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The Siskiyou Violins

They may be young, but the musicians in the Siskiyou Violins are award-winning performers, nonetheless. The ensemble of violinists from the Rogue Valley and Northern California will present a benefit concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

The artistic director of the Siskiyou Violins is Faina Podolnaya, who was named the Soviet Union's Teacher of the Year before she left Kazakhstan and settled in Ashland. The members of the Siskiyou Violins are all her students. Besides operating a local studio in Ashland, she is associate conductor of the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon, conducting the young string players who perform as part of the Youth Symphony's concerts.

The proceeds from the Jan. 31 concert will be used to provide scholarships for members whose families are unable to pay the full cost of their violin lessons. In addition, the concert is also a celebration of the ensemble's gold medal-winning performances at their international youth orchestra festival appearances at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2005 and at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in June 2008.

Both competitions were presented by World Projects International Music Productions.

Judges at the concerts were impressed with the group, giving them consistently high marks for their performances and technique. Melodie Simms, one of the judges for the 2005 Carnegie Hall performance, observed "You are very professional. Your teacher has taught you the most valuable tool — to use the bow to create all the colors of music. I hope you will find five minutes to thank you teacher — she is terrific."

At the same concert Virginia Allen said, "Very poised on stage — wonderful stage presence. I can sense that every player is equally important to the ensemble."

Allison K. Bailey said, "Attention to musical details is outstanding. Bravo to all!"

And at the concert in Los Angeles, judge Tony Mazzaferro said, "Excellent dynamic contrast. The ensemble plays with great passion and expression."

The Jan. 31 concert, the group's first in a large concert hall in the Rogue Valley, will give the Siskiyou Violins an opportunity to share their skills with a local audience. It will be the most ambitious performance in their history, and it will feature 60 young violinists playing in three groupings: "Carnegie Hall," "Los Angeles" and "Siskiyou Juniors."

The first two groups will each play the 35-minute program that they performed at the two festivals in New York and Los Angeles. The Siskiyou Juniors are the stars of the future, with some members as young as 3 years old.

The performers in the two festival groups range in age from 9 to 19. Interspersed in the program will be some duets and small groupings.

The piano accompanist is Joseph Yungen, a junior at Southern Oregon University who won the "Audience Favorite" award at the Seattle International Piano Festival in Seattle this past September.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students, and are available at Paddington Station in Ashland, and the Craterian in Medford. Call 779-3000.

The Siskiyou Violins, shown rehearsing for their concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles last year, will perform in Medford next weekend.