About This Event


ASTA/NJ President's Letter by Fran Rowell

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Like many other organizations grappling with the difficulties of the economic downturn, we found ourselves looking at ever increasing costs for producing and distributing our newsletter.   This fall the ASTA/NJ board concluded that this was the perfect time to transition from print to using our web site for this essential chapter service.

So…. Here it is!  Our first on-line issue of New Jersey Strings!  

We will continue to create 3 issues per year; fall, winter, and spring/summer.  In addition you will receive the ASTA/NJ membership roster via mail each January.  Announcements of the publication of each new issue will arrive via e-mail.  All issues will remain archived on the site and be accessible.

The immediate advantages are clear.  Absolutely ALL of our chapter information is laid out here in front of you as you read the Newsletter.  To your left are detailed program reports and information.  Above is a listing of all of our officers and directors with biographical information so you can get to know these hard working people.  There is a calendar which is updated regularly.  There are resources available to you listed on the drop down menu that you access by clicking on the ‘News’ tab.  There you will find Job Postings - a place for YOU to post a job listing if looking for help -  and Other Resources & Opportunities which lists competitions, conferences, new education initiatives and music industry resources. We hope you’ll take a spin around the site and keep checking back with some regularity to stay abreast of all of the latest ASTA/NJ goings-on.

We have advertising space available for you to publicize you business.  These ads allow direct links to your own web pages and state of the art click tracking so you can know precisely how effective your advertisement is in accomplishing your marketing goals.  For information about advertising on this site contact web master Christopher Kenniff at cmkgtr[at]  There is ad space available as well in the January print roster.  Be in touch with me at ferowl[at] to inquire about print ads.

As always I cannot express enough admiration and appreciation to those people who are responsible for planning and running each of our ASTA/NJ programs.  They work so hard to create opportunities for our members, both teachers and students.  If you have a program you are particularly drawn to and would like to be part of the team which makes it all happen, contact the chair of the program directly.  We can always use more hands and experience.

Have a great year everyone.


Whole Body Consciousness and The Musician or Some Thoughts on Body-Instrument Connection by Marcia Lesser

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Whole Body Consciousness and The Musician or Some Thoughts on Body-Instrument Connection by Marcia Lesser

I came to the world of classical music with the eye of a dancer and the experience of a movement therapist. This combination has enabled me to develop a technique that encourages musicians to bring body/mind awareness to their daily lives and to their art.

During the initial consultation I observe the breath and ask my client to simulate how she/he uses her body to eat, while at the computer, etc. I look for how he uses his back during these actions; often the back rounds-the chest collapses-and I know this is how he approaches his instrument.  I ask her to visualize the length of the spine,  from the tailbone to the middle of the head, while keeping her feet flat on the floor, six inches apart. Staying with this image, he moves his torso forward (as in eating, performing) by hinging from the hips; the spine keeps its full length, the chest stays open, the neck is long. I then watch him walk. I tell her that engagement of the whole self from the feet to the head, in everyday life and while playing one’s instrument, deeply affects musicality, sound and technique.

My experience has taught me that one area of tension quickly becomes the whole body's tension. Often a practitioner's diagnosis comes as a surprise; neck pain is often manifested by chronic middle back holding. Once this whole body connection is understood, the musician can apply it to all aspects of her life.  An 18 year old violinist whose shallow breathing obstructed the freedom she longed for while playing, now pays attention to her breath even when talking to her friends.  A 13 year old pianist, who had restricted arm movement, thinks of the way he uses his back even while he’s brushing his teeth.

Most musicians play from the mid-chest up  with no awareness of the rest of their body.  They are surprised to learn their sound is impacted by those parts of the body that are out of their awareness. Holding in the lower back adversely impacts the mobility of the neck which in turn can limit arm and shoulder movements. Shallow breathing is often overlooked as the cause of many symptoms: an accomplished cellist told me it wasn’t until she learned to deepen her breath that she was able to correct her chronic hip pain.

Mary was an 20 year old conservatory student who had not played her viola in over six months. She had excruciating pain in her left arm and could barely move her neck.  She made the usual trips to various practitioners; she was repeatedly told she had tendonitis and had the usual treatments, all focused on her lower arm.  There was short term relief never lasting more than a day or two.

No one ever observed her playing or looked at any other part of her body;  her back was one of the tightest I had seen.  Her approach to music matched her approach to life; laden with heaviness, barely breathing and forcing out all movement. This dynamic was directly responsible for the tendonitis.

To begin the process of letting go, Mary learned to breathe to a slow count of four to inhale, four to exhale.  She allowed her ribcage to drop on the exhale and to fill up her stomach on the inhale. She often used this as a ten minute meditation.  Slowly she brought this deeper breath and increasing flow to her daily movements and, ultimately, to her instrument.

Sarah was an 18 year old pre college conservatory student.  Her astute teacher noticed her feet were extremely turned in and she had a lot of tension in her legs. I placed a pillow between her legs as she played, expecting she would maintain this for a minute or two. The pillow gently forced her arches up and realigned her legs.  She surprised us all by breaking into a big smile and playing on and on.  I noticed her breathing deepened and we all noticed a marked difference in her sound.  She felt happy with the pillow  for she felt the stress in her neck and arms disappear and she played with greater ease.

Musicians have difficulty in applying verbal directions to their body.  A student frequently hears ‘drop your shoulders’ but often this command triggers a mind/body disconnect. They may understand their shoulders are going up towards their ears but the comprehension ends there. Many times they push their shoulders down, locking them into a position they think may work.  The incorrect action of pushing and locking often causes reduced mobility in the arm as well as finger and hand issues. They must learn how the arms function and that the back must be a part of all arm movement.

To begin work on arm/body connection, I ask my client to lie on her back, legs bent, feet on the floor, arms out to the side. I instruct him to feel the connection of the shoulder blade to the floor as he raises one arm a few inches. She begins to feel the correct origin of the movement as her shoulder drops and can feel the length of her arm from the scapula to the fingers, relying on the back to do its work. This simple movement can relieve the pushing and locking. When I attend classes and private lessons, the chief complaint I hear is of hand and finger pain.  In almost every case the arm has been aligned incorrectly ; proper mechanics very often eliminates this pain.

Musicians often tell me  that consciousness of the whole body changes their sound. I know it brings them closer to their inner self and fosters a deep body-instrument connection.  It is clear that the flow of movement, breath and sound enriches every part of a musician’s life.

Marcia Lesser is a movement therapist living in NYC.  She specializes in working with classical musicians, privately and in group settings, and gives seminars throughout the tri-state area. You can visit her website at


Virtually Violin. . .(and viola and cello and bass!) by Gail V. Barnes

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Virtually Violin. . .(and viola and cello and bass!) by Gail V. Barnes

Successful string and orchestra teachers want to continually strive for greater performance for both themselves and their students. With dwindling school budgets and a scarcity of travel money, it can be a challenge to find new ideas and collaborate with colleagues. Online communities can be one solution. One example is the Online Community for String and Orchestra Teachers  (User name =orchestrateach; password = playintune). This is a venue where accomplished teachers can share their expertise with their colleagues throughout the country (and the world!). Teacher educators also use it in their methods classes, so contributors are also helping the next generation of string and orchestra teachers.

The site is organized by categories, including position, bow strategies,
rhythm and aural skills. We currently have video from teachers in Nevada, Georgia and South Carolina. We would love to have more, both from these states and the remaining forty-seven. Contributing is easy, particularly with new technology. If you have a Flip video camera, it’s super easy. Just export to a Quicktime (mpeg-4 format). You can then either email or upload to a file-sharing site (;; Another option is to send me a CD or mini dv tape with the file on it and I will edit it for you. (Gail V. Barnes, c/o University of South Carolina School of Music, 813 Assembly Street, Columbia, SC 29208)

One question teachers frequently have is about videotaping students. Of course, you have to follow the protocols for your district, but I never put student names on the website. It is also helpful to avoid calling them by name in the video. Password protection should offer a measure of privacy, but if you have reservations and your school does not have blanket permission in place, you may want to obtain parental permission.

A separate, but affiliated site, is What the heck is a Ning? It’s kind of like Facebook, but is used more for common interests rather than being a purely social network. There is no user name and password for this orchestra teacher site, but you do need to sign up for Ning (  We currently have 126 members, from several states and a couple of countries! We have several ongoing conversations on topics such as orchestra seating, the most economical yet decent strings for school musicians and assessment in large mixed classes. I learned about the Flip video cameras on that last discussion!

Both of these sites allow teachers to learn and share, on their own time. We hope you join us!

Gail V. Barnes
University of South Carolina


ASTA/N Mourns the Passing of Jerry Kupchynsky by Sandra Dackow

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Dear Friends,

   I've just been informed by Miriam Simon Cotter that Jerry Kupchynsky passed away in the early hours of this morning.  Jerry's wife Joan, his daughter Melanie and former student Miriam have spent the last two weeks at his side,  giving him comfort and love during these final days.  I am told that there will be a memorial service in East Brunswick at a later date during which friends and colleagues will have a chance to celebrate his life and contributions to his students and the profession.   More information, when it becomes available.

   I visited Jerry earlier this month, on the way home from the All-State Concert.  His has been a life of unusually difficult challenges.  Multiple health issues have extracted a  great toll these last several years.   I believe we remember him most, however, as someone who put his vision into motion and shared this vision, along with his energy, commitment and all the resources he could muster - especially all of us, his colleagues, drawing us into this path like a tornado, so as to bring the transformative power of  music, strings and orchestra to every student he could reach.   

 And, of course, we remember those jokes, which he seemed to have in endless supply.

     Jerry, we salute you and, though we mourn your passing, we celebrate your life and treasure the fellowship you shared.   

Sandra Dackow

Sandra Dackow


Chapter News: The ASTA/NJ Awards Dinner and Annual Membership Meeting

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The ASTA/NJ Awards Dinner and Annual Membership Meeting by Rona Landrigan
The ASTA/NJ Awards Dinner and Annual Membership meeting was held on June 7, 2009 at The Music Shop, Boonton NJ.  We are so grateful for their generosity for hosting this event in their beautiful facility

Reports of the awards and scholarships presented appear below

The Sharon Holmes ASTA/NJ 2009 Scholarship
Rona Landrigan

In 2009, the Sharon Holmes ASTA/NJ Scholarship Fund became the beneficiary of a generous donation from a very close friend of Sharon’s, Christine Arnison. Sadly, Christine passed away from cancer earlier this year, but her donation was a wonderful tribute to her friendship with Sharon, her love of music and belief in the value of promoting music education. Christine was a strong presence in the Arts Community of Cincinnati, Ohio for many years, most recently serving as the Executive Director of Madcap Puppets. Christine’s gift enabled us to expand the number of scholarships awarded this year. The family of Sharon Holmes and ASTA/NJ was very honored to be able to help 3 students set out on their careers as educators this year.
The Sharon Holmes ASTA/NJ 2009 Scholarship winners are:
Overall Winner
EuGene Park, Bergen County Academies

Runners Up
Rebecca Dreyman, Madison High School
Victoria Rogers, West Morris Central High School
Aside from the high level of musicianship demonstrated by EuGene, Rebecca and Victoria, they have something else in common. They are all passionate about teaching and have been from a very early age. They appreciate and have been inspired by the dedication and creativity of their own teachers. They all have a desire to "give back' and offer a new generation of string players the unique experiences and opportunities that being involved in music can bring about. EuGene Park will be attending NYU to major in music education in the fall. Rebecca Dreyman will be studying music education at the University of Maryland and Victoria Rogers will pursue her music education studies at SUNY Potsdam, the Crane School of Music.
It was a pleasure to meet up with our 2008 winners, Sarah Donatelli and Beth Maliszewski and have the chance to present the second installment of their scholarship. Sarah, after completing her freshman year at Temple University as a music education (violin) major, planned to use the scholarship money to attend the Suzuki Institute at Ithaca College, NY this summer.  Beth, after a successful first year at Rutgers University as a music education (viola) major, had a busy summer teaching and playing in “Sweeney Todd” at the NJPAC’s Summer Music Program.
Applications for the Sharon Holmes ASTA/NJ 2010 Scholarship will be posted at in the fall. String students in their senior year of high school interested in pursuing a career in string teaching are invited to apply. The deadline will be April 9, 2010.
Donations to the Sharon Holmes ASTA/NJ Scholarship Fund are always welcome and can be sent to a recently updated address: The Sharon Holmes ASTA/NJ Scholarship Fund, c/o Rona Landrigan, 52 Undercliff Terrace South, West Orange, NJ 07052. If you have any questions, please contact Rona Landrigan at

2009 Classroom Teacher of the Year Award

Erika Boras Tesi

From the Nomination letter by Nick Rzonsa:

    I work very closely with Ms. Boras Tesi every day of the week.  We team-teach in small group string lessons, collaborate on teaching strategies, and have lunch together.  In the five years I have been teaching at Tenafly Middle School, I have come to know her as a colleague, mentor, and friend.  
    Erika is the director of the orchestra program at TMS, and it is a job she takes very seriously.  She directs all three grade level orchestras at the Middle School, teaches small group lessons, as well as teaches 6th grade general music.  I have had numerous opportunities to see her in action as she teaches.  It is one thing to watch a teacher teach a class, but it is another to see them captivate a class and engage it completely with a lesson.  I see this all the time in Erika’s work.  The students see her energy and her love of music pouring out of her in torrents and become transfixed.  I take every chance I can get to observe her teaching so that I can absorb this along with the students!
When I first came to Tenafly Middle School five years ago, I was coming from a difficult teaching experience.   It left a bitter taste in my mouth.  I knew I needed help to revitalize my passion.  Although I wasn’t a new teacher then, I was nervous, jaded, and anxious, and I needed a new environment to bring me out of my slump.
    When I was offered the position, I understood that I would be working very closely with Erika every day in her orchestra program.  The string program was her “baby.”  She had started in the district with a very small program and built it up to the large and extremely successful program it is today.  When she began, only a handful of students were involved in each grade level orchestra.   Today those students have been recognized as National Champions, winning the title at the 2006 ASTA string conference in Kansas City.
I thought I might be viewed as an interloper in all of this.  That was not the case at all.  She welcomed me with open arms and was eager to hear my ideas and work with me to make me feel like a part of the Tenafly family.  I had never experienced this before, and I was overjoyed.  After the first month of teaching here, I already felt the negative memories of my past teaching job slipping away.  
In the classroom, the students look up to her because of her caring and compassionate approach to teaching, combined with her tremendous energy and love of music.  Her string playing skills are extraordinary, especially cello, and she often uses the modeling approach to teach and reinforce proper technique and style.   She has used her teaching strategies to build the Tenafly Middle School orchestra program to wonderful new levels.  
Each year, Tenafly students are among the most accepted to Region I Junior Orchestra and Lincoln Center Young Ensembles Program.  Her very extensive chamber music program has inspired many students to continue studying and playing this music when they reach high school..  She has applied for and received grants to fund numerous projects over the years, including an entire Yamaha electric string instrument lab.  She collaborates closely with outside groups and hosts them at TMS so that her students can benefit.  Last fall, she organized a concert and master class with the famous violin group, Barrage, and her students performed with them at a sensational evening concert.  When her students leave the middle school, they leave with a sense of pride in what they were able to accomplish.  From the very beginner to the extreme advanced player, she makes every student’s time in the TMS Orchestra program enjoyable, memorable, and educationally sound.
After five years of working closely with Erika every day, seeing how the students and staff admire her, and knowing that she is so deeply and profoundly committed to her work, I can without hesitation put my whole heart into nominating her for this award.  Today, I feel like I have grown so much as an educator and as a person because she has instilled in me a new passion for teaching, one that I thought was lost forever.  

2009 ASTA/NJ Extraordinary Service Award

John and Linda McGovern

This Award for Extraordianary Service to ASTA/NJ is given with much gratitude to two people who have been invaluable to us.  

John and Linda McGovern were asked to become our accountants by Mary Ann Mumm when we, along with every other state ASTA chapter, were required to incorporate by the national organization.  This process of incorporating was complex and confusing.  Answers to the most basic questions were often not easily available.  Indeed, knowing what questions to ask was a challenge.  

The service John and Linda have provided to us has gone far beyond what any of us could have hoped for in terms of good guidance, wisdom and patience.  They have helped restructure our finances and have advised us on matters of taxes and insurance.   Both have spent many hours wading through years of ASTA/NJ financial records to properly file all mandatory state and federal paperwork.  John graciously reviewed our National Affiliation Agreement to be sure there were no pitfalls we hadn't seen.
Without John and Linda's professional help, ASTA/NJ would have difficulty existing as a legal non-profit organization in today's world.

Their work on our behalf helps insure we will continue to serve as a vital resource to the community of string players, teachers, and students in NJ.


Itzhak Perlman's Favorite Meatloaf (really!) by Ed Black

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Itzhak Perlman's Favorite Meatloaf (really!) by Ed Black

ASTA/NJ's official historian has done it again unearthing a recipe for the great violinist's favorite meatloaf from the 1987 Spring issue of String Tones.  Click here to view the recipe!



Did You Miss the Spring/Summer 2009 Issue of the ASTA/NJ Newsletter? Archive copy available here....

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Click here to download the Spring/Summer  2009 Issue of the ASTA/NJ Newsletter.


ASTA/NJ Solo Strings Competition to be held at Kean University on Sunday, November 22, 2009 by Fran Rowell

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ASTA/NJ Solo Strings Competition to be held at Kean University on Sunday, November 22, 2009 by Fran Rowell

The 2009 ASTA/NJ Solo Competition will be held this year at Kean University on Sunday November 22, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  We are very grateful to Christopher Kenniff and Kean University for not only hosting the competition once again, but for offering a performance opportunity for the winner of the Early Bird Division on March 4 as part of the Opening Concert at their 4-day conference: “Educating the Creative Mind”.

We are tremendously grateful to the following sponsors for contributing to the $400 prizes which will be awarded in each division:
    The Violin Doctor, Inc., in Allenwood
    Things 4 Strings, in Livingston
    Karin Menzel Violins, in Boonton
    Wilber E. Wamsley Restorations, in Haddonfield
    Long Island Violin Shop, Huntington, NY
Robert Ames Fine Violins and Bows, Fort Lee, has offered to give an Atelier Ames Bow to the winner in the highest age category who plays violin, viola, cello, or bass.  The student will be invited to Mr. Ames studio to select the bow of his/her choice.  This is the second year that Mr. Ames has made this extremely generous offer!  His bows retail at about $3000.

This year’s competition has attracted both donors and young applicants from all over the state of New Jersey, as well as ASTA/NJ members who teach or support the musical community of New Jersey.  We are particularly grateful to the private teachers and parents of our applicants, without whose dedication and determination, the high standards of our competition could never be met!  

There are 45 applicants this year: 10 Early Birds, 16 in the Junior A Division, 15 in the Junior B Division, and 4 Seniors. They are from Blairstown, Cherry Hill, Closter, Cranbury, Englewood (2), Englewood Cliffs (4), Ewing, Florham Park, Freehold, Harrington Park, Holmdel, Howell, Ledgewood, Livingston, Marlton, Millburn (2), Montclair, New Providence, Nutley, Oakland (2), Old Tappan (2), Paramus, Plainsboro, Princeton (3), Rahway, Ringwood, Sparta, Tenefly (4), Towaco, Verona, and West Caldwell.  

Once again, we will bring together outstanding conductors, performers, and teachers in our area to judge the competition.  

The Winners Recital is scheduled for April 18, 2010, at 3 p.m. at the Chase Auditorium at the Madison Public Library, in Madison.

Thanks to Peg Roberts, Keith Calmes, Erika Tesi, and Christopher Kenniff for their many hours working to put this years competition together!