Community Outreach Instruments in the Attic

Instruments Gotcha Day Provides Musical Support for Schools

MCAA’s instrument donation program, Instruments in the Attic, launched a new initiative providing needed instruments to area Title I schools, collaborating with Mason students from the Dewberry School of Music NAfME student organization and Day Violins.

“It’s really nice to get instrument donations that we can give to the students,” said Paul Erickson, a Fairfax County elementary school band teacher who has dedicated 22 years of his career to music education for young children. “Many of our students cannot afford to buy or rent an instrument from a store. Now, we could provide our students with the instruments. We appreciate Mason putting this together for us.”


The new initiative, Instruments Gotcha Day, aims to loan gently used instruments donated from the community to area’s schools that struggle to purchase instruments. Samantha Clarke, the community outreach coordinator at the Academy, who organized the inaugural Band Instrument Gotcha Day event, shared that the music educators who came to the event have a budget to repair but no funding to purchase instruments.

“They are in a difficult situation where they don’t have access to what they need for their students,” said Clarke, Mason doctoral student in conducting, who experienced funding challenges during her teaching career in New York. “We can provide these schools the access to more instruments through our Instruments in the Attic program. Schools can repair any instruments as needed to extend the lives of instruments so that more students can play an instrument for the first time.”


The Academy partnered with George Mason University Dewberry School of Music to plan the event with the support from Mason’s NAfME student organization and Day Violins to facilitate the recycling, repairs, and reuse process.

“We are proud to be a part of this initiative,” said Zoe Lamb, president of the Mason NAfME chapter and a music education graduate student. “It’s a great way to get music education students involved, and this is a great opportunity for everyone to get together and give back to the community.”


Weeks leading to the Gotcha Day event, Lamb and the Mason NAfME chapter members examined and cleaned all the band instruments before hundreds of instruments were displayed outside Day Violins. More than 15 local Title I school band directors, and music educators in Fairfax, Prince William, and Loudoun counties received 100+ instruments to support their program.

“This has become a dream come true for us,” said Jenna Day, owner of Day Violins and member of the Academy Advisory Board since 2008. Along with her husband, Jason Day, the couple has helped the Academy repair all the string instruments at the Day Violins, a family-owned string instrument shop in Chantilly, Virginia.


“We have a large number of instruments donated by the community that need to be in the hands of students,” said Jenna. “I put my passion into making sure all the instruments are repaired and the community people get them. This is an amazing program.”

Established in 2008, Instruments in the Attic has received more than 1,100 instruments from community members. The program has loaned out 600+ instruments to schools and individuals and supported school band and orchestra programs. Instrument petting zoo programs were held in various preschools and community events. More than 100 instruments were delivered to underdeveloped regions to help them establish their music programs, including El Salvador, Haiti, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Africa.


Another Gotcha Day is slated for spring 2022, with an emphasis on string instruments and guitars. To support our new initiative, please consider donating gently used instruments to the program or contributing to the Instruments in the Attic fund to support instrument repair and program expenses.


Young Actors Connected with Acclaimed Theater Artists

Selected young actors from Acting For Young People showcase programs attended an hour-long creative workshop, joined and facilitated by outstanding theater artists from the production “Cartography.”

“Our Academy students have had two opportunities to work with Keneza and her company this year; once last spring in a digital space and again this fall, in-person,” said Mary Lechter, Associate Director at the Academy and Assistant Professor in Mason’s School of Theater. “These teaching artists are so generous with their creativity and energy! We are grateful for our connection with the Center for the Arts, and that our students have access to working professionals, who share their real-world experiences and enhance what we are teaching in our Academy programs.”



“Cartography” is created in collaboration with artist and arts education advocate Kaneza Schaal and writer Christopher Myers. The production follows five young refugees searching for a new place to call home. Schaal was named George Mason University’s Artist-in-Residence 2021/2022.

Known for her collective creativity endeavors, Schaal instills and encourages her cast members to bring new ideas into their performance. The Academy’s young actors received a glimpse of what it’s like when everyone has an equal voice in theater production during the workshop.

The cast members divided the student group into four teams to create short plays while meeting challenge requirements, including incorporating the physical space and objects, using body movement to create depth or perspectives, and adding sound effects in the play.



With less than 15 minutes, each team created and rehearsed a short play to share with the crowd. Cast members led a circle discussion reflecting on their collaborative process, followed by the performances. Students engaged in an in-depth conversation sharing the importance of bringing unique ideas and perspectives to their plays and how to navigate through ideas, conflicts, and creativity.

“The most important takeaway from the workshop was the power of connection and collaboration,” said Kaya Thomas, a returning actor in the fall musical showcase “Rockin’ Robin Hood.”

“All of the small groups we worked in were incredibly different, and each person brought different views, skills, ideas, and experiences to be shared. Even when we weren’t creating our short performances, we all had in common: theater and the arts.”

Young actor Hailey Strasbaugh shared that the workshop provided her with a new perspective of training on the stage and challenged her to be aware of her surroundings beyond her character and the plot.



“A lot of the activities we usually do in theater have to do with improv and learning about your character,” said Strasbaugh. “It was really cool to try something new and put a little bit of everything into the activity, and I really had to think about every aspect that goes into performing, how I use the space and incorporate everyone and everything.”

Throughout the conversation, many participants shared that the learning experience from the workshop had benefited them for their current showcase training and inspired them to cherish all the collaborative moments.

“Theater is the fastest way to make friends,” said Thomas. “There’s a shared common denominator between you and others. With each person you collaborate with, you both mutually teach each other and grow from these experiences together. It creates a supportive community full of passionate people, and getting to know one another quickly builds friendships between the ensemble.”

“From the workshop, I learned new techniques and how to handle rejection that I had never really thought of before,” said Strasbaugh. “I always love learning new methods of acting because they can be beneficial in the future, even when you least expect them to.”



ACMP Scholarship Recipients Shared the Joy of Playing Together… Again!

Four aspiring string players received merit scholarships for their stellar accomplishment in the Summer Arts at Mason 2021 strings programs. Reflecting on their experience, the scholarship recipients shared their excitement of performing together in person and their most memorable experience in the summer.

The merit scholarship is sponsored by the Associated Chamber Music Players (ACMP) in support of our summer music programs, Mason Strings Camp and Mason Chamber Music Intensive.



Isaiah Garrett, Halyn (Chloe) Kim, Avery Lee, and Abby Poppe received this year’s ACMP scholarships after a comprehensive review of their applications, essays, program participation, and feedback from the program director and string faculty.

Garrett, a first-time program participant assigned as the First Violinist, said that attending the Mason Chamber Music Intensive program “was like a breath of fresh air,” and the diverse group of instrumentalists reminded him of the joy of creating music and learning from one another along the way.

“I learned how to lead an ensemble without a conductor and how to communicate with the pianist,” said Garrett. “Additionally, I enjoyed playing with the second violin soloist and learned both of our parts well to understand how they fit together.”



Poppe said that working with other committed musicians motivated her to be a better violist and taught her valuable lessons of being a collaborative artist. “When we finished playing, I was proud of what our hard work could accomplish,” said Poppe. “The challenge of this camp expanded my range of abilities and showed my potential. I was proud when I learned a more difficult song.”


“There is no better way to emerge from the isolation of the pandemic than by playing chamber music!” said Professor June Huang, assistant professor of violin and director of strings at George Mason University, who directed both of our strings and chamber ensemble as summer programs. “This past summer, the participants at the Mason Strings Camp and Mason Chamber Music Intensive came together determined to create music. Their positivity, resilience, and musicianship made the world a celebratory place to be and reminded us all that every note counts.”

Mason Strings Camp and Mason Chamber Music Intensive are summer music programs designed for serious young musicians who wish to gain ensemble experience in their music learning. Directed and coached by Mason Dewberry School of Music string and piano faculty, programs include small ensemble and chamber music performance opportunities, and students work directly with esteemed musicians and orchestra directors in all aspects of music enrichment.

In addition to challenging repertoires and talented faculty, Lee, who was selected as a Concertmaster, shared that the close-knit community made playing music enjoyable. “It has been a pleasure to make new friends in both my orchestra and quartet who enjoy playing an instrument as much as I do.”

Although the programs have ended in the summer, our young musicians found new opportunities to apply their recently developed skills and continued collaborating with other young musicians.



“I really enjoy how the viola sounds with other instruments,” said Poppe, who decided to try out another orchestra program and auditioned for The Capitol Symphonic Youth Orchestras.

“Through the Mason Strings Camp, I learned the importance of being able to cue to start performing at the right time,” said Lee. Shortly after the program, Lee auditioned for the American Youth Debut Orchestra, the beginner-level orchestra of the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra (AYPO). She was selected as the concertmaster and started her very first full-year orchestra experience.

Congratulations on our ACMP scholarship recipients and program participants. We wish all the best to our young musicians as they embark on the next chapter of their musical journey.


Associated Chamber Music Players Logo


Faculty Feature: Hannah Price

We are excited to welcome our new Violin Teaching Artist, Hannah Price, joining us to provide private lessons and groups class instructions to our Academy families. Ms. Price is an active soloist and collaborative artist who has performed nationally and internationally. In addition, she has numerous years of teaching experience as a private teacher, lecturer, and guest artist, offering private lessons, group classes, and masterclasses for students of all levels. This fall, Ms. Price will teach the Violin Beginnings, an introductory class for beginners ages 4-6, and Violin Adventures, an elementary level technique class open for all private lesson students ages 5-13. Please join us to welcome Ms. Price for a quick Q&A and learn more about her music story.

What excites you the most about joining the Mason Community Arts Academy?
I’m most excited to get to know the community and the chance to work with so many fabulous people. The faculty is full of energetic, dedicated musicians and teachers, and I’m thrilled that I get to join them!

How did you first fall in love with music?
My journey with the violin was a slow but lasting burn. It was full of hundreds of small moments that added to my passion for it, the first of which happened when I was a little tot driving in the car with my parents. They had a CD in the car that always began with the Tchaikowsky piano concerto No. 1, and we listened to it almost every day. One day, I noticed the little soda bubbles of excitement that would build in my chest in anticipation of every big musical moment. Since then, my goal has been to experience those bubbles with my playing and teaching.



Tell us about a teaching experience you have had that was especially memorable.
I had an older adult student once tell me that the thing he valued most from our lessons was that he learned not to give up on himself and that once he learned how to acknowledge his achievements, he was able to do even more than he thought he could. It was, and is, such an honor to be a part of such valuable personal growth and to know that it can happen at any stage of life, regardless of circumstance. I experienced two human beings being inspired by one another that day, and it is one of the moments that ignited my journey as a teacher.



What are some unique things you do when you teach?
Music is all about storytelling, so I look for every opportunity to incorporate that into my teaching. I explore form and structure using animals and colors that my students get to pick before learning a new song, which helps with memory. Honest self-assessment is also significant for me, so I have some tactics in each lesson that help my students (even the little ones) apply objective self-assessment and set goals for the next time.

Do you have any pets?
None right now, but I love dogs and hope that I’ll be settled enough to get one soon!



What else would you like us to know about you?
As a musician, I have performed in eight different countries across two continents and feel so lucky that music has taken me to cool places with such contrasting cultures. I have a quickly-growing bucket list of places to visit and love to exchange travel stories with people!




Piano Students Earned Regional and State Recognitions

Seven piano students received recognition for their high-level performance and skillsets in national standard examinations created by the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM). Three students received Gold Medals for earning the highest score in the Southeast Region, and seven students achieved the highest marks among all Virginia contestants.

“This is a great honor and a huge congratulation to our RCM winners this year,” said Piano Teaching Artist Faith Zúñiga, who teaches private lessons and coaches the students in preparing for their exams. “It’s because of my students’ hard work and their parents’ support.”

The seven students who received the recognition are:

Gold Medalists:
Annabelle Yeh, Preparatory A
Madison Do, Level 1
Keira Konson, Level 8

State Certificates:
Annabelle Yeh, Preparatory A
Emerie Wonnum, Preparatory B
Madison Do, Level 1
Grace Amartuvshin, Level 5
Chloe Tan, Level 6
Jayden Nguyen, Level 7
Keira Konson, Level 8

RCM provides national standard examinations for numerous instruments guiding young musicians for a holistic music study. The examination assesses students’ musicianship through several testing components such as performance, sight-reading, aural skills, and technical tests. Students progress through levels of difficulty from Preparatory A to Level 10.

Congratulations again to all our RCM winners. We are so proud of all your accomplishments. Check out our RCM winners’ pieces of advice for our young musicians who are preparing for a music exam or competition:



Grace Amartuvshin
Years of Piano Study: 7 Years

“Exams and competitions aren’t everything, and if you don’t do as well as you wanted to, it doesn’t define who you are as a performer. Don’t compare yourself to others- focus on being better than you were yesterday.”



Madison Do
Years of Piano Study: 5 Years

“Practice a lot without burning yourself out, and then play with confidence and have fun.”




Keira Konson
Years of Piano Study: 13 Years

“When you are preparing for a recital or competition, practice in as many ways as you can! Once you feel confident that you have the piece ready and can play it from memory, get creative: making recordings is a great way to test yourself and prepare for a performance. Or play in front of your family or friends exactly how you are going to for the performance. You will feel more confident when you get up on stage to perform for a broader audience if you have already played in front of different groups of people you know and trust. The last thing is to have fun with it! Performing is an incredible opportunity, so don’t lose sight of that!”



Jayden Nguyen
Years of Piano Study: 7 Years

“Participate in as many piano recitals or festivals as possible that give you the opportunities to perform in front of many people and to help build the confidence.”



Chloe Tan
Years of Piano Study: 7 Years

“Persistence makes a long way. The closer you are to the events, the more tiring it will feel. But persistence will help you get closer to your best.”



Emerie Wonnum
Years of Piano Study: 6 Years

“Always keep practicing and focus a lot on your technique; it will help you a lot.”




Annabelle Yeh
Years of Piano Study: 6 Years

“Practice with helpful things like the metronome and counting out loud to help you learn rhythms.”