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Music school branches out for new hire

Michael Tree has appeared as both violinist and violist with many major orchestras. (Photo/courtesy of USC Thornton)

The USC Thornton School of Music has announced that violist Michael Tree will join the faculty next fall — an addition that further strengthens the school’s world-class strings faculty.

A founding member of the Guarneri String Quartet, Tree has performed on virtually every concert series throughout the world and has recorded more than 80 chamber music works for the Columbia, RCA, Philips, Arabesque, Nonesuch and Vanguard labels.

“We are thrilled to welcome Michael Tree to our strings faculty,” said USC Thornton Dean Robert A. Cutietta. “He will join two first-rate viola instructors in Karen Dreyfus and Che-Yen Chen. Both are former students of Michael, and the combined artistic excellence of the three is of the highest order.”

Dreyfus is a founding member of the Lyric Piano Quartet, the Amerigo Trio and the Antonin Quartet. A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, she has performed extensively in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and South America. She is on the faculties of Juilliard, the Manhattan School of Music and the Mannes School of Music.

Chen, former principal violist of the San Diego Symphony and founding member of the Formosa Quartet and The Myriad Trio, has been described by The Strad magazine as a musician whose “tonal distinction and essential musicality produced an auspicious impression.”

“I’m a great admirer of both players, and they are both highly experienced teachers,” Tree said. “When I decided to join the USC Thornton faculty, I felt I was among friends already.”

Distinguished Professor Midori Goto, chair of the strings department and holder of the Jascha Heifetz Chair in Violin, said: “I am extremely excited to welcome Michael Tree to our department. As one of the most prominent pedagogues and violists of our time, he has inspired and mentored many important musicians who are active today as performers, teachers and administrators.

“I look forward to our collaboration in offering the best possible education that balances tradition with innovative ideas to shape the future of our field,” she added.

Tree, a native of New Jersey, received his first violin instruction from his father. He later studied with Efrem Zimbalist, Lea Luboshutz and Veda Reynolds at the Curtis Institute of Music. Tree made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1954 and has since appeared as both violinist and violist with many major orchestras. He has been awarded the New York City Seal of Recognition and has participated in leading festivals. He is on the faculties of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, Curtis Institute, Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music.

“It is with great anticipation that I welcome Michael Tree, the outstanding American violist and teacher, to our faculty,” said Ralph Kirshbaum, holder of the Gregor Piatigorsky Chair in Violoncello at USC Thornton. “Michael is a highly respected and much loved friend and colleague whose expertise, knowledge and experience will undoubtedly prove a source of inspiration for all of us at Thornton and, above all, for the fortunate students who will have the opportunity to study with him.”

Carl St.Clair, artistic leader and principal conductor of the USC Thornton orchestras, said: “I am excited to have someone of Michael’s immense talents and long and illustrious career joining our distinguished faculty. Mr. Tree will certainly afford our students a unique learning experience.”

Tree said that his approach to teaching is a collaboration with students.

“Someone once said that ‘Teaching is the art of assisting discovery,’ ” Tree said. “I think that is very true, and that puts the responsibility in our hands of not simply insisting that students do what the teacher says. My approach generally is to open up the various possibilities to students and teach them.”

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Music school branches out for new hire

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