Students looking for performance opportunities should consider joining one of STEP’s fantastic ensembles! These ensembles practice pieces as a group, and frequently perform throughout the community.
Being a member of an ensemble gives musicians a sense of accomplishment, camaraderie and self esteem. Players learn from each other and are motivated by those who are more advanced. In addition, students develop friendships that will last a lifetime.
The STEP Fiddlers were founded in 1982 by Christina Smith, to give young Newfoundlanders an opportunity to learn their own traditional music. These young performers specialize in the traditional dance music of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the repertoires of renowned Newfoundland fiddlers, Rufus Guinchard and Emile Benoit.
Sponsored by the Suzuki Talent Education Program of St. John’s, the group currently has 20 talented fiddlers, ranging in age from 7 to 15. Members of the group also sing and stepdance. Initially the group was not intended to be a performing group; time and experience, though, uncovered the fact that the foot-tapping fiddling of the STEP fiddlers inspired younger kids to want to learn the music, and older people to want to listen to it.
Approximately 200 kids have learned their own traditional music in this group during the past 25 years, throughout a period in time when there was nowhere else where kids could learn these tunes. STEP Fiddlers alumni are now teaching fiddle from St. John’s to Edmonton. Since the early days, the group has developed into a powerhouse performing ensemble. The STEP Fiddlers’ dynamic stage show incorporates French Newfoundland foot-clogging, a dancing doll, and even some Newfoundland square dancing, while fiddling at the same time. They perform a repertoire of graceful waltzes, touching slow airs and fiery reels, with admirable maturity and finesse. Their skill in playing the Newfoundland jigs and singles is indisputable. In spite of their tender age, they are able to engage the audience with the gamut of musical emotions.The STEP Fiddlers perform at concerts, festivals, benefits and events in the St. John’s area, and have performed for a wide range of audiences – from pre-school kids to Prime Minister Chretien, from seniors at the St. Pat’s Garden Party to Prince Andrew at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s. In January, 2009 the senior members of the group travelled to London, England, playing in several professional concerts – and an impromptu session at the Air Canada gate in Heathrow when the plane was delayed! In the summers of 2008 and 2009 they were featured performers at the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention, the Canada Day Celebrations, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival; and they performed at the Canadian Folk Music Awards Gala in November 2008.
Youth Ensemble of Suzuki (YES)
The Youth ensemble of Suzuki (formerly known as STEP Orchestra), is an ensemble of STEP students in Book 2 or higher, who come together to play as an orchestra. Led by the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster, Heather Kao, the ensemble plays frequently around St. John’s, and has won several awards in the Kiwanis Music Festival. Students in YES get to play all genres of music, including classical, Celtic, holiday pieces, and even arrangements of pop songs! YES also happily welcomes non-STEP students who play violin, viola, or cello, and want an orchestra experience. This ensemble meets on Tuesday afternoons.
Young Virtuosi (YV)
Young Virtuosi is STEP’s most advanced Group Class. Every child who achieves the level necessary to enter the class (Book 6 for violin, Book 5 for cello) will become a member of this class. Every student in the group will perform a solo Concerto with their peers playing the orchestra parts for them.
In reality, it is a very rare privilege to perform as a soloist with an orchestra, and outside of STEP, the opportunity is only given to those very few young performers who have won a competition. In accordance with Suzuki’s discovery that “every child can”, each and every student in this class has the opportunity to perform as soloist with orchestra, and gain the benefits that this experience teaches: leadership and communication skills, courage, confidence, self-knowledge, commitment, poise, and musical sensitivity. The students use all the skills they have ever learned in lessons, Group Classes, Musicianship and Orchestra, since they first picked up a bow.
The group presents public performances at the end of each semester, is requested to perform at community events, and occasionally performs outside St. John’s, anywhere from Brigus to Guelph to London, England.
Jennifer Johnson is the director and brings a wealth of personal performing experience to the class. The class meets from 3:15 – 5:15 on Mondays at Brother Rice Junior High School.