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Volume 24, Number 10 — November 2017

Department of Music adds strings program to its repertoire

Dr. David Kovac
Dr. David Kovac

March 19, 2017

JOHNSON CITY East Tennessee State University's Department of Music is recognized nationally and internationally for its excellence in vocals, wind instruments and percussion, and is now adding strings to its repertoire.

While classes have been offered in stringed instruments, the department has not had a full strings program with ensemble performance opportunities for students. Dr. David Kovac joined the ETSU music faculty during the fall 2016 semester to help build such a program.

Kovac came to ETSU from Kansas City, where he ran the Pre-College Program and the Heartland Chamber Music Festival, an international summer event that attracts students as young as age 6 through the graduate level and provides ensemble performance opportunities at various age and skill levels.

Kovac is working to do the same at ETSU.

"I would like to build up the Pre-College and College programs hand-in-hand," Kovac said. "As the program grows bigger, we hope to develop a strong violin and viola studio, chamber music program and chamber orchestra. I would like to see a full collaboration with the vocal and instrumental areas at ETSU in the near future."

ETSU's Pre-College Program, led by pianist and assistant professor Dr. Esther Park, had two piano trios and a string quartet coached by Kovac. He also coached two chamber music ensembles with strings and flute at the college level during the fall semester. They presented several public performances in the fall.

"The plan is to recruit more students for the string area over the next few years and build the program, so we can do more on a larger scale," Kovac said. "It will take a while to recruit students at the college level, but I'm hoping that with the visibility of the Pre-College Program and the chamber music and chamber orchestra performances, we can attract students and let people know we've got a strings program at ETSU."

Kovac recruited students for two chamber orchestras for the spring 2017 semester. The chamber orchestra is offered as a college class, and several high school students are taking it as a dual credit class through ETSU. The Sinfonia orchestra is open to students ages 7-15 and is offered as a Pre-College class.

Kovac, a native of the Czech Republic, started to play violin at the age of 4 and later studied viola at the Janacek Conservatory in Ostrava. He earned his bachelor of music degree at the Longy School of Music in Boston and his master of music at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. While there, he was the principal violist of the UMass orchestra and played with many other orchestras in the Boston area.

Kovac completed his doctoral degree in viola performance at the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC), where he was a member of the Graduate String Quartet. In addition to UMKC, he has taught at the Dana Hall School of Music in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and the Brattleboro Music Center in Vermont.

The strings program in the ETSU Department of Music also includes adjunct faculty members Cherylonda Fitzgerald, cello; Mike Baggetta, guitar; and Cynthia Mueller, bass.

Kovac performed in four chamber concerts in the fall, including all Dvorak programs at ETSU and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

This semester, he will perform in several faculty chamber music recitals with fellow ETSU music faculty members and guest artists. These include "Montagna Camerata," on March 31, a program of works for oboe, clarinet, viola and piano, which also features faculty members Park, Dr. Heather Killmeyer and Dr. Gary Fair; and "Chamber Music Soiree" on April 10, which also features Park and guest artists Thomas Landschoot of Arizona State University and Geoff Herd of UT-Knoxville.

For additional details on these and other spring events sponsored by the ETSU Department of Music, visit www.etsu.edu/music. For more information on Kovac, visit www.etsu.edu/cas/music/faculty_staff/kovacd.php.

A! ExtraTopics: Music