(January 2018) Student of the Month: Prior Family

The Philadelphia International Music Camp & Festival includes each year over 50 chamber music ensembles, eight symphony orchestras, faculty recitals with principal players from The Philadelphia Orchestra, dozens of students performances, four concerto competitions, over 1500 private lessons, and much more. We would like to take a moment today to highlight one very special family that took advantage this past summer (2018) of a host of musical opportunities available to student musicians at the PIMF summer music camp.

PIMF: You are quite a musical family! Just how many musicians, and instruments, are there under your roof?  

Hetti Prior: We are a family of six. Five of us (mom and the kids) are classically trained as musicians and dad is an avid supporter. Our family’s main instrument is violin but we have explored piano, trumpet, flute, cello, ukulele, and voice. 

PIMF: Please tell us a little bit about each musician: instrument(s), years playing, current musical activities, musical goals.

HP: I am a violinist, pianist, and teacher at the Legacy Preparatory Christian Academy in The Woodlands, TX. I have bachelor degrees in music (violin and piano performance) and biology and am an active member of the American String Teachers Association and Texas Music Educators Association. 

Joshua (9th grade) studied violin at the Manhattan School of Music precollege in Manhattan, NY and currently studies at the Shepherd School of Music precollege at Rice University in Houston, TX. His goal for this school year is to focus on building a solid repertoire. He is committed to working daily on scales, Bach’s unaccompanied violin sonatas and partitas, classical and romantic concertos, and  Paganini Caprices.  

Rachel (8th grade), Bethany (6th grade), and Noelle (3rd grade) also study music at the Shepherd School of Music precollege division. Rachel, Bethany, and Noelle’s goal for this year is to learn two complete concerto works.  

Joshua, Rachel, Bethany, and Noelle are members of different chamber groups at the Shepherd School of Music precollege division. They are also members of the Legacy String Ensemble and Foursome Strings and they perform regularly for the school and community.  Additionally, Hetti, Joshua, and Rachel serve as violinists for the Crossroads Baptist Church Orchestra in The Woodlands, TX.  

PIMF: Is there a history of musicianship in your family? How did your children come to start on their instruments? 

HP: Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I was asked, beginning at a young age, to step in whenever needed whether it be piano accompanying or singing at church. Joshua, Rachel, Bethany, and Noelle started playing violin at age one. They were given a 1/32nd and 1/16th violin to play with. They played with the violin literally like a toy in the beginning – all for fun. As you can imagine, we have every size of violin and many different sizes of cellos, ukuleles, flutes, and trumpets at home.

PIMF: Are there any structures or strategies you have in place within your musical household to ensure that progress continues and that lessons and performances are prepared for?

HP: “Start early and there is no choice to be made” is my family’s strategy.  As a family ensemble, we regularly perform for the local community, church, and school events. 

PIMF: How do you seek or come into new musical opportunities? 

HP: We try to connect with local church, orchestra, and school musicians. There are always opportunities to perform if we have works ready to perform.  We try out newly mastered works with our friends and family first to practice performing for an audience. All four kids attended the same preschool and kindergarten: Heritage School in Wayne, PA. We were there for 11 straight years.  My four kids were known as “Foursome Strings” and played wedding music for several years at Heritage School. “Foursome Strings” also played Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance Marches annually at the kindergarten graduation. 

PIMF: Are there any sources of scholarship or assistance your young musicians have sought out or discovered in their education? 

HP: All four children earned scholarships at various summer music camps, chamber, and orchestra programs.     

PIMF: How would you put into words the value of a musical education for a young person?

HP: I believe music is an integral part of education. Music enhances both intellectual and physical development of a young person. Music can transcend beyond human limits and possibilities, beyond intellectual and physical possibilities. It’s personal and communal potential impact is special.  It has power to bring out emotions within and to touch others in unspoken ways.  It fills you up inside and makes your heart swell. The process to musical proficiency or mastery is long and arduous but the value and beauty of mastery is incomparable to any other subject or skill.

PIMF: Can you think of a special moment, or two, where you felt very confirmed in supporting the musical education of your children?

HP: In 2015 we went to Tuscany, Italy for my sister’s wedding. Joshua and I played Bach Double Concerto, 2nd movement, at the wedding.  Very memorable as the wedding was in a Tuscan villa, with the rolling hills and vineyards of Tuscany surrounding the wedding party.  We also played other wedding pieces with the professional ensemble at the wedding. Words cannot describe how joyous and beautiful it was for us. 

PIMF: What was the experience of PIMF like for your family? What were some of the summer highlights? 

HP: It was amazing for all five of us to attend PIMF this past June 2018 as a family. PIMF is musically intense, invigorating, beautiful, and fun. The quality and standard of the music camp is superb.  Joshua participated in the Solo Performance Preparation Program; Rachel in the Gold Symphony; Bethany in the Silver Symphony; Noelle in the Diamond Symphony program; and Hetti coached a chamber group. Joshua had incredible lessons with violinist Kimberly Fisher the Principal Second Violin of The Philadelphia Orchestra and had an opportunity to perform Bach Double Concerto with violinist Marc Rovetti the Assistant Concertmaster of The Philadelphia Orchestra as the Double Concerto Competition (second movement) winner. Bethany received an honorable mention for the first movement division of the Bach Double Concerto Competition and the practice marathon award.   

PIMF: What are some upcoming musical goals for 2019? 

HP: We consider ourselves as ambassadors of classical music and our goal is to share the beauty of music with anyone who is willing to listen. Individually, we set a goal to build a solid repertoire for solo violin works and as an ensemble. We would like to perform more for the senior and community centers in 2019.