The tradition continues: the 33rd Rebecca Orr Memorial Piano Technique Festival

Student participants receiving certificates. Photo courtesy of Nitza Kats

Eighty-six students enrolled in the 33rd Rebecca Orr Memorial Piano Technique Festival presented Feb. 6 at Radford University.

The Highlands Chapter of the Virginia Music Teachers Association sponsors the event with support from the Department of Music at Radford University.

Emeritus Associate Professor of Music, Nitza Kats, organizes the event in honor of her student Rebecca Orr. In 1982 during her freshman year at Oberlin College, a drunken driver killed Orr. She was from Blacksburg.

“This is RU's invaluable contribution to the local community and beyond, as most participants, ages six to 63, are from Blacksburg and Christiansburg, other towns around the New River Valley, and a few from Roanoke,” Kats said.

Since its start in 1983, the university is a strong and loyal supporter of the Rebecca Orr Festival.

Students who take part in this unique event prepare carefully-graded technical requirements and an etude, suitable for their individual level. Participants may also compose their own piece, a Technique Adventure.

The festival opens with morning auditions, followed by midday scholarship competition, and concludes with an afternoon recital. Fifty-eight of the festival’s participating students performed in the latter.

Members of the Highlands Chapter serve as judges for the individual morning auditions and the scholarship competition, providing written comments to each student.

All students received certificates of participation and the judges' written comments.

A special part of the festival is the Rebecca Orr Memorial Scholarship Competition, open to high school juniors and seniors. This year three students were candidates for the scholarship: Amanda Huang, student of Sonya Ho; Albert Newberry, and Tiger Sun, both students of Teresa Ehrlich. Newberry won first prize; Huang received second prize; and third prize went to Sun.

University student volunteers helped out the festival in many ways, including being monitors for the morning auditions. In addition, they organized musical games for the young participants of the festival.

The festival has positively impacted many.

"I am really looking forward to a new semester, and especially the Rebecca Orr Festival,” a former student said, “I always enjoy getting the opportunity to play in that atmosphere. I think Rebecca Orr is one of the best things we do all year!"

Feb 18, 2016