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The Story

CYM Returns to the White House

December 1, 2007

On Friday November 30th, fourteen students from the Center for Young Musicians journeyed to Washington D.C. as opening day performers for the annual White House Holiday Open House. Culminating weeks of strenuous practice and years of study, the musicians, averaging only eleven years in age, played one and half hours of rehearsed Christmas music on December 1st, while invited guests of the Bush Administration filed through the various rooms. As Alicia McGinnis, cofounder and President of CYM stated, "The kids played musically and handled themselves very professionally." The White House Visitor staff certainly seemed awed by the students' youth and musical skill and positioned the group at the foot of the stairs leading to the Bush Residence in order that the President and first Lady might be able to enjoy the music. Followed by musician groups from notable namesakes such as Yale, the CYM musicians illustrated how hard work, dedication, and quality music education can lead to extraordinary opportunities.

The Center for Young Musicians received notification that they would be playing (for the second time in as many years) at the White House Open House back in early November. Immediately students were selected from the broad CYM student body and required weekly rehearsals began.

Many of the students had been taking lessons for six years or more and they all had taken part in CYM's Early Childhood Music program, which is offered to children as young as age two. The violinists consisted of Haluk Akay (16; Homeschooled), Leyla Akay (15; Homeschooled), Elsa Lagerquist (11; Homeschooled), Laura Bleiel (14; St. Gregory in Zelienople), Isaac Frank (16; North Alleghany High School), Philip Madonna (11; St. Alphonsus School), Evan Adelman (14; Homeschooled), Hugh Rice (Quaker Valley), Grant Goetze (12; Sewickley Academy), and Ellie Genter (12; Ellis School). The four cellists consisted of Hannah Synnott (10; Bradford Woods Elementary), Alex Madonna (10; St. Alphonsus School), Julia Solomon (9; Pine Richland), and Michelle Gomez (10, St. Alexis). The group was principled by Haluk Akay and instructed by pianist Michelle Bittler, cellist Victoria Raja, and violinist Leah Givelber.

The CYM musicians were honored by the school at a banquet hosted Friday night in their honor, and by the White House Visitor Staff through a private tour of the rooms where historic artifacts such as the portrait of George Washington rescued from a fire by Dolly Madison were pointed out to them. The student also received a box of cookies from the White House as a Thank You for CYM's fantastic performance. From their first arrival in Washington when the group perused the mall and eagerly viewed the White House in anticipation of their performance the following day, to the historic beauty of the Hotel Washington in which they stayed, the children enjoyed the experience of a lifetime.

The experiences available to our students are unmatched in their motivational and formative effects. Instrumentalists as young as five years old have been selected to perform at prestigious events, including Opening Night for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Heinz Hall. Frequent performances are a key element of the curriculum, and develop polished and poised musicians. Furthermore, the positive feedback received from their audience keeps our students inspired and motivated to further refine their craft.

While we are indeed proud of our experienced musicians, we equally embrace the student who desires a less rigorous musical education, who studies for enjoyment and/or appreciation. Our outstanding faculty and supportive peer groups offer enormous intellectual, social and cultural benefits to these students as well.

The full-time administrative staff assists with scheduling classes, purchasing required and supplemental materials, and providing you with up-to-date information on all current CYM events and activities. They will also keep you informed on general information regarding school policies and procedures, curriculum objectives and educational plans for your student.

CYM is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., year-round. Day, evening and weekend classes are available at all levels of study in order to provide ample options for families. Our flexible make-up policy is unique in its customer service ethic and since the administrative staff is readily available, your needs can be met quickly.

Our first facility, once a single-family home, has been completely renovated yet maintains a welcoming feeling. A comfortable waiting area provides a pleasant place to wait for classes, with books, toys and a music listening station.