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Violinist Mary Irwin, a Spartanburg native who spent seven years with the Brevard Music Festival and eight summers at Camp Pinnacle as a camper and counselor, has been named concertmaster of the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra.
Irwin, who is also an avid tennis player and gun enthusiast, has played violin for several top metropolitan orchestras. She will debut as concertmaster during HSO's performance Oct. 27 of "Bohemian Rhapsody." She will be joined by the featured guest performer Carter Brey, the principal cellist for the New York Philharmonic.
"We are thrilled to have engaged Mary Irwin as our new concertmaster," said HSO Music Director and Conductor Thomas Joiner. "Having grown up in the area, she has deep family and musical roots in Western North Carolina. She knows well the role of concertmaster and has eagerly accepted my challenge to lead our orchestra to even greater artistic heights."
In the Oct. 27 concert, Brey will play what many consider the greatest cello concerto ever written — Concerto in B Minor, Op.104 by Antonin Dvorak. Irwin will also present Johannes Brahms' "Variations On a Theme by Haydn" and the celebrated tone poem "The Moldau" by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana.
Irwin comes from a large family of amateur musicians, beginning piano with her aunt at age four and then taking up her grandfather's violin at age 10. At the age of 15, she became the youngest violinist to be invited to play in Henry Janiec's Spartanburg Symphony. She has been working as a symphony violinist ever since. Irwin earned a performance degree with distinction from Converse College, and a master's degree from Northwestern University in Chicago. She has worked with Jerrie Lucktenberg, James Ceasar, Marge Pardee and Joseph Gingold.
"Hendersonville has been at the center of so many of my happiest experiences," she said. "I am excited and proud to have the opportunity to share the music that I love with a community that I have always loved."
Some of her most cherished childhood memories are from her eight summers as camper and counselor at Camp Pinnacle just outside of Hendersonville, she said. After three magical weeks of horses, archery and tennis, her family always came into Hendersonville to get ice cream at the Kalmia Dairy before heading down the long, winding Saluda grade, she recalled. She continues to enjoy and excel in many of the activities she learned at Pinnacle: she is a third level dressage rider, a 4.0 tennis player and a gun enthusiast. She lives in Spartanburg near her mother, sister and extended family.
A seven-year veteran of the Brevard Music Festival, Irwin was awarded a student soloist and concertmaster position. She played as concertmaster of the 1980 Spoleto Festival n Charleston and has enjoyed several appearances in the region as a concerto soloist.
Irwin's orchestral career includes the Wichita Symphony, principal second violin of the Knoxville Symphony and first violinist with the Columbus (Ohio) Symphony. In addition, since 1998, she has served as faculty concertmaster, orchestral strings coordinator and frequent soloist at the Masterworks Festival in Indiana, a Christian mentoring program for classical performers.
In addition to her orchestral work, Irwin has performed with the Lyric piano trio, the Quattro Corde string quartet, and has been a guest soloist and recitalist across the United States, Europe and Japan. She also has several very successful students, one of whom recently placed third with his quartet in the Munich ARD international quartet competition.