By Chris McCarthy
Attendees of last Wednesday’s Gadsden Music Club meeting discovered that the University of Alabama football team isn’t the only group at the Capstone that currently is at the top of its game.
The Stardust Duo, a musical group formed in 2008 by violinist Amanda Roberts and pianist Jonathan Roberts, are currently pursuing their Doctor of Musical Arts degrees at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
The husband-and-wife team turned in an outstanding performance that complemented their gridiron colleagues’ effort in last Monday’s BSC championship.
The duo performed 10 songs that spanned the genres of classical, jazz, bluegrass, folk and ragtime. The concert included a pair of Brazilian tangos and a medley of Romanian folk songs.
The group’s selections included Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust,” Fritz Kreisler’s “Beautiful Rosemary” and William Bolcom’s “Graceful Ghost Rag.”
The couple closed out the performance with a rousing rendition of Ervin T. Rouse’s “Orange Blossom Special,” intersped with “The William Tell Overture.”
GMC program director Jean Holtsford first heard of the duo at the Alabama Federation of Music Club’s Spring Convention in May of 2011 in Trussville. Accompanied by Jonathan, Amanda gave a recital during the convention, and Holtsford asked the couple to play for the Gadsden Music Club at some point.
“Amanda just won the top collegiate award for violin, so we were just thrilled that she and Jonathan to play for us,” said. “We had a good many guests, and everyone seemed to enjoy the performance.”
The Roberts met in 2006 while pursuing their Masters Degrees at the Cleveland Institute of Music and were married in 2009. The duo released its first CD, The Stardust Duo: Debussy, Poulenc, and Franck Sonatas for Violin and Piano, in the summer of 2009.
According to the group’s website, www.thestardustduo.com, Amanda holds both her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in violin performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied under renowned pedagogue Paul Kantor. Three years prior to attending CIM, Amanda and her mother made frequent trips to Nashville, Tenn. where she studied with Connie Heard, professor of violin at Vanderbilt University.
From 1994-2001, the Brandon, Miss., native studied with Patrick Rafferty, professor of violin at the University of Alabama. During the summers, Amanda studied with Stephen Clapp while attending the Meadowmount Festival and the Hochschule fur Musik in Leipzig, Germany. Amanda has performed solos with professional orchestras such as the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, the Corinth Symphony, the Sewanee Festival Orchestra, the Tuscaloosa Symphony and the Shoals Symphony. In 2001, she appeared on the International radio show, From the Top. She has also competed as a finalist in many national competitions, including both the high school and college division of the Music Teachers National Association and the National Federation of Music Clubs Young Artist Awards.
Having studied violin since the age of three, Amanda has a lifetime of experience playing a variety of musical styles. In her formative years, Amanda’s mentor, Mickey Davis, incorporated alternative styles into her training. In fact, she made her debut as a featured soloist with the Mississippi Symphony at age 9, performing the Orange Blossom Special. Now, Amanda balances her love for Classical music with avidness for jazz, blues, Celtic and fiddle styles. She twice was awarded the Mississippi State Fiddling Championship.
A Providence, Rhode Island native, Jonathan holds his Bachelor of Arts degree in piano performance and Bachelor of Music degree in music education from the University of New Hampshire, as well as his Masters degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music in piano performance. He has studied with Irina Tchantceva, Arlene Kies, Kathryn Brown and Noel Engebretson. Having studied piano since the age of seven, Jonathan has performed in venues throughout the eastern United States. He has been a featured soloist with the Ocean State Chamber Orchestra and the University of New Hampshire Wind Symphony. Jonathan also has competed as a semi-finalist in the Music Teachers National Association Piano Competition and as a finalist in the Cleveland Institute of Music Concerto Competition. Jonathan recently was invited to participate in the 59th Annual Wideman National Piano Competition in 2009.