Aronson Cello Festival Honors Late Cellist, SMU Instructor

The festival honors the eastern European-American cellist, and former SMU teacher Lev Aronson, who influenced many successful cellists. It features all female musicians.

Artem Furman

The sixth annual Aronson Cello Festival began Sunday at the Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts and continues through June 30 featuring all women cellists and musicians.

The festival honors the eastern European-American cellist and former SMU teacher Lev Aronson, who influenced many successful cellists. 

“There is no more significant and relevant time than now to support women in the workplace — whether they’re holding a cello, a baton, or a business plan,” said Brian Thornton, the festival’s director and a former student of Aronson. “It is our mission to provide an artistic forum to engineer progress and change.”

“The Aronson Cello Festival seeks to reflect powerful ideas and movements that create and inspire dialogue — through music, through teaching, through unique voices.”

Brian Thornton

According to a release, the festival will feature a series of concerts with top performers, as well as master classes and presentations in honor of Aronson. Among the featured musicians is the first woman to graduate from Juilliard’s conductor program and be appointed conductor of a major symphony orchestra

“The Aronson Cello Festival seeks to reflect powerful ideas and movements that create and inspire dialogue — through music, through teaching, through unique voices,” Thornton said. “If you listen to what these women, men, students, and elders are saying, then the arts become a transformative and powerful tool to reach people’s minds and hearts. We stand for collaboration, diversity, inclusion, and fun!”

The festival will include a panel featuring women who are trailblazing the classical musical industry, a screening of a series of short films about Aronson directed by six-time award-winning TV and filmmaker Ty Kim, and a discussion with Frances Brent, the author of “The Lost Cellos of Lev Aronson,” about her time researching and writing Aronson’s story.

Author Seymour Itzkoff (left), Frances Brent’s book about Aronson chronicling his life, and Victoria Bond, the first female graduate of the conducting program at Juilliard. [Photos courtesy of Aronson Cello Festival]

“Women and Classical Music includes a panel of dynamic, national leaders in the arts who happen to be female — to hear how they have navigated their careers in different eras,” Thornton said. “In the end, their collective wisdom can change the world one person at a time.”

Aronson, who died in 1988 in Dallas, survived concentration camps in his native Latvia during the German occupation in World War II. He escaped after several years of hard larbor and immigrated to the United States, where he establish himself as a concert cellist.

ARONSON BECAME DSO’S PRINCIPAL CELLIST

He eventually became the principal cellist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and an influential cello instructor at SMU and at Baylor University in Waco.

Sunday’s schedule featured a master class taught by cellist Jennifer Humphreys of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, who also performed an evening concert; and an evening with Victoria Bond — the first womam graduate of the Juilliard conducting program.

More public concerts and events during the festival include:

Monday

  • A recital by cellist Melissa Kraut of The Cleveland Institute of Music at 7 p.m..

Tuesday

  • A master class taught by Cellist Ani Aznavoorian of the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana at 10 a.m.
  • A recital by Aznavoorian at 7 p.m.

Wednesday

  • A conversation with Frances Brent, author of the book, “The Lost Cellos of Lev Aronson,” at noon. Brent shares her journey researching and writing the story of this iconic teacher and musician along with award-winning storyteller Ty Kim, a former journalist for 60 Minutes and director of a series of short films, “Tell Me A Story About Lev Aronson.”
  • A recital by cellist Brian Thornton that honors his teacher Maestro Lev Aronson at 12:30 p.m.
  • A panel at 7 p.m. about women and classical music honoring their perspective, experience, and wisdom. This inaugural panel discussion is dedicated to one of Lev Aronson’s most honored students, Ralph Kirshbaum.

Thursday

  • A master class at 10 a.m. taught by cellist Maja Bogdanovic.
  • A recital at 7p.m. by Bogdanovic.

Friday

  • “Tell Me A Story About Lev Aronson,” a series of short films directed by award-winning storyteller Ty Kim, a former journalist for 60 Minutes will be held at 7 p.m. Meet the legendary teacher who launched the careers of some of the most renowned artists of our time, told though the eyes of his students, his family members, and author Frances Brent. Kim, the Los Angeles-based Emmy award-winning filmmaker and special guests will appear live. A special film also will be shown about composer and conductor Victoria Bond who broke barriers as the first female conducting program graduate at Juilliard. 


Saturday

  • A master class at 10 a.m. taught by Madeleine Kabat, acting assistant principal cellist of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
  • A recital and presentation at 3 p.m. by cellist Coleman Itzkoff and author Seymour Itzkoff honoring the legendary virtuoso Emanuel Feuermann, who died unexpectedly.
  • A recital at 7 p.m. by Kabat.

Tickets — ranging from complimentary to $35 per event and $250 for a full event ticket — are available online. For more information on events, Lev Aronson, and the sixth annual Aronson Cello Festival, visit the festival’s website.

cellist

From top left, Ani Aznavoorian, Melissa Kraut, Brian Thornton, Coleman Itzkoff, Laura Tohe, Maja Bogdanovic, Madeleine Kabat, Anastasia Markina, Petronel Malan, Ty Kim, Jennifer Humphreys, and Lev Aronson. [Photos courtesy of Aronson Cello Festival]

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