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Midsummer Strings returns to Yew Mountain

Russell Fallstad, left, director of Heartstrings Academy, said, “Midsummer Strings is a wonderful blend of three main elements – classical music, folk/pop music, and nature, which combine to create a remarkable experience.” Erica Marks photo

Erica Marks
Contributing Writer

It was a clear, mild summer evening after a day full of music and fresh mountain air when suddenly the emergency lights came on at the Yew Mountain Center. 

One hour before dinner and the faculty concert at the first Midsummer Strings camp, the electricity went out leaving dozens of people – happily enjoying the scene as songs and games broke out on the back lawn. 

YMC employees Robin Tywoniw and Marlyn McClendon, not new to unexpected power outages, continued preparing dinner and somehow served it up hot, with minimal delay, to the assembled campers and teachers. Meanwhile, volunteers got the generator going and gathered floor lamps from guest rooms to illuminate the concert for a packed house.  

Building on the first year’s one-day “camp,” the Yew Mountain Center Midsummer Strings returns this year, August 8 through 11, and will be the first overnight camp hosted by the center. The faculty concert returns Saturday as well – a free show that combines classical works of Mozart, Bach, and Rebecca Clark with modern folk acoustic music – electricity optional.  

Russell Fallstad, a director of Heartstrings Academy in Lewisburg, and Alexandria, Virginia, described the event: “Midsummer Strings is a wonderful blend of three main elements – classical music, folk/pop music, and nature, which combine to create a remarkable experience.” 
Many of his students from Virginia and West Virginia will be attending as campers.  
The faculty behind these workshops is extraordinarily qualified, bringing a diverse set of influences and experiences to the camp. 
In addition to Falstad, they include Karen Dahl, Director of Strings Education for Austin Soundwaves in Austin, Texas; David Marks, violist in the National Arts Center (NAC) Orchestra in Ottawa, Ontario, and member of the Ironwood Quartet; Jethro Marks, principal violist in the NAC Orchestra; Jaime McArdle, who holds a master’s degree in violin performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and is currently the Program Director and an instructor for the Allegheny Mountain String Project; Vincent Marks, a violist with the Austin Symphony and Austin Lyric Austin and teaches for Austin Soundwaves; Theo Marks, a violin maker living in Amsterdam where he also gives old-time banjo and Americana lessons; and Mintje Van Lier, a violinist with The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra.

These faculty members will provide performances in the evenings, and collaborate with the participants for a performance at the end of the weekend.  

Fanny Bray, trained in Kindermusik and a classical cellist, will provide a morning program for children, ages two-to-five, that combines music, stories, art and nature.  

Sheena Hall, a parent whose son participated in the first Midsummer Strings program said, “The Yew Mountain Center is one of the most positive and inspiring places to be, said Sheena Hall, whose son participated in last year’s camp. “I’m so excited to have this opportunity to bring my eleven year old violinist to a string focused camp with these incredibly talented musicians and wonderful people.”

Midsummer Strings received an Arts and Education Grant from the West Virginia Department of Art, Culture and History this year, lowering the cost of the camp for its participants.

The program also receives support from Pocahontas County Dramas, Fairs and Festivals. 

The free concert begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, August 10, and is open to all.

A community potluck will begin at 6:30 p.m. on the back porch of the center. 

Contact the Yew Mountain Center for more information,, 304-653-4079.

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