Dorothy Gerber Strings program celebrates 20 years of music education


Northern Michigan appears to be an arts-focused hub, and a local organization with this type of goal is celebrating its 20th anniversary while looking forward to a full year of programming.

For two decades, the Dorothy Gerber Strings program has provided students in the region with musical and performance education opportunities ranging from private lessons to live performances.

“What this organization has done is incredible. It has literally touched thousands of students since its inception,” said Music Director David Reimer.

Reimer explained that the roots of the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra and the string program began to form around 1999 with the program’s first concert in May 2001.

It was during this concert that the future of the program was anchored in northern Michigan.

“The Cummings family who support the program, Gay and Peter, both attended this first concert with over 400 of our students. the Cummings, ”Reimer said.

Support for the Cummings reached thousands of students in Emmet, Charlevoix and Antrim counties who were able to learn a string instrument and had opportunities outside of the traditional classroom.

The program, in its entirety, offered strings lessons, one-to-one private lessons, including lessons on the Suzuki teaching method, the Dorothy Gerber Youth Orchestra and the Summer School of Music. The program’s Cummings Quartet was also established in 2017 to provide mentorship and a role model for students looking to take their craft to the next level.

Looking back over the past two decades, Reimer is proud to be a part of the program and its legacy.

“It really is a fantastic legacy,” he said. “What’s amazing is all the support we’ve received from the Cummings family but also from the community. You usually don’t have these opportunities in a small town like this. The quality of professionals you have. in the program will not be found anywhere else. “

The program currently has Reimer – who has her doctorate in violin performance – as director alongside Trisha Berquist, Iuliia Fetysenko, Peter Tolias, Beth Deininger, Byron Farrar, Becky Palmiter, Elizabeth Bert, Maggie Stewart and Karen Jervey who have all associates, bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate or professional training in music education, performance and related subjects.

“Growing up I had to travel 90 miles every week to play in an orchestra and the fact that this orchestra serves the region with such an advanced group of instructors is really something special,” said Jill O ‘, director. Executive of the Great Lakes Center for the Arts. Neill.

“What the program has done is really bring music education and opportunities to children and students from four years old through high school would not have the opportunity otherwise,” she added.

In October 2019, the Great Lakes Center for the Arts became the home of the strings program and the nonprofit. The center assisted the program with marketing, accounting and organizational support while providing a venue for the orchestra’s weekly rehearsals and space to host their annual end-of-season concert.

However, the center is not the only place where the program teaches and performs.

“Because we’re in three counties, we really reach out to a lot of schools beyond the (Charlevoix-Emmet middle school district),” Reimer said.

“We teach in schools, churches, we are on Beaver Island and teach in Boyne Falls. We are really spread across three counties and teach and mentor students of all ages. “

The coming year and the 20th anniversary celebrations will bring to the region some performances that excite the string program.

The program would like to reach out to alumni and have them play in its end-of-season show as well as bring back program founder Karey Sitzler for a special performance.

Any student or parent of a student interested in participating in the program can register online at Parents or interested students can also call Reimer at (616) 828-8321 to ask questions or to see which of the programs offered will work best.

Further information on the program, its upcoming performances and its educational offerings is also available online at


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