The Hartt School Community Division Alumni Newsletter May 2017
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The Compass: May 2017

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May 2017

In this Issue

Letter from Gioia Gedicks, class of 2017

Violin student Gioia in 2017 and as a childPictured: HCD student Gioia Gedicks in 2017 and as a young student

The Hartt School Community Division (HCD) and I, we go way back. We’ve always been there for each other, like old friends. My parents, being the wonderfully ambitious people that they are, decided to sign me up immediately for what seemed like almost every program that HCD offered. At age five, I was enrolled in Suzuki violin lessons, the Connecticut Children’s Chorus, and ballet. After six years of ballet, it became clear that while I enjoyed dancing, music (specifically violin) was what I wanted to pursue seriously.

I continued in this mindset until the summer after sixth grade, when I gave my scale book a good swift kick under my bed and furiously announced to my family that I was never touching my violin again, much less doing any more vibrato exercises or etudes. Though I cannot recall now what went wrong, suffice it to say that I became frustrated to the point of seriously wanting to quit. If my parents had let me quit, who knows where I would be today. But, thankfully, they pushed me to keep going. Through their support, and the insightful guidance of my wonderful teacher Teri Einfeldt, I was able to overcome my temporary discouragement and regain my passion for the violin with even greater intensity.

Throughout my 13 years of violin study, I have participated in five orchestras (most recently the Connecticut Youth Symphony), sang in every Connecticut Children’s Chorus ensemble from Overture to Primi Voci, played in both Junior and Senior String Honors recitals, and participated in various chamber music groups and master classes. In addition, I participated in the Performer’s Certificate Program, which allowed me to take classes such as music theory, ear training, music history, and performance labs, as well as many unique workshops including steel drums and yoga. My Suzuki training and HCD experience has helped me in other ways as well; because of the intense training of the ear, it helped give me the ability to improvise and perform different styles of music.

I have been given so many opportunities through my relationship with HCD. It was there for me not only with excellent training, but in giving me wonderful opportunities like playing side by side with the concertmaster of the Hartford Symphony, touring with my orchestra to Carnegie Hall and Canada, seeing two operas at The Metropolitan Opera, and performing this summer at Disney World.

Likewise, when HCD needed someone, I was there. I represented HCD with a solo violin piece and interview on television at age 10, as a young ballet student I posed for promotional photographs, I played for fundraising galas, receptions for trustees, various promotional events at venues like Whole Foods, People’s Bank, and The Bushnell, and most recently for the Simsbury Chamber of Commerce. Yes, like old friends, we’ve always been there for each other.

I have learned so many things from my experiences, and though I have had my share of tough auditions and less-than-perfect recitals, I certainly have had many more exciting and successful concerts and performances. I am thankful for everything my 13 years with HCD has taught me, and I plan to take those lessons and experiences with me wherever I go.

—Gioia Gedicks, Class of 2017

Gioia Gedicks will be attending the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance. Everyone here on staff at HCD wishes you the very best, Gioia!

HCD Class of 2017

Thank you to all of our graduating seniors who took the time to send your photos and announcements to us over the past couple of months! Graduating seniors are invited to attend the Awards and Recognition Dinner on Sunday, May 14 (details below) just before the Greater Hartford Youth Wind Ensemble concert. We will be taking a class photo just after the dinner. 

The HCD staff would like to wish all our graduating seniors well as they start the next chapters of their lives. Visit our Class of 2017 page to read about what our 2017 HCD Alumni will be doing this fall. Congratulations on your achievements, Class of 2017!

HCD logo Josh Bobruff Jenny Chen Jenna Creighton
Leila Ben Mamoun
Josh Bobruff Jenny Chen Jenna Creighton
Eliza Derick Patrick Ding Avi Ehrlich Alora Foster
Eliza Derick
Patrick Ding Avi Ehrlich
Alora Foster
Katie Gagnon Gioia Gedicks Richard Hansen Amelia Hern
Katie Gagnon Gioia Gedicks Richard Hansen Amelia Hern
Hannah Hervieux HCD logo Kate Jessen Sarah Jessen
Hannah Hervieux Karina Heye-Smith Kate Jessen Sarah Jessen
Joon Kim Katrina Mason Lucy Metz Mellany Gomez
Joon Kim Katrina Mason Lucy Metz Hunter Elan Nager
Armani Nieves Lucia Palladino Elleana Paradise Bethany Pelletier
Armani Nieves Lucia Palladino Elleana Paradise Bethany Pelletier
Pearl Rourke HCD logo Zachary Saunders HCD logo
Pearl Rourke David Sattler Zachary Saunders Kyle Smith
Nicole Souza Jenna St. Denis Claudia Suprenant Alanna Uthgenannt
Nicole Souza
Jenna St. Denis Claudia Surprenant Alanna Uthgenannt
Yi Lin Wang Marissa Ward Sydney Weiser
Yi Lin Wang Marissa Ward Sydney Weiser

Our HCD Family

Emily Yaffe, Alumna Interview

Born in northern Virginia, Emily Yaffe moved to West Hartford in 1987, shortly after her father, Michael Yaffe, became HCD's Director. She was raised in a musical family—her father is a pianist; her mother, Gail, teaches music reading at HCD and is a pianist and violinist; and her brother, Nathaniel, also an HCD alumnus, is a cellist. Emily considers HCD to have been her second home as a child and teenager. She was an HCD student from 1987–1998 and a teacher from 2002–05. She has lived in Basel, Switzerland, for the last ten years, where she is raising and creating her own musical family.

Emily Yaffe now and then

Pictured: Emily Yaffe now and then

Emily Yaffe (EY): After graduating from Hall High School in 1998, I attended The Juilliard School in New York, where I majored in viola performance. I graduated in 2002 and then taught Suzuki violin and viola at HCD, as well as at Opus 118 Harlem School of Music and the Lucy Moses School in New York. My now-husband Bret Simner decided to move to Basel, Switzerland, in 2004 to study Baroque double bass, and I followed him to Basel in 2005. From 2005–08, I studied Baroque viola at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, and in 2007 I joined the Baroque orchestra Capriccio (where I am still a member). I founded the International Community Music School-Basel in 2011 with the mission of connecting people from different backgrounds through music. We now have over 100 students, of which 20 are my Suzuki violin and viola students. Bret and I got married in 2008 and have a seven-year-old son Zachary, who is an electric guitarist and avid Bon Jovi fan.

My first teacher was Teri Einfeldt, and I studied Suzuki violin with her for seven years. After switching to viola at the age of 14, I studied with Victoria Chiang, Mitchell Stern, and Katherine Murdock. I also had a brief period of piano study with Carolyn Woodard, probably around 1990, and have very fond memories of this (before I realized that the piano is not, in fact, easier than the violin!). Throughout my studies, I participated in Suzuki group classes and orchestras (with David Einfeldt), Concert Orchestra (with Charles Palmer), the very early years of Connecticut Children’s Chorus (with Sallie Ferrebee and Rob Hugh), the Performer’s Certificate Program (with Donna Menhart and Michael Yaffe), and Connecticut Youth Symphony (CYS, with Gene Young, Peter Sacco, and, of course, Dan D’Addio, with whom I am very excited to collaborate again on May 13 at Alumni Weekend). I credit David Einfeldt for my introduction to the viola, which also opened the door to many years of chamber music at Hartt, coached by Steve Wood and Eric Dahlin.

As an employee of the school, it was an incredibly rewarding and special experience to teach in the Hartt Suzuki program after being a student there! I learned so much from my experienced violin colleagues Linda Fiore and Donna Ngai, and it was an honor to be a part of Teri Einfeldt’s fabulous program. I also have very fond memories of co-teaching the viola tour group and viola in general with Melinda Daetsch.

HCD: Do you feel that your studies at HCD helped to shape your life (musically or non-musically) in any way? If so, how?

EY: Yes, absolutely, in basically every way. HCD was a second home to me as a child and teenager. I was at Hartt at least twice a week from the time I was seven until when I graduated high school. The memories of visiting my dad in his office, picnicking in the courtyard, exploring the backstage of Millard while I was supposed to be practicing, as well as attending countless receptions and pizza parties, are just as strong and fond as those of lessons, rehearsals, and performances. For me this speaks to the idea of community, which is so important to me that I included it in the name of my own music school! Without my experiences at Hartt, I probably would never have founded a community music school. The desire to provide this type of full and enriching musical life for my students and their families drives me in my work today as a teacher and director.

I have also been contemplating Shinichi Suzuki’s quote lately, “Where love is deep, much can be accomplished.” This speaks to the incredible simplicity of Suzuki’s philosophy. He asserts points that we all know but often forget. If I could change something about my time at HCD (and actually my entire life-past, present, and future), it would be the times when this idea was forgotten by me or my peers or my teachers. It happens sometimes that we forget that we love music and we focus instead on competition or on selfishness. When I look back on my time at Hartt, however, the love that I shared with my family, friends, teachers, and peers remains strongest in my mind.

Emily will be performing Carl Maria von Weber's “Andante and Hungarian Rondo, Op. 35” with CYS on its Alumni Weekend concert on Saturday, May 13, at 3 p.m. in Lincoln Theater.

Michelle Abraham, Alumna Interview

Michelle Abraham, a native of West Hartford, Conn., was an HCD violin student starting at age eight and continuing through high school.

Michelle Abraham

Pictured: Michelle with Chee-Yun in 1999 (left) and Michelle in 2017

Michelle Abraham (MA): After graduating from Conard High School in 2003, I attended Stony Brook University on Long Island, where I completed a Bachelor of Arts in Music, studying with Phil Setzer of the Emerson String Quartet and Pamela Frank. I moved back to Connecticut in 2007 to study at the Yale School of Music for my Masters, working with Ani Kavafian. I then moved to Cleveland, where I attended the Cleveland Institute of Music for my Artist Diploma, studying with Paul Kantor.

I stayed in Cleveland for five years after graduating and taught violin privately at the Hathaway Brown School, the Oberlin Community Music School, and The Music Settlement. I also served as concertmaster with the Ashland Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Suburban Symphony Orchestra, a community orchestra in Beachwood, Ohio. I played regularly with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra and built an ongoing collaboration with pianist Peter Takacs on a concert series called Musical Upcoming Stars in the Classics, for which I was also on the advisory board. While in Cleveland I went back to school to receive Suzuki training, and in 2014 I joined the faculty at the New England Music Camp in Maine, where I still teach each summer.

In 2009 I also happened to meet my boyfriend Tim Kantor, another violinist. We now live together in Tucson, Arizona, with our cat Ella and dog Seppe. Tim is the Assistant Professor of Violin at the Fred Fox School of Music at the University of Arizona, and I am the Associate Concertmaster of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra in addition to teaching private violin lessons to students ages 2–20.

As is the case with many HCD students, Michelle took private lessons and was a member of many different ensembles.

I began my violin lessons with Mickey Reisman when I was eight years old and worked with him through my sophomore year of high school. I then studied with Teri Einfeldt and Brian Lewis for two years until graduating. The first orchestra I played in was the Prelude Orchestra, and I was also a member of Opus '89 and CYS. I performed in a string quartet toward the end of high school, and we worked with several coaches.

Reflecting on her studies at HCD and how it influenced her life, Michelle said:

Once I started teaching at the New England Music Camp (NEMC) a few years ago, I finally felt all my youth orchestra experiences at Hartt come full circle. At NEMC, the faculty sits in the orchestra and coaches the students through their rehearsals. We've played so much repertoire that I first learned while in CYS that I feel proud to share my own youth orchestra experiences with our younger musicians. Now my primary form of work is playing in the Tucson Symphony, where we're revisiting so much repertoire that I remember playing in CYS. It's so great to relive those moments in great repertoire in a professional setting. My teaching and coaching is modeled on my experiences with teachers and friends at Hartt, and I hope to share similar experiences with my own students.

The Compass Initiative: Development

Did You Know...? HCD By the Numbers

The Fuller Building at the University of Hartford's The Hartt School

Did you know that during the 2015–16 year, The Hartt School Community Division...

  • ...enrolled over 2800 students, nearly 2200 of whom were under the age of 18.

  • ...had 1615 private lessons students and offered traditional private lessons on 21 instruments, Suzuki private lessons on 7 instruments, and composition classes. All of our private lesson students are eligible to participate in a free weekly Musicianship class.

  • ...had over 500 dance students in 87 distinctive graded dance classes for students ages 3 to adult.

  • ...hosted 10 full-length ballet performances and 10 dance showcases.

  • ...distributed more than $100,000 in aid to over 130 students who live in more than 20 different Connecticut towns and cities through our Fund for Access scholarship program. (Thank you, donors!)

What else do we do?

  • We offer 8 graded choirs, enrolling first grade students through adults; 12 large ensembles; and 40 chamber music ensembles.

  • Our flagship early childhood program, First Steps in Music, currently offers 6 aged-based classes running in 10-class segments offered in 3 sessions annually, with an abbreviated summer session.

  • We offer 8 summer programs (2 with a residential component) in addition to a summer session of dance instruction, private lessons, and First Steps in Music.

  • We employ nearly 150 faculty, including 10 department chairs, 27 full-time administrative staff and music skills specialists, and 35 part-time staff.

  • We offer instruction at 4 locations in Connecticut: The Fuller Music Center (West Hartford), The Handel Performing Arts Center (Hartford), Simsmore Square (Simsbury), and The Universalist Unitarian Church (West Hartford).

It is through the continued support of HCD's families, friends, and alumni that the school will continue to thrive and grow. Any gift is a gift of magnitude. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help make performing arts education possible for worthy students. 

Millard 428: Buck$ 'N Seats: Thank you for your support!

2017 Millard Auditorium Fundraiser

Thank you to everyone who donated to The Hartt School’s Millard 428: Buck$ ‘n Seats campaign, a crowdfunding campaign to renovate Millard Auditorium. This space is in dire need of updates and this project will elevate Millard to the modern performance hall that Hartt students deserve.

Thanks to your support, we met our goal of 428 donations—one for each seat in Millard—and raised $26,853 from 441 donors in just 48 hours. The Millard renovation kicks off in late May!

Coming up this month: HCD Alumni Weekend

Join our Facebook event page.

Alumni Weekend

Second Annual Hartt Community Division Alumni Weekend
Friday, May 12–Sunday, May 14, 2017
University of Hartford

Join us for the second annual HCD Alumni Weekend! Each year we celebrate the accomplishments of the various HCD departments as well as honor notable faculty anniversaries. There are opportunities and activities for alumni and current students to reconnect and interact, as well as performances for everyone to enjoy.

This year the spotlight will be on the Connecticut Youth Symphony (CYS) and Greater Hartford Youth Wind Ensemble (GHYWE), as well as Dan D’Addio, who is celebrating his 30th year of teaching.


Alumni from our large ensembles program are invited to perform on stage with the Connecticut Youth Symphony, under the direction of Daniel D'Addio, and the Greater Hartford Youth Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Glen Adsit. Instruments include strings, winds, brass, and percussion (no piano). Sheet music has been provided to those who signed up. Please RSVP if you would like to attend and/or perform.

Connecticut Youth Symphony will perform on Saturday, May 13, at 3 p.m. in Lincoln Theater

  • Capriccio Espagnol, Op. 34 - Nicholai Rimsky Korsakov
  • Andante and Hungarian Rondo, Op. 35 - Carl Maria von Weber
    Soloist - Emily Yaffe, viola – HCD Alumna
  • “Nimrod” from Enigma Variations, Op. 36 - Edward Elgar
  • March Slav, Op. 31 - Pyotr Illych Tchaikovsky (with alumni)

Greater Hartford Youth Wind Ensemble will perform on Sunday, May 14, at 7 p.m. in Lincoln Theater

  • March, from "Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber" - Hindemith
  • Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral - Wagner, arr. Cailliet
  • Rumpelstilzchen: A Fairy Tale for Symphonic Wind Ensemble - Turner
  • Lullaby for Noah - Turrin
  • Apollo Unleashed, from Symphony No. 2 - Ticheli
  • Star Wars Trilogy - Williams, arr. Hunsberger
  • First Suite in Eb for Military Band, mvt. 1 – Holst (with alumni)



J Restaurant Bar6–7 p.m.: Alumni Social Event (off-campus food and fun)
Location: J Restaurant Bar, 297 Washington St., Hartford, Conn.
Come eat appetizers and socialize with HCD faculty, staff, and alumni! All ages.
Menu: Antipasto Platter, Cheese and Cracker Platter, Stuffed Mushrooms, Mini Crabcakes, Marinated Grilled Chicken with a Spicy Aioli, Tomato/Mozzarella Skewers. Cash bar available with proper ID.


  • 12:30–1:30 p.m.: Open rehearsal for 
the Connecticut Youth Symphony concert in Bliss Music Room
  • 2–2:30 p.m.: Alumni Rehearsal with CYS in Lincoln Theater
  • 3–4:30 p.m.: Concert at Lincoln Theater
  • 4:30–6 p.m.: Wine & Cheese reception for alumni and special guests in Lincoln Theater


  • 3–5 p.m.: Open rehearsal and alumni rehearsal for the Greater Hartford Youth Wind Ensemble evening concert
  • 5:30–6:45 p.m.: Awards and Recognition Dinner (on campus at the 1877 Club)
    (Alumni and HCD students eat free. Additional guests: $10)
  • 7:30 p.m.: Concert at Lincoln Theater


Event visitors may park in  F Lot (next to Lincoln Theater) or D Lot (across from The Hartt School)Campus map.

From the Stage

Here are some recent performances by HCD students. View our full calendar online for upcoming events!

HCD Students Performed in HarttWorks, a Multi-Genre dance production

HarttWorks 2017 at The Hartt School Community Division. Photos by John Long.

Photos by John Long

On March 24 and 25, HCD students performed in HarttWorks, a multi-genre, professional-quality dance works performed by HCD’s top dance students. This year’s performances featured a special collaboration between the HCD dance and music departments. Honors music composition student Xavier Blackwell-Lipkind, a sophomore at Conard High School in West Hartford, composed original music that was performed live during the modern segment at both performances. Hartt School alumna Rebecca DeNies (BFA, ‘14) choreographed the piece. Dancers were accompanied by an advanced chamber music trio, Fibonacci Trio, comprised of Northwest Catholic High School senior Kate Jessen on clarinet, South Windsor High School sophomore Gabe Galley on viola, and Glastonbury High School senior Karlee Cummings on piano.


Bach in the SubwaysThis March, HCD Suzuki stings (violin, viola, and cello) students participated in the annual Bach in the Subways event, an international movement to perform the works of J.S. Bach in public spaces in honor of his birthday. 

Caty Dalton, collegiate viola pedagogy student of Melinda Daetsch and masters degree candidate at The Hartt School, dressed up as Bach and made a grand entrance, encouraging the students to perform his favorite pieces. The group ended the performance by singing “Happy Birthday” to Bach and enjoyed a cake in his honor.

Enjoy a short video montage of the event below.

Save the Date: HCD Dance Spring Festival

Dance student at The Hartt School Community Division

Friday, June 2–Sunday, June 4
The University of Hartford's The Hartt School
Mort and Irma Handel Performing Arts Center
35 Westbourne Parkway, Hartford, Conn.

The Spring Festival is a season-ending program for all students of the HCD Dance Department highlighting the training program, honoring students and faculty, and demonstrating the accomplishments of the academic year. It is open to the public.

Students will demonstrate their class work in a formalized, rehearsed presentation through several levels and genres based on the curriculum studied during the year. The festival will include lecture/demonstrations, receptions, award ceremonies, presentations, master classes, informational meetings, and activities for children. Parents, students, faculty, staff, and the public are invited to partake in the full spectrum of the training program at HCD. Visit our dance performances page in the coming weeks for additional information.

See more upcoming events.

Share Your Story

If you are an HCD alumnus and are interested in being featured in a future edition of The Compass e-newsletter, email Thank you for sharing your accomplishments with us!