert
Jack Ashton with our Suzuki Strings Cedar City teachers

Young Artist Chamber Players at the concert directed by Jack Ashton

Recognizing soloists for Vivaldi Spring Concerto

Violins rehearsing

Violists rehearsing

Rehearsal for Spring Concerto by Vivaldi

Lindsay Szczesny introducing the concert

Amy Gold leading the group pieces in rehearsal

A little piano break between rehearsal and performance

Students enjoy treats between the rehearsal and concert.

Recognizing the soloists for Vivaldi Spring Concerto

36th Annual Spring Concert

Suzuki Strings Presents Spring Concert May 2
By Lindsay Szczesny

The Suzuki Strings will present their 36th annual spring concert on Thursday, May 2 in the Thorley Recital Hall (SUU Music Building) at 7:00 pm. A $5 donation is appreciated.

About three decades ago, Sara Penny moved back to her hometown of Cedar City with her young family. She had a degree in journalism, but soon found her passion for teaching music. While teaching violin to college students at SUSC, she realized that many of their technical difficulties could have been addressed when they were beginners. The popular Suzuki method outlined an approach for helping children learn to play instruments beautifully from a young age, and Mrs. Penny sought training in the method and began teaching local children to play the violin. Penny collaborated with another violin teacher, Shannon Pointer, who had actually studied with Dr. Suzuki in Japan, and they started teaching a group class for young violinists.

Over the years, Suzuki Strings of Cedar City has provided wonderful opportunities for kids from Southern Utah to play string music together in weekly group classes. Their first song is often Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and eventually they learn to play difficult concertos. As teenagers, these students are also usually involved in their school orchestra programs and take private lessons, too. Of course, a giant benefit is the friendships that develop amongst the students.

The upcoming Spring Concert features all the students involved in the program, from very young beginners to advanced players. The audience will enjoy selections by Bach, Handel, Dvorak, and Schumann, as well as fiddle songs Polly Wolly Doodle and Cotton Eye Joe. The Suzuki Orchestra will play Somewhere Over the Rainbow and the familiar Spring Concerto by Vivaldi. This piece features the soloist Irene Hu, 13, who plays in the Cedar Middle School orchestra and takes violin lessons from Heather Wilhelm. Her parents are Howard Hu and Sunny Chen of Cedar City.

Mrs. Penny is stepping back from her many responsibilities as the director of Suzuki Strings in order to spend more time with her husband and adorable grandchildren. Her service and organizational skills are so appreciated in the arts community as she tirelessly works with the Cedar City Arts Council, The Orchestra of Southern Utah, and the students in her violin studio. As her daughter Bridget Lee stated, “I think she is the hardest-working person I’ve ever met. And she is passionate about giving kids these kinds of opportunities.”

I am one of the former students fortunate enough to benefit from the diligence and vision of Sara Penny. And with gratitude we all say thank you for your many years of dedicated service and great teaching. We hope to keep this organization strong for many more generations of young string players.
For more information email

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Rocky Mountain Strings from Salt Lake joining with Suzuki Strings and Red Rock Singers on April 25 at SUU Music Building

Virtuoso Violinists to Perform Concert Thursday
By Marin Colby and Lindsay Szczesny

Rocky Mountain Strings, a group of 37 outstanding young violinists from northern Utah, along with the Suzuki Strings of Cedar City, will be performing in Cedar City, Thursday, April 25 at 7 p.m. in SUU's Thorley Recital Hall.

Ramona Stirling, Chandelle Fairbanks, and Ruth Godfrey direct the Rocky Mountain Strings with Shelley Astle as accompanist and Michael Thomas McLean as their in-house composer/arranger. They have toured Poland, Italy, Argentina, Belgium, Russia, and Austria since their founding in 1997. The group also performed at the Suzuki Association of the Americas International Teacher Convention in 1998 and 2006.

Rocky Mountain Strings will be performing classical favorites like Salut D’Amour and crowd pleasers like Millionaire’s Hoedown and a medley from The Greatest Showman. Cedar City's Red Rock Singers, directed by Steve Meredith, will also be featured with the visiting violinists in the song Come Thou Font of Every Blessing.

Local musicians along with current and former members of Suzuki Strings will provide an orchestra under the direction of Lindsay Szczesny for the joint performance of Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor by J.S. Bach. This rousing number will feature over 50 violinists in a fast-paced Baroque delight. Suzuki Strings students will also collaborate on the first movement of the Vivaldi A minor concerto, Long Long Ago, and May Song.

“We are so excited to be there and collaborate with the Suzuki Strings in Cedar City,” said co-director Ramona Stirling.

Stirling, founder of Rocky Mountain Strings, also directs the annual Intermountain Suzuki String Institute (ISSI) in Salt Lake City, Utah. This two-week string music camp involves over 800 students and teachers of the Suzuki method. Many of our local Suzuki students and teachers have attended ISSI and received valuable instruction and teacher training. Violin teacher and concertmistress of the Orchestra of Southern Utah, Heather Wilhelm, has stated, "I attended Intermountain Suzuki Strings Institute this past June and received Suzuki violin teacher training.  Since then, I've noticed that I've become a more effective teacher, and that my students are happier and more successful in their studies." Thanks to great organizers like Ramona Stirling, wonderful things can happen to enrich the lives of our young people. The concert at the Thorley Recital Hall on Thursday, April 25 at 7 pm will surely be evidence of that. The concert is free and the public is invited.

For more information email
More info on Rocky Mt. Strings:
The Rocky Mountain Strings will also perform on Friday, April 26, at 7 p.m. in the St. George Tabernacle.
Photo of Rocky Mountain Strings. Poster to share designed by Heather Wilhelm.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Jack Ashton's Young Artist Chamber Players with Suzuki Strings Cedar City

Salt Lake’s Young Artist Chamber Players to perform in Cedar City
Saturday, April 13, 4 p.m. at St. Jude's
By Lindsay Fife Szczesny

On Saturday, April 13 at 4:00 pm at the St. Jude’s Episcopal Church (70 N. 200 W.) the public is invited to a free concert featuring an elite chamber ensemble from Salt Lake City.

When I was a teenager here in Cedar City, I started traveling to Salt Lake every month to take violin lessons from Utah Symphony violinist, Jack Ashton. My friend and I (Megan Mumford Cottam from Kanarraville) each had hour-long lessons--usually on a Saturday morning--in his home’s downstairs music studio, piled with papers and one wall covered with student recital programs dating back years and years. Sometimes one of his 8 children would interrupt a lesson, and for a few minutes he would lovingly play with the youngest boy who was about four. Mr. Ashton made us rehearse thousands of scales and gave us exciting new music to play. He was warm and kind, but strict and demanding. His positive influence is the kind every parent wishes for their youth.

Luckily his musical and personal gifts have been shared with young musicians in the Young Artist Chamber Players, which he established in 1985 to provide students in the Salt Lake Valley the opportunity to play quality chamber music. Since then, they have toured Europe, provided regular concerts, played with the Utah Symphony in the Side-by-Side program as well as the Symphony’s Lobbyfest, and they make an annual performance tour of Utah. This year their Cedar City concert will feature a collaboration with the local Suzuki Strings Orchestra. The event features local soloist, Irene Hu, 13, on Vivaldi’s Spring as well as Don Quixote's Attack on the Windmills by Telemann, Corrente by Corelli, and other selections. Mr. Ashton always provides interesting and story-filled context to add extra insight to the performance.

Every time I hear the Young Artist Chamber Players, I am moved by their musical depth and grateful such beautiful and meaningful music has been written. As one of Jack Ashton’s former students, I’m grateful for amazing teachers that see more in us than we see in ourselves. You too are welcome to enjoy this afternoon concert at 4:00 pm on April 13 at St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in the heart of Cedar City.

For more information email

Young Artist Chamber Players directed by Jack Ashton
Lindsay Szczesny and her daughter with Jack Ashton at last year's concert in Cedar City
Come and enjoy the concert.