Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rising Stars
Emerging Artists Concerts feature Madalyn and Cicely Parnas

Staff Reporter

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The music world seems to be getting smaller every day. When they were younger, Madalyn and Cicely Parnas took lessons at a community music school in Massachusetts where Marion Maby taught. Maby later moved to Sedona, where she joined the Verde Valley Sinfonietta.

Now, years later, she has arranged for the sisters to perform with this orchestra.

When the duo performs in Sedona on Feb. 23-25, not only will they reunite with Maby, but they'll also get a chance to unthaw. On Feb. 5 it was a chilling 3 degrees Fahrenheit at their home in Stephentown, N.Y., and a pleasant 70 in Cottonwood.

"Forty is considered a heat wave here," 13-year-old Cicely chides.

Music runs through this family's veins. After all, their grandfather was renowned cellist Leslie Parnas, founding member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

"We've been singing from the time we could talk," states Madalyn. "We've always been musically oriented."

Madalyn, 16, the older of the two, plays the violin while Cicely plays the cello. Both began studying piano and vocals at age 4.

Over the years, Maby has followed the girls' progress. "I kept track of them because they're so talented," she says.

At 10, Madalyn became the youngest first-place winner of the Berkshire Music School's Merit Scholarship Competition. "That's unusual for a 10-year-old to win a competition when competing against high school students," Maby emphasizes.

Two years ago Maby and her husband heard the Parnas sisters play a duet and were so impressed they knew they had to connect them with the Verde Valley Sinfonietta, of which Maby is concertmaster. After some brainstorming and a grant for an Emerging Artists Concert from the City of Sedona, plans were made to bring the girls West.

This marks their first Sedona performance, and both look forward to it.

"It's very exciting and a wonderful opportunity," Madalyn says during a phone interview.

On Feb. 23 at 6:45 p.m., Madalyn and Cicely will join local pianist Patricia LaLiberte in a Chamber Music Concert in Brady Hall at Verde Valley School, 3511 Verde Valley School Road, in VOC. The program calls for two sonatas, one duet and a trio. The public is welcome to attend. Tickets are $10 for adults and free for students.

The Parnas sisters will again be featured, assisted by pianist LaLiberte, at 11 a.m. Feb. 24 at The Church of the Red Rocks, Avery Hall, 54 Bowstring Drive, Sedona. This concert and pizza party include an intriguing presentation for families with school-age children entitled, "Whose Turn? Whose Tune?" This performance and food are free. Reservations required by calling 282-3066.

"We felt kids who are involved with music are much more inspired by seeing their peers perform," Maby says of the main reason for seeking the grant. "We're concentrating on building an audience that includes children."

Later on Saturday at 7 p.m. they join the Verde Valley Sinfonietta, under the direction of Dr. Sean Paul Mills, in separate solo concertos at the church.

Madalyn will play Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, Op. 64.

"I had prepared this concerto several years ago," she states, "but I've never played it with an orchestra. When I was asked to play, I thought of Mendelssohn because it's such a wonderful piece and I strongly wish to perform it with an orchestra."

Cicely follows with Haydn's Concerto in C Major.

"I chose this because," she explains, "I have a goal of playing every concerto I know with an orchestra."

This performance is repeated at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25, at The Church of the Red Rocks. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for college students and free for children ages 5-18. For reservations, call 282-3066.

These pieces were selected because they're recognized by many. "They're considered standard concertos," Cicely explains.

With numerous performances and awards under their belts, the teens already have concert engagements booked through January 2008.

Managing such a busy schedule means they have to find education alternatives, such as homeschooling. They're enrolled in Keystone National High School, a fully accredited distance learning high school in Pennsylvania; both will graduate at age 16.

"What's wonderful about Keystone is it offers that flexibility to plan a school schedule and complete homework wherever you are," Madalyn explains. "We could not do what we do without independent study."

Both practice between four and five hours daily, tend to six horses and two dogs, and attend music lessons once a week in Boston, which is two and half hours away from their rural 12-acre ranch in New York.

"Add in rehearsals and we're constantly traveling," declares an upbeat Madalyn.

In 2006, Cicely won three first prizes in competition including the Uel Wade Scholarship Competition, the Schenectady Symphony Stefan Concerto Competition, and the Berkshire Lyric Young Artist Competition, as well as being named one of three national finalists in the Junior Cello Division of the ASTA Competition.

Cicely's debut as guest soloist with orchestra at age 9 earned these words from a reviewer, who described her playing as "an astonishing mix of pungency and finesse."

At 15, Madalyn had taken numerous top prizes in competition and has been named a Carondelet Scholar at the College of St. Rose, signifying the highest academic achievement and carrying a full scholarship.

In response to her recital at the Grand Montgomery Chamber Series a few years ago, one reviewer proclaimed, "Remember the name Madalyn Parnas! Surely, the violinist is destined for a long and successful career on the concert stage."

Indeed, remember the Parnas sisters. These rising stars have their sights set on careers as soloists as well as chamber musicians. To follow their progress, visit

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