By David Rogers. May 14, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC – Her eyebrows arch higher with every crescendo. From time to time, an almost mischievous smile curls her lips and sparkles in her eyes as she reaches places fewer than five percent of the violinists in the world are likely to go.
COVER IMAGE: Kitty Amaral, 15, thrilled and inspired the audience at St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church in Blowing Rock with her Senior Recital. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
She is Kitty Amaral, age 15, and living life beyond her years. On Sunday afternoon at St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church in Blowing Rock, this child prodigy gave the perfect Mother’s Day present to her mother and grandmother, Noel Amaral and Kitty Lewis (yep, young Kitty was named after her grandmother). It was also the perfect gift for the three dozen or so other audience members lucky enough to be on hand for what was billed as Amaral’s “Senior Recital” — and also a part of St. Mary’s Sunday concert series through the spring and summer.
She played Carnegie Hall at age 10, and has twice performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.
Homeschooled in southwest Virginia, Amaral is graduating high school this spring and will enroll at Appalachian State University’s Hayes School of Music in the fall. She will study in familiar surroundings, for she has been receiving instruction at the Hayes School for some time now.
As a homeschooler, there was no Senior Prom for the winsome young lass, “But I have the dress!” she exclaimed to Blowing Rock News after her performance, her hands sweeping down from her chin to point at her toes.
Amaral performed in New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall at age 10 as the recipient of two gold medals in classical music for the American Association for the Development of the Gifted and Talented (AADGT), a non-profit organization based in Westchester, New York established in 1993 to help “…extraordinarily gifted classical musicians and artists.”
She has twice appeared at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Did we mention that she is an accomplished bluegrass fiddler, too, with other musical interests that include jazz, swing, and Appalachian “old time” folk music?
In 2017, Amaral was invited to play in honor of folk music icon Pete Seeger at the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. She will return to Newport this summer as a full scholarship recipient of the Berklee College of Music “Jazz Institute” at the Newport Jazz Festival.
There were moments in Sunday’s recital when audience members could close their eyes and be almost certain they were hearing a duet, even though Amaral was playing solo, especially during the first piece, Johann Sebastian Bach’s fugue in “Sonata No. 1 in g minor, BWV 1001 (for solo violin).”
Noel Amaral shared with Blowing Rock News before the performance that the second number in the program was among the most difficult violin pieces in the world, “Concerto in e minor, op. 64,” by F. Mendelssohn. If there were any flaws in the performance, we didn’t hear them, mesmerized as we were by the glistening sounds and emotions expressed on the face and in the often sweeping body movements of young Miss Amaral.
The young ingenue had some fun with “Romanian Folk Dances (trans. By Zoltan Szekely),” by Bela Bartok and “Estrellita” (Little Star) (1914) (arr. By Jascha Heifetz), by Manuel Ponce.
Speaking with Kitty Lewis, the grandmother, after the performance, Blowing Rock News asked if there was something in the family DNA to explain Amaral’s gifts. “Well, my mother went to Julliard,” smiled the diminutive, dignified lady of her gifted parent’s attendance at one of the world’s finest schools for extraordinary music and dance performers.
Amaral saved some of her most appreciative remarks for Dr. Nancy Bargerstock, Professor of Violin at the Hayes School of Music and under whom she has already studied. She will continue her studies in violin performance with Dr. Bargerstock at Appalachian State in the fall.
“You can’t put a talent like this in a box,” Bargerstock shared with Blowing Rock News afterward, with the audience buzz still all around the sanctuary. “Kitty is in the top five percent of violinists in the world, maybe even higher. She is so creative and she never plays the same piece exactly the same. She finds new places to go with it.”
After Amaral was twice a featured soloist last fall at halftime of Appalachian State football games, accompanied by the entire Marching Mountaineers (marching band) and where she played Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” Blowing Rock News sat down with the young musician to learn more of her story.
For the Blowing Rock ONE on ONE interview with this remarkable young woman, click HERE.