Next Gen

SOR Talent Scholarship

Each year, the String Orchestra of the Rockies provides a young string musician studying at the University of Montana with a $1,000 talent scholarship. Scholarship recipients are selected from a very competitive pool of applicants, all of whom are string students pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University of Montana. In addition to having outstanding teacher recommendations and a strong academic record, individuals applying for the SOR scholarship must also audition and demonstrate their proficiency with their instrument. Students can receive the SOR scholarship multiple times during their undergraduate studies. SOR is very proud to support aspiring string performers in this way, and we are very pleased to introduce you to this year’s exceptional SOR scholarship recipient.

Makenzie Grotbo

The SOR’s 2023-24  University of Montana Talent Scholarship recipient is violinist Makenzie Grotbo from Helena, Montana.

In her own words:   Hello! My name is Makenzie Grotbo and I am a violinist from Helena, Montana. I started playing violin around the age of 11 and have been in love with music ever since! Since then I have qualified for the Montana All-State Orchestra, played for the Butte Symphony Orchestra, and was a co-founder of the Big Sky String Quartet. I will be attending the University of Montana this upcoming fall to study both Music and Human Biology. I am excited to see where the next steps in my musical journey take me!

Alex Crisp

The SOR’s 2022-23  University of Montana Talent Scholarship recipient is violinist Alex Crisp from Helena, Montana. He was also the 2020/21 recipient of the University of Montana Talent Scholarship.
In his own words:
  Hello, I am Alex Crisp from Helena, MT. I have played the violin for eight years. I tried private lessons twice, but did not last for more than a few months with either teacher.  As they say, “the third time’s a charm.” Last November,  I started taking lessons with Dr. Baldridge and I haven’t stopped yet. During high school, I was the concertmaster of the Capital High Chamber Orchestra for two years. I was also a member of the Helena Youth Orchestra, now known as Ironhorse Youth Conservatorium, for five years and attended its attached summer camp three times. I have attended the UM Summer String Camp and the UM High School All-Star Orchestra once each, and have performed in the Helena Night To Shine event twice. I am very thankful to be a recipient of the SOR Talent Scholarship this year to help pursue my studies of Violin and Classics at UM, and to continue to attend SOR concerts. 

Ellie Binnington

The SOR’s 2021/22 Talent Scholarship recipient is violinist Ellie Binnington.

Ellie Binnington is a Violin Performance and Music Education double major at the University of Montana. She is the oldest of four children. Ellie was raised by two musicians, one of whom has taught violin and music for over eighteen years. Ellie has been playing violin since she was three years old. To date, she considers her biggest accomplishments in music to include being the concertmaster for her school’s Chamber Ensemble (2018-2020) and leading her school in Washington’s State Division for her violin solo (2018-20), Small Ensemble (2020), and Large Ensemble Divisions (2018-19). Ellie plans to follow in the footsteps of her parents and teach music in local public schools. However, her lifelong dream is to start her own school in Mazatlán, Mexico to provide music and general education to students in need. As a musician, student, and future teacher, Ellie is honored to be this year’s SOR Talent Scholarship recipient and is grateful for the support that will help her pursue her dreams.

Taylor Curry

The SOR’s 2019/20 University of Montana Talent Scholarship recipient is violinist Taylor Curry from Great Falls, Montana. Taylor has been playing the violin for eight years and studied privately with SOR violinist Mary Papoulis for the past seven. Throughout middle school and high school, he participated in numerous orchestra camps and classes and was selected as a member of the Montana All-State Honors Orchestra for three years. Taylor has performed with the Great Falls Youth Orchestra for six years, including a seat as Concertmaster. Additionally, he has had the opportunity to play with the Great Falls Symphony as an alternate musician in many concerts. Taylor states, “I greatly appreciate receiving the SOR scholarship and extend my gratitude for their support as I begin my studies at the University of Montana this fall.”

SOR Studio Sessions Master Class with UM Students

2022/23 Master Class Series sponsored by Stockman Bank 

Welcome to our new video project in collaboration with MTPR:

SOR Studio Sessions: MASTER CLASS. This innovative new series features performances by talented string students from UM with expert coaching by musicians of SOR. We hope both students and professionals will find these videos informative and inspiring!

Yours in music,   Maria Larionoff,  Artistic Director, SOR

Master Classes with SOR Soloists

2022/23 Master Class Series sponsored by Stockman Bank 

Lorna McGhee’s Flute Master Class – November 2022

Violin Master Class with Ani Kavafian – September 2022

Cello Master Class with Amit Peled – September 2021

Viola Master Class with Maria Lambros – November 15, 2019

Double Bass Master Class with Catalin Rotaru

Catalin Rotaru Master Class was Friday, September 13, in the UM School of Music Recital Hall.

String Orchestra of the Rockies guest Jorja Fleezanis teaches violin masterclass
from the Missoulian April 27, 2019, by Peter Friesen

Photo: Tom Bauer
Before her turn leading Missoula’s String Orchestra of the Rockies on Sunday through its final concert of the season, violinist Jorja Fleezanis took some time to teach. “Jorja has ties to Missoula,” UM Professor and SOR member Margaret Baldridge said. Fleezanis added from her seat: “From way back!” Fleezanis used to visit to play in trios in Missoula and has had relationships with members of the String Orchestra of the Rockies for years. She served as concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra for two decades, before her current job teaching Orchestra Studies and violin at Indiana University. Artistic Director Maria Larionoff called her a “mentor,” in a recent interview with the Missoulian, and cited Fleezanis as a trailblazer for female violinists. Fleezanis arrived in Missoula early to mentor some additional violinists during a public masterclass held at the UM Music Recital Hall. Kelaiah Horat played César Franck’s Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano, and led a quartet for Beethoven’s String Quartet in C minor, Op. 18. Gabe Kantor and William Cook filled out the players, performing Vittorio Monti’s “Czárdás” and Arvo Pärt’s “Fratres,” respectively. Larionoff had said of Fleezanis, “she’s really a take-charge person … I’m expecting her to just lead us,” and lead she did, during her individual lessons onstage in front of an audience scattered across the hall. After Horat finished her first piece, Fleezanis bounded onstage to begin instructing, animatedly snapping with the beat and insisting phrases be repeated until correct, like one passage where Horat’s bow work wasn’t creating the correct volume. “Alright, so you went for poundage-per-square-inch,” Fleezanis said after Horat gave a particularly strong rendition. “That’s a common misconception.” It is possible, she said, to play loud, without being overpowering. After Horat’s mastery of the section, Fleezanis praised her. “I love that, you know why I love that?” she said. “The sound is ringing on the end of each note.” The last violinist, William Cook, was taught the opposite lesson. His rendition of “Fratres,” an ambient, somewhat experimental piece included phrasing that was too loud, Fleezanis thought. She asked Cook to start at the beginning again and build up a series of arpeggios from pin-drop quiet to rollicking. The audience clapped at his improved recitation, bringing a smile to Cook’s face. Fleezanis tuned her instruction from student to student, patiently joking with Gabe Kantor, while not mincing words with the quartet led by Horat. “Without a thumb, we’ve got nothing,” she told Kantor, while asking him to adjust his finger position. “You’ve got a great thumb, there’s a lot of meat there.” Fleezanis cracked herself up with that one. But, to the quartet later, she asked for repetition of a phrase and they awkwardly started off time. “OK, what are you doing?” Fleezanis asked. “You’ve gotta look up,” she told them. “This is a human experience. You’re playing together.”