Preparing for the Spotlight ~ Dolce Strings Preparing for Performance with FBSO

Preparing For the Spotlight. 
By Danette Schuh
Maestro Dominique Royem asked me to share how our Dolce Strings Touring Ensemble is getting ready to take the stage this February with the Fort Bend Symphony at their Texas Our Texas concert.
In the Suzuki spirit, these eager young musicians have been preparing for this performance since the first day they picked up their instruments to bow the first notes of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, many of them beginning at 3 or 4 years of age. When you ask a Suzuki student or parent what they are working on, most likely they will answer, “excellent posture, technique, and beautiful tone”, rather than the name of a specific piece of music. The commitment to quality over quantity is an integral part of the process. Just as important to the process is the parent. The “Suzuki Triangle” refers to the parent and teacher working together as a unit for the purpose of educating the child. Each side of the triangle is an equally important piece of the equation.
Each student studies with a Suzuki violin, viola or cello teacher for their weekly private lessons and studio group lessons. Meredith Harris, Elisabeth Hope, Teresa Matchett, Aimee Petersen, and Danette Schuh are those teachers. The students come together as a group to form “Dolce Strings Touring Ensemble”, directed by faculty members Meredith Harris, Elisabeth Hope and Danette Schuh. We meet three or four times a season for all-day intensive workshops to rehearse and prepare for concert tours and events. These workshops are hard work. At one workshop, a parent quoted my pre-concert announcements on Facebook, “Miss Danette: ‘The touring group started playing at 8:45 this morning. (It’s 4:20pm now) The goal was to make their fingers bleed’. She says it with love.” Between workshops, group “practice parties” are occasionally held at students’ homes, to balance the intense focus of rehearsing with food and fun.
Since Suzuki students share the same core curriculum repertoire, the group can begin with music that everyone already knows, and we add new selections that they learn specifically for this ensemble. We have expanded our repertoire to include Texas swing style fiddling and pop genres as well as standard works by the old masters. Keeping classical music as part of today’s culture requires reaching all audiences and this new generation of classical musicians needs to be fluent in many styles of music. The first and third movements of the Seitz Concerto that we are performing on this concert are part of our core literature. We have added a transcription of the second movement to feature our cellist and violists. Playing a concerto, as a group of soloists rather than an individual, given the volatile and quixotic nature of the music, shows the skill of the performers as an ensemble, as well as the number of hours of individual practice, polish and review, plus the rehearsals as a group that are required to make this successful. Working with good musicians is also a must, and we are grateful to Maestro Dominique Royem and the Fort Bend Symphony for this exciting opportunity to perform with them on this concert.
The touring ensemble is in our second season. We just returned from our first Disney World Tour where we had a featured performance onstage at Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida. Our concerts have included Performance Preludes at the Wortham Center for Society for the Performing Arts and at the Tobin Center for the San Antonio Symphony Pops, Moody Gardens Festival of Lights, Houston Zoo Lights, the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, the Bob Wills Fiddle Festival in Greenville, Texas, and service concerts at local nursing homes, just to name a few. Our upcoming Texas Tour next month will include performances at Blue Bell Ice Cream in Brenham, the Fort Worth Stockyards, Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, and historic Burleson, Texas before the McKenzie’s Fiddle and Suzuki Workshop. To see and hear more about these talented and hardworking students, visit or check out our Dolce Strings Facebook page,