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Siskiyou Violins return to Carnegie

In 1999, shortly after moving from her native Kazakhstan to Ashland, Faina Podolnaya was given a copy of the drama "Music of the Heart" with a note that read: "This movie is about you and for you."

The master violinist and director says her life resembled that of the heroine Roberta Guaspari, played by Meryl Streep, because both women had endured loss, moved to a new place and struggled to adapt to a new culture while teaching violin. The only difference was Guaspari got to perform in Carnegie Hall, Podonaya says.

"It was my dream to go to Carnegie my whole life," she says.

Podolnaya's dream was realized in 2005 when she and her Siskiyou Violins were invited to perform in the New York International Music Festival.

The acceptance letter read: "We are pleased to inform you of your successful audition and are officially inviting you to participate in the New York International Music Festival 2005 at Carnegie Hall. We are very pleased to have a program of your quality in the festival."

The letter was in response to an audition video Podolnaya had submitted only a few weeks earlier.

"I opened this letter in a lesson with one of my students ... and we took hands, and we jumped to the ceiling, and we were screaming and yelling and crying and the lesson was ruined," Podolnaya says.

That year, Siskiyou Violins won first place and earned a score of 98 out 100 points.

"That never happened before," Podolnaya says of the exceptional score.

In March, Siskiyou Violins, featuring 43 violinists ages 10 to 18, will make its second appearance at Carnegie Hall for the 2012 New York International Music Festival.

The youth orchestra, under the direction of Podolnaya, will preview its Carnegie performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Craterian Ginger Roger Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

"It's like a send-off concert," Podolnaya says. "Our community will give us good luck, hopefully."

The local performance will feature the 30-minute "New York" set, including "Aria From the Suite in G" by Bach, "Waltz" by Eugen Doga, "La Cumparsita" by Gerardo Rodriguez and Michael McLean, "Over the Rainbow" by Harold Arlen and Bob Cerulli, "The Joke" by Igor Frolov and "Romance" by Georgy Sviridov, as well as three concertos and a few additional pieces to be performed exclusively for the Craterian audience.

Also on the program, the Siskiyou Violins Juniors, a small group of beginners, ages 5 to 12, will perform "Ready, Steady, Go" by Sheila M. Nelson, "Cripple Creek" by Edmund J. Siennicki and a lively arrangement of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" by Joanne Martin. The junior group, taught by assistant director Kimberly Fitch, will not be performing in New York.

Both ensembles will be accompanied by pianist Daniel Swayze.

Tickets to show at the Craterian Theater cost $15, $5 for students, and are available at the Craterian box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., Medford, at Paddington Station in Ashland and at www.craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000. Proceeds will help send the ensemble to New York City. See www.siskiyouviolins.org.

Above and below: Students of the Siskiyou Violins Program play 'Aria from the Suite in G' during a benefit concert at Mountain Meadows retirement community in Ashland. - Photo by Troy Goossen