Meet the Lawrence Studio
Meet the Lawrence Studio
One of UNCSA's two violin studios is led by professor Kevin Lawrence and includes serious and gifted violinists of all ages — a wonderfully diverse and hardworking group who enjoy each other and love the violin.
Lawrence’s students have won first prizes in competitions sponsored by the NC Symphony, Winston-Salem Symphony, Charlotte Symphony, Raleigh Symphony, Durham Symphony and ASTA, and have performed in the finals of the Menuhin Competition, as well as the Hilton Head and MTNA competitions. Past students have continued their education at Juilliard, New England Conservatory, Yale, Mannes, Manhattan, Cleveland Institute, Indiana University, Peabody, McGill and the Leipzig Conservatory.
Now calling Raleigh, North Carolina her home, Felicia Adizue is a high school junior who began playing violin at the age of 8 in Taiwan. After moving to America in 2015, Felicia studied with Kelly Partin, Margaret Partridge, and Helena Bandy. She has attended the El-Sistema inspired program KidZnotes, the Triangle Youth Philharmonic, the NC Chamber Music Institute led by Elizabeth Beilman of the NC Symphony, the United Strings of Color Quartet which she formed with Margaret Partridge and three other black musicians, Eastern Regional Orchestra, and the NC Honors Orchestra. In recent summers she has participated in the National LA Phil Festival—performing under the leadership of Gustavo Dudamel in the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and at the Brevard Music Festival, where she studied with Elena Chernova-Davis. Felicia has performed in master classes given by the Harlem String Quartet, Ara Gregorian and Stephan Miahky. She was first-place winner of the Iota Iota Annual Talent Hunt (2022), the Xi Mu Mu Annual Talent Hunt (2023), the Raleigh’s Woman’s Club Music Competition (2023), and was a finalist in the NC Concerto Competition (2023). Felicia is grateful for the opportunity to study here at UNCSA with Professor Lawrence and is excited to see herself growing as a musician.
Ellie Dixon, age 17, is a high school senior from Charlotte, North Carolina. She began playing violin at the age of five, and after studies with Charlotte Symphony member Kathy Jarrell, has worked with Kevin Lawrence since 2020. Ellie has won prizes in both the junior and senior divisions of the Symphony Guild of Charlotte Young Artists Competition and was a Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra Youth Concerto Competition finalist in 2022 and 2023. At the 2023 competition, she was a recipient of a Philadelphia International Music Festival Special Achievement Award. Ellie has had the honor of performing in master classes for violinists Ani Kavafian, Axel Strauss, Joseph Lin, Jan Vogler, Movses Pogossian, and Moni Simeonov. In September 2023, she performed three solo recitals in the Hilton Head Young Artist Performances Program. Ellie has participated in the semifinals of the 2021 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition with her piano trio, and has appeared in chamber music performances with violinist Jennifer Frautschi and cellist Clive Greensmith. In past summers she has attended the Meadowmount School of Music, Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, the Hilton Head Chamber Music Institute, and the Vivace International Music Festival. Away from her violin, Ellie enjoys writing, going on walks, and spending time with friends.
Currently a first-year master’s student from Cincinnati, Ohio, Kennedy Graves received her undergraduate degree in violin performance from University of North Carolina School of Arts studying with Kevin Lawrence. She discovered the violin and began playing the instrument at the age of 3, initially studying with UNCSA alumna Diana LeGrand. During her elementary years she participated in numerous Suzuki violin summer programs in Virginia, working with several different violin instructors. When she was accepted into Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts in the eighth grade, she resumed private lessons with Ms. LeGrand. She participated in the Ohio Music Education Association’s annual competition, earning the highest rating each year for five consecutive years, won the prestigious Corbett Mayerson Competition, and served as the concertmaster of the state ranked SCPA Chamber Orchestra. She recently toured the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. region as a member of the Pan American Chamber Orchestra, performing with Ms. LeGrand. Kennedy has greatly enjoyed playing chamber music as a member of several string quartets over the past several years. She has performed in master classes given by Midori Gotō, Hillary Hahn, Axel Strauss and Grace Park. During the summer of 2023, she attended the Branceleoni International Music Festival in Piobicco, Italy performing chamber music and attending private lessons and master classes. She is grateful to all of the violin teachers who have helped shape her musical growth.
Ryan Keith is a second year master’s violin student from Kansas now studying with Kevin Lawrence at UNCSA. Ryan began playing the violin at age 10 through his school’s orchestra program, and began private study at age 12. Ryan is a graduate of Kansas State University, where he studied primarily with Cora Cooper. He has performed in master classes given by Lawrence Dutton, Immanuel Abraham and Elena Urioste. Ryan has competed in numerous competitions, earning second prize in the Wichita Symphony Youth Talent Competition and first prize in Kansas State Honors Recital Competition. A passionate chamber musician, Ryan attended the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival in the summer of 2021 and has volunteered for the Chamber Music at The Barn summer festival. An avid teacher, Ryan currently teaches in the Winston-Salem Symphony’s P.L.A.Y. Music program.
Ruth Kelley is from Winston-Salem—the city of Arts and Innovation—which has taught her the beauty and value of interdisciplinary artwork and arts accessibility. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music violin performance at UNCSA as a Kenan Excellence Scholar studying with Kevin Lawrence. In the summers of 2017 and 2021, she attended Vermont’s Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, and in the summer of 2018, she attended the Sphinx Performance Academy in Chicago for the fourth year. In 2019, Ruth’s love of travel brought her to audition and acceptance into Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra, performing in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Konzerthaus Berlin, Royal Concertgebouw, and the Royal Albert Hall at BBC Proms supported by a full scholarship from Carnegie Hall’s Weill Foundation. In 2023, Ruth was awarded second prize in the National Association of Negro Musicians String Competition. This year she won the NC Kenan Fellowship with the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle, joining them in performances throughout their 2023-2024 season. Ruth is also a member of ArtistCorps, a community engagement organization dedicated to providing arts instruction and exposure to school-aged children and seniors in the Winston-Salem community.
Sara Krank is a college freshman from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She had her first, somewhat occasional, violin lessons at age 6. After joining her middle school’s orchestra, her sense of connection with the instrument grew, and she began regular study with Julanie Lee. During all four years of high school she placed into her state’s renowned La Cueva Camerata Orchestra as well as NMMEA’s All-State Symphony Orchestra, and she participated in the Albuquerque Youth Symphony, the AYS Chamber Program and in Honors District Orchestras. In her junior and senior years of high school she also performed with Opera Southwest and the New Mexico Philharmonic. Sara won the Maestro Award from the World Strides Anaheim Heritage Festival in her junior year. With her passion for chamber music, her self-directed quintet consistently earned the highest honors at her state’s Solo and Ensemble Festival. In 2022, she participated in the UNM Summer Music Institute, playing in master classes given by Alejandro Drago and Cármelo de los Santos, and she traveled to Rochester, NY, to participate in the Summer Classical Studies Program at the Eastman School of Music as a student of Wilfredo Degláns. Last summer she participated in the Austria Summer Music Festival in Weyer, Austria, working with Burghard Tölke. She is excited to continue her musical journey and to refine her skills at UNCSA working with Professor Lawrence.
Saybren Long began playing the violin at age seven with Suzuki teacher Redding Farlow-Soderberg, and continued his studies with Danijela Žeželj-Gualdi from age nine. He began working with Kevin Lawrence privately last year, and is now a high school junior at UNCSA. An experienced orchestral player, Saybren has played concertmaster for the Cannon Music Camp String Orchestra, co-concertmaster for the Cannon Music Camp Symphony Orchestra, co-concertmaster for the Wilmington Youth Symphony, and principal second violin for the North Carolina Eastern Regional Orchestra. He also enjoys playing chamber music, performing with various groups at venues such as the Wilmington Community Arts Center, UNCW’s Beckwith Hall, the Wilson Center, and Rosen Hall at App State’s Hayes School of Music. He has won first place in the Brooklyn Arts Academy Double Bach Concerto Competition, the Junior Division of the Richard R. Deas Young Artists Concerto Competition, the Beckwith Recital Series Young Artist Competition, and the Senior Division of the Richard R. Deas Young Artists Concerto Competition. At age 12, he made his solo debut with the Tallis Chamber Orchestra, and since then has been featured as a concerto soloist with the Wilmington Youth Symphony and the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra, in addition to playing numerous solo recitals.
Currently in pursuit of a Performance Artist Certificate at UNCSA under the mentorship of Kevin Lawrence, Gabriel Mendoza's education has included a master's degree in violin performance from the University of South Florida under the guidance of Carolyn Stuart, and a bachelor's in music composition from the University of Santo Tomas as a student of Dr. Herminigildo Ranera. While studying at the University of South Florida, Gabriel was a member of the Rebecca Penneys Chamber Collective, an ambassadorship for strings and piano chamber music in Tampa, where he also served as coach of the Tampa Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and as a guest instructor for high schools in the area. As a composer, his works have been heard in venues such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Fellowship Series and the Tampa Museum of Art, and were showcased by the Asian Development Foundation College Symphony Orchestra and the Manila Philharmonic. Before coming to study in the US, he performed regularly with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, the country’s leading orchestra and one of the top musical ensembles in the Asia-Pacific region. This year he has served as concertmaster of the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra, and won a fellowship with the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle, joining them in performances during their 2023-2024 season. He has performed in chamber music master classes for Axel Strauss, Kim Kashkashian, Astrid Schween, David Perry and Victoria Chiang.
Native to the Carolinas, Tabitha Metz regularly performs in orchestras across the region including Salisbury Symphony, Union Symphony, and Western Piedmont Symphony. She is concertmaster of the Lake Wylie Community Church Orchestra, and frequently plays improv with bands in the Charlotte area; she has also been heard on FM and AM radio throughout the region. As owner of The Music Tabs studio in Concord, NC, Tabitha works with violin, piano, and guitar students, involving them in events sponsored by North Carolina Suzuki organizations and by the National Federation of Music Clubs. Having completed Suzuki and Kodály certifications, she now serves as treasurer on the board of Kodály Educators of North Carolina. Tabitha has performed with well-known artists such as Andrea Bocelli, and Christian artist Rita Springer, on stages including the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, as well as abroad in Israel. In 2014 she received her bachelor’s degree in music performance from Winthrop University. She is currently pursuing the Master of Music degree at UNCSA as a student of Kevin Lawrence.
Nathan Thomeer is from Buffalo, NY, and began playing the violin at the age of three. He received his undergraduate degree in violin performance at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music, studying with Dr. Julian Ross, and he received his master’s degree from UNCSA in May of 2023. This year he is continuing his work with Kevin Lawrence as he pursues a Performance Artist Certificate at UNCSA. In the UNCSA Symphony, Opera and Ballet Orchestras, Nathan has held positions of concertmaster, assistant concertmaster and principal second violin, playing under the baton of Karen Ni Bhroin, Robert Franz, Thomas Wilkens, Jiannan Cheng, and James Allbritten. Nathan has performed in master classes with Noah Bendix-Balgley, Kim Kashkashian, Axel Strauss, Brant Taylor, Stephen Rose and Dennis Kim. He is a member of the first violin section in the Western Piedmont Symphony, and regularly performs with the Winston Salem Symphony as well as the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle. During the summer of 2023 Nathan was the violin teaching assistant at Interlochen Center for the Arts. In previous summers he has attended Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, Kinhaven Music School and the Luzerne Music Center. He teaches at St. Mary’s Music Academy in High Point, NC, and has been a member of ArtistCorps at UNCSA since 2021.
Julian Walther began musical studies at age 6 at the Bennett Conservatory of Music in his hometown of Croton-on-Hudson, NY. At an early age, he competed annually in NYSSMA, earning top scores. In high school, Julian began musical studies at The Bloomingdale School of Music on the upper west side of Manhattan, studying with UNCSA alum Naho Parrini. He was admitted into the MAP program, a full scholarship division of the conservatory focusing on future professional musicians, and he began intensive chamber music with The Chamber Music Center of New York, leading to a performing tour of Tuscany in the summer of 2019. Other performances venues with the group included Lincoln Center, Riverside Cathedral, Central Park Classical Theatre of Harlem, Scandinavia House, and The National Opera Center of NY. Julian was a recipient of a grant from the Van Lier Fellowship, an arts program that supports outstanding talent in music and the further development of professional musicians. This fellowship included performances at the Manhattan School of Music, NY and led to an additional grant from National Fraternity of Musicians Mu Phi Epsilon, and a performance at the Tenri Cultural Institute in NY. During the summer of 2023, Julian attended the Branceleoni International Music Festival in Piobicco, Italy performing chamber music and attending private lessons and master classes. Currently, he is a second-year undergraduate at the North Carolina School of the Arts, studying with Kevin Lawrence for his degree in violin performance. His plans for the future are filled with energetic optimism.
Chinese violinist Jingyi Wei began violin study at the age of five, displaying a profound interest in music from this early age. In 2017 she successfully gained admission to Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, studying under the guidance of Professor Nan Xie, Director of the Conservatory’s Violin Department. In 2023 she entered the graduate program at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, as a student of professor Kevin Lawrence. Jingyi has appeared in concert in multiple stages in Beijing, including the Beijing Concert Hall and Zhongshan Music Hall, presenting numerous solo and chamber music concerts. During her tenure with the Central Conservatory of Music Youth Symphony Orchestra from 2018 to 2019, she performed at such prestigious venues as Beijing University, the National Grand Theatre, and Tsinghua University, and she participated in the "70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People's Republic of China" tour during the first half of 2019. At UNCSA, Jingyi Wei has appreciated the emphasis on chamber music study, where she has been placed in positions of leadership. She sees her musical journey unfolding like a melody, ever deepening her experience of music and her capacity to communicate this experience with her audiences.
Nicolas Williams began playing violin in the sixth grade. After being appointed concertmaster of the Junior Eastern Regional Orchestra, and of the Onslow All-County Orchestra, he entered UNCSA's high school program in 11th grade. He is now in his junior year of the UNCSA bachelor’s program, continuing his study with Kevin Lawrence. During the summer of 2023 Nicolas participated in the Luby Violin Symposium, playing in a master class given by Aaron Berofsky, and performing in the symposium recital.