Performers stand playing string instruments in a church
Audience members sit in the rows of a large church with stained-glass windows.

The Show Must Go On!

The performing arts at Arizona Western College hold entertaining events throughout the school year, events that not only showcase talented artists and performers but also promote Matador pride.

Unfortunately, because of the March 16 shutdown of face-to-face instruction, anticipated events at Arizona Western College such as art shows, theatre performances, sporting events, concert performances, student showcases and, most importantly, the annual graduation ceremony have been canceled – these events that AWC students, staff and the Yuma community were once looking forward to gone in the wind.

Luckily there was one more event to catch before the shutdown. On March 15, the AWC String Ensemble and Chamber Singers featured their annual Saint Patrick’s Day concert at St. Paul’s Episcopal Chruch, free and open to the public.

For the event, String Ensemble director Margaret Fenske curated tunes of Celtic culture. Pieces such as “Tralee Gaol,” “Amhran na Leabhar” (songs of the books), and “Old Temple House” filled the church with sounds from long ago.

Fenske not only directs the Ensemble, but she also teaches orchestra workshop classes and conducts private lessons for all string instruments.

“I go to JW Pepper for the latest publications, and we picked two new pieces that were just published within the last year,” said Fenske. “I always look for something that my students can play, what they’d enjoy playing and something that I can teach – a piece that they’d learn something from.”

Throughout the concert, some pieces that begged for the audience to get up on their feet while others held great imagery of laments over Celtic tragedies. 

The musicians with the String Ensemble ranged in age from 4th graders to adults in their retirement. Because of this, the concert captured both the dedication of the young children and the continued passion the retired teachers have for music. 

An honorable member of the AWC String Ensemble Katelin Makowsky, is concertmaster and first violin. She plans on going to Northern Arizona University this upcoming fall semester for music education.

“I started in 2nd grade, making that 10 years of playing,” said Makowsky. “I stuck through playing violin throughout middle and high school. Once coming to AWC, I figured out that this is what I want to do as a career.”

Makowsky, who has been involved with the AWC String Ensemble for eight years, says that, due to Fenske’s wonderful arrangements, the Saint Patrick’s Day concert is her favorite among the shows that the ensemble puts on.

Attendees could appreciate the dedication that was presented that night, especially since this was the last AWC event due to COVID-19. The community can only hope to hear their wonderful playing again soon.


About the photos:

Photo 1: String Ensemble director Margaret Fenske (3rd from left, facing camera) performs during a Nov. 2017 concert. Photo by Daniel Puentes, AWC Photo Services.

Photo 2:  AWC String Ensemble at their St. Patrick’s Day concert in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, just before the beginning of shelter-in-place restrictions.  Photo by Victoria Zuniga.

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