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A Spark in the Community: UNCW’s Community Music Academy will perform benefit recital

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MOLDING MUSICians: A benefit concert for new youth programming for students like Julia Elena Gualdi happens Thursday. Courtesy photo.

MOLDING MUSICians: A benefit concert for new youth programming for students like Julia Elena Gualdi happens Thursday. Courtesy photo.

This is the class where you learn how to study flute, right?” Danijela Žeželj-Gualdi asks her 7-year-old students.

“No!” they quickly answer.

“This is the class where you study … piano?” Žeželj-Gualdi tries again.

“No!” They laugh.

Žeželj-Gualdi pretends to play the instrument she’s holding like a flute or piano with no luck. She finally asks her pupils what it is. They all shout enthusiastically in tandem: “Violin!”

It’s a scene played out in a promotional video for a newly developed class, Pre-Twinkle Try It!, founded by UNCW’s Community Music Academy. Based on the Suzuki music method, it’s a six-week introductory violin class for children ages 5 to 7. The program is free and even has donated instruments from the Ronald Sachs Violins shop in Atlanta—one just opened in downtown Wilmington at 206 N. 4th St., #15. Children learn violin basics in a safe, fun and educational environment.

“We are hoping the students would spark an interest during this six weeks and that they will continue taking lessons, as well as participate in group classes,” Žeželj-Gualdi explains to encore. It’s one of many programs and initiatives the UNCW Community Music Academy (CMA) has for the future.

Žeželj-Gualdi is this year’s appointed artistic director for CMA, as well an accomplished violinist and violist, and part-time professor in UNCW’s Department of Music. While cultivating the young program, she’s also organizing CMA’s upcoming benefit concert on March 24 at UNCW’s Beckwith Hall.

Performing everything from Chopin to Rachmaninoff to Piazzolla, all musicians consist of full- and part-time faculty, including Žeželj-Gualdi, as well as area artists. While she’ll be playing violin, she and Elizabeth Loparits will also perform Monti’s “Csárdás”—a fiery, gypsy dance.

“Always a delight for audience,” Žeželj-Gualdi explains. “It cannot be better when performed by two (almost) gypsies. Elizabeth is Hungarian and I am Serbian.”

Classical guitarist Robert Nathanson and Natalie Boeyink (bassist, violinist, pianist, composer) will perform alongside cellist Jake Wenger, classical and electric guitarist Justin Hoke, and CMA’s newest addition, pianist Paolo André Gualdi.

encore talked with Žeželj-Gualdi to discuss CMA’s upcoming performance and the young musicians it benefits.

encore (e): As the new artistic director of CMA, how do you approach working with fellow faculty and area musicians; what’s it been like creatively and professionally?

Danijela Žeželj-Gualdi (DZG): I have collaborated with all of them at some point, either playing together or as a  UNCW colleague working on projects. All these wonderful artists are my dear and close friends, and there is nothing better than making music together with your friends. When I approached them with the idea of participating in the UNCW CMA benefit recital, they were all wholeheartedly in and loved the idea. We are all also very passionate about our student’s progress and success, and this is really an event for them.

Together we created the most fun program with everyone participating in suggestions, creative collaborations and willingness to invest hours of practice and rehearsals to make this event brilliant, entertaining and high class.

e: Tell us about the performance selections. What are a couple of specific pieces and why were they chosen?

DZG: Music you will hear that night is wide-range repertoire. The evening opens with Robert Beaser Mountain Songs for flute and guitar based on Appalachian folk tunes, played by Justin Hoke and Amanda Taylor. Paolo Andre’ Gualdi will then perform Debussy’s famous Reflets dans l’eau from Images I. This piece translates “reflections of the water” [like] a true impressionist—the play of the light on the surface of the water. It is for piano solo. A few selections that evening are very sensual, like composer Astor Piazzolla—the master of the new Tango movement.

Chopin’s “Etudes” on piano [will be] performed by our beautiful Elizabeth Loparits, as well as original composition by our new UNCW faculty member, Dr. Natalie Boeyink. Our cello instructor Jake Wenger will play a movement from Rachmaninoff sonata. This work was composed after a long period of composers fight with depression, and this third movement is a beautifully themed Andante.

e: What can you tell readers about the Pre-Twinkle Try It program’s target students?

DZG: I decided on that age because it is when children start school, and are somewhat independent and able to focus a bit longer. It is possible to start earlier, and I am hoping to have even younger age classes. I envisioned “Mommy and Me” and Pre-Twinkle for 4-year-olds. For that one I have to have cardboard violins. 

e: It started in February, but will it be a reoccurring workshop?

DZG: We have now about 15 kids in the class. I am hoping some, if not all of them, will continue to learn violin.

e: Are the music academy performers all involved in Twinkle Try It?

DZG: No. At this point, I am leading the program and it is violin-oriented. But this is an example of what is possible to do with other instruments, too! I am involving my UNCW music students, and they are having first-hand experience in teaching (at this point, violin) music and applied instruments to very young children. Which brings me to another very important program we are establishing at UNCW: CMA-Student Teacher Program. The Student Teacher Program provides the opportunity to study private music lessons with highly qualified UNCW music students at an affordable cost. The student teachers are hired, trained and supervised by members of the UNCW music faculty.

e: What have you learned so far moving forward with Twinkle?

DZG: I learned programs like this really raise awareness in our community [about] how important music is in the development of a child and how much joy it brings to play together. We need more free programs where parents would be less scared to get their children involved without worrying that they invested in something completely wrong for them.

I also learned programs like this should be transferred to our public schools, so less-fortunate students would be given a chance to study an instrument. With the right kind of support, all this is possible!

A pre-concert reception will start at 7 p.m., with wine donated by Wilmington Wine. WHQR’s Gina Gamboni will host the evening, and it will feature a silent auction. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 to $20 and available at 910-962-3500. Proceeds will benefit the UNCW Community Music Academy and programs like Pre-Twinkle Try It!

For more information, visit

UNCW Community Music Academy Benefit
Thurs., March 24, at 7 p.m.
UNCW Beckwith Hall
601 S. College Rd.
UNCW campus
Tickets: $5 – $20

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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