Music Tree hosting Strings Festival

The Music Tree Prep School will host its inaugural Strings Festival Sunday, March 18 at the school, 4833 Church St. in Zachary. Students will be given an opportunity to prepare a short program and receive a professional, but friendly evaluation.

Ruth Roland, Music Tree strings coordinator said the festival is open to all students of violin, viola, cello, fiddle, and bass. There is no age limit and private instruction is not a requirement. String players from any geographic location—including string players from the Greater Baton Rouge area, St. Francisville, Port Allen/Plaquemine, Denham Springs, and Zachary/Baker/Central as well as Mississippi – are welcome.

“The Music Tree Strings Festival provides an opportunity for any string player to get feedback on their playing from a friendly professional,” Roland said. “It’s a very inclusive festival—anyone is welcome to enter, the time commitment is low, and the rewards are great.”

Roland said often the pro tips are “just the thing we need to take our playing to the next level.” The Music Tree realized a need for their own students and decided to extend the offer to other students. “It’s great for those who don’t have frequent individual instruction—an opportunity to play for someone who’s watching carefully,” Roland said adding “it’s also perfect for folks who study privately. The evaluator’s comments enhance and reinforce the private teacher’s ideas and encourage the student. It’s a win-win.”

Professional musicians and string educators Dave Hinson and Kelly Smith-Toney will serve as judges and evaluators for the festival.

Smith-Toney received her bachelor and master’s degrees from The Juilliard School, where she studied with the world-renowned violin pedagogue, Ivan Galamian. Upon graduation, she joined the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra for a two-year engagement.

Smith-Toney began performing with the Baton Rouge Symphony in 1985. She became concertmaster of the Baton Rouge Symphony chamber orchestra (which is now The Louisiana Sinfonietta) in 1986 and performed with the Valcour String Quartet (comprised of the core musicians of the Baton Rouge Symphony) for two seasons. She is also former concertmaster of 27 years for The Louisiana Sinfonietta.

Dave Hinson has local roots and is a graduate of Zachary High. He is a classically-trained bassist and has performed as a guitarist in a while range of genres. As a teen, he played in punk-rock bands with his cousin while playing classically with the Louisiana Youth Orchestra. As an adult, he has taught music since 1994 and is the founder of the Adult Music Club, a group that has led to the formation of several local bands.

Participants can click HERE to register and pay a $15 registration fee by March 15. Roland said each student will be contacted with a performance time or to see if a specific time request is needed. The entire process should take about an hour. For more information, call (225) 654-1271 or email the staff at


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