published Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Violinist Rebekah Howard gets leadership role in youth orchestra

Violinist Rebekah Howard, 11, is the concertmaster of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Youth Philharmonic.
Violinist Rebekah Howard, 11, is the concertmaster of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Youth Philharmonic.
Photo by John Rawlston.

Classical music has been bringing Rebekah Howard to tears since she was 2 years old.

Rebekah’s mother, Arlene Howard, said her daughter’s attachment to music has only grown stronger over time.

“It’s like it was so moving to her,” Howard said. “I’m not sure if it was because it touched her soul or something, but she always reacted so interestingly to it.”

Now 11, the Collegedale-based violinist said she may have outgrown getting weepy, but she still feels the emotional impact of a beautifully played piece.

“I just always loved the tone and the beauty of [the violin],” Rebekah said. “I never want to quit it. I always want to continue playing it for God’s glory. I love to bless people with my music.”

Rebekah began begging her parents to take violin lessons at age 4. At the time, they said they were concerned she was too young and started her on the piano when she turned 6.

At age 7, however, her parents relented and enrolled her in a string program at A.W. Spalding Elementary School, a Seventh-day Adventist school near the family’s home in Collegedale.

Last year, Rebekah was accepted into the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Youth Orchestra program as a first violinist in the second highest orchestra, the Youth Philharmonic. This year, she was named the Philharmonic’s concertmaster or principal violinist.

As concertmaster, Rebekah serves as a leader for the Philharmonic’s 33 other violinists, many of whom are older than her.

“It’s kind of scary,” she said. “Once I start playing, though, it’s not bad. It kind of calms my fears.”

Rebekah received preparation for taking on the role of concertmaster earlier this summer at the Mountain Arts Community Center Music Festival, at which she was also concertmaster. She also performed in an advanced quintet alongside her older brother, Daniel, 14, who plays cello.

Even though Rebekah had been studying for four years before the festival, her rate of improvement by the end of the festival was surprising, her mother said.

“I saw her grow so much that week,” Howard said. “That was a shock to me. It was like, ‘I didn’t know she could do that.’ ”

Rebekah’s combination of emotional playing and technical precision are highly unusual for someone her age, said Sandy Morris, who has conducted Rebekah at the MACC festival and in the Philharmonic.

“She has already achieved a level that students several years older than she have not aspired to,” Morris said. “Many students start playing when they’re very young, but to have advanced to the point where she is remarkable.”

And next year, Morris said, Rebekah will likely join the ranks of the Youth Orchestra’s most advanced group, the Youth Symphony.

“There’s a very good chance she’ll move up,” Morris said. “I’ll miss her when she does.”

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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