One evening in 1975, a small group of friends and colleagues of the late Julius Stulberg met in the home of his widow, Esther Lieberman Stulberg. Their purpose that evening was to determine the most appropriate form of memorial to establish in honor of Julius and his life's work - the sharing of music and its impact on the lives of young musicians. At the time of his death in 1974, Julius Stulberg was Professor of Violin at Western Michigan University and Conductor of the University Symphony for twenty-eight years. He had also been conducting the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra for thirty-one years. Under his direction, the youth orchestra had grown from a "pay-as-you-play" endeavor (the participants paid a quarter as they came in the door for rehearsals) to an ensemble of international prominence. Julius was a violin teacher of considerable repute. His former students played in many of the major orchestras of the United States and Europe. His impact on the lives of young musicians was immeasurable. It was out of a desire to memorialize Julius' commitment to youth and music that the Stulberg International String Competition was born.
In the almost 40 years since its creation, the organization has seen tremendous growth, developing from a regional attraction to an internationally recognized event. Past Competition winners have gone on to significant artistic careers. They include Joshua Bell, concert violinist now director of St. Martin in the Fields; Sheryl Staples, Principal Associate Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic; Ivan Chan, first violinist of the Miami Quartet; Cathy Basrak, Assistant Principal Viola of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Principal Viola of the Boston Pops; and Kalamazoo's own Anthony Ross, principal cellist of the Minnesota Orchestra.
The performance scope of the competition has changed over time. Collaborations with regional symphony orchestras provide growth opportunity for gifted young musicians. The Burdick-Thorne gold medalists perform with either the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra or the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra. The silver medalist performs with the Western Michigan University Symphony Orchestra, and the Pinehurst bronze medalist performs with the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra. The Kalamazoo Bach Festival Society shares in providing the Bach Award, a cash prize given to the best performance of a Bach piece by a semifinalist.
When the Stulberg Competition was established in 1975, a step into the unknown was required. Throughout the past years the organization has held, as guiding principles, the basic tenets of the founders: providing a nurturing atmosphere for young talent, featuring judges of the highest caliber and maintaining the integrity for which Julius & Esther Stulberg were known.
The competition is now a two-tiered event (semifinals and finals) and Master Classes are offered by the competition judges for string instrument students from around the area and the state of Michigan.
Most recently, an outreach program has been developed for under-served populations. Performances by returning competition winners and Master Class participants provide top-notch listening experiences for people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy.
You can be a part of this exciting growth and international youth experience by joining us as a volunteer or contributing your resources.
359 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Suite 14
Kalamazoo, MI 49007