Blog / Penrith Strings Program

Penrith Strings Program

Posted on 18 Nov 2015 by Cristina Maldonado

Penrith Strings concert at The Joan, October 2015.

After our final Penrith Strings performance last month, we caught up with Keith Lizardo, one of the Program’s violin students, to learn more about his experience during 2015 and his expectations for the next year.

I’ve always wanted to learn music. Music to me is like a new language, it’s a story, it’s an expression, it has meaning. Similar to an explorer who shares his journeys and experiences to the world, music has the same concept to me. It is a feeling, an experience or even a past event that a composer tries to express. Just like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, he tries to represent the seasons through his music. Smetana tells a story of the river in Vltava with “The Themes From the Moldau” and Elgar’s Salut D'amour was a romantic piece dedicated to his wife. From louds to softs, fast tempos to slow tempos, crescendos to diminuendos or the change in key, the composer tells the world his tale with the sounds of an instrument. I have always wanted to share their tales, pass on their stories to the world, exposing others to the beauty of meaning in music. The Penrith Strings Program has given me that opportunity to tell the world a story with the flick of my bow.

A bit about myself, my name is Keith, I’m 14 years old and a keen violin student. I enjoy playing the violin and have been involved with the CAPTIVATE strings program and currently a first violinist for my school, Parramatta Marist string orchestra and string quartet, and the Penrith Strings. “Why music?” I am often asked by my friends. Apart from music telling a story, I like how music changes the way I feel, my thoughts and views. Music can make you happy, sad or even filled with intense emotion. The fact that music can play with your emotions and the way you think, is one of the many reasons why I love music.

Keith Lizardo performing at The Joan, October 2015.

Earlier this year I enrolled in the 2015 Penrith Strings Program, a program designed to guide, tutor and mentor young string players, such as myself, by professional musicians of the Penrith Symphony Orchestra (PSO) and the famous Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO). The program was held at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre and is stepping towards building a Penrith Youth Orchestra. I am very grateful that I was accepted to such an organised and engaging program with a lot of positive support for all the kids involved. If you are passionate with playing a classical string instrument and want to hone in on your techniques or just want to broaden your exposure to string ensembles, I strongly encourage you to participate in the Penrith Strings Program as it will provide you with the best grounding for your journey in a string orchestra and as a musician.

During rehearsals, we were tutored and mentored by the finest musicians of the PSO, Antonia Todorova (Concertmaster) and Margaret Bournes (Principal 2nd Violinist), and the inspiring violinist Zoë Black, of the ACO. I am very privileged to have experienced working with these professional violinists and to play alongside them in our end of term public performances. Their level of skill, playing technique and quality of sound is spectacular. Their bowing techniques, tone production and clarity of their notes, whether it be crotchets or semi-quavers is something to be experienced first-hand. It reminds me that I have a long way to go to even achieve a smidgen of their calibre and experience. They inspire me to be a better musician and motivate me to keep practising to achieve my goal: Being the best musician I can be, unlocking my full potential and capabilities as a violinist.

Daniel Yeadon (ACO) and cello student.

From an orchestral perspective, Paul Terracini (PSO Artistic Director/Conductor) was very supportive in helping us understand the importance of Tutti - listening, harmonising and keeping in time with the rest of the sections. He was also able to bring out the best of music within us, achieving a good quality sound resulting in our amazing debut concert on Sunday 2nd August, 2015. Our phenomenal performance would not have been achieved if it weren’t for Paul’s support. Paul had also given students the opportunity to rehearse and perform with the PSO, in their concerts throughout 2015, which I am very appreciative and grateful for these memorable experiences.

As well as developing ensemble skills and violin techniques, the Penrith Strings is a great place for making new friends. I have met many new friends in the program whom I share common interests and am very thankful for their support.

Penrith Strings tutors and students before the last performance of 2015.

The Penrith Strings is an excellent program for all young string players looking to be mentored by professional musicians, receiving positive support and opportunities to string orchestral performances. Penrith Strings is well organised and very engaging, and I strongly recommend it for any strings student willing to play at a high level as well as improve their overall music playing. 

Finally, I’d like to thank Paul Terracini for all his efforts conducting the Penrith Strings, and also Antonia Todovora, Margaret Bournes, Zoë Black, Lerida Delbridge, Thibaud Pavlovic-Hobba, Caroline Henbest, Daniel Yeadon, Joseph Bisits, Sharon Roffman and other PSO and ACO musicians for their positive support in helping us produce our great sound, and their helpful tips and techniques which are so effective. Also, I would like to thank Liz Strasser, David Cervi, Andari Anggamulia, Zoë Arthur, and any others I may have missed mentioning, for making the Penrith Strings possible. I look forward to the commencement of the 2nd year running of Penrith Strings in 2016, and I hope to see you there.

Keith Lizardo, Penrith Youth Orchestra Program violin student 

#ACO15: Education | Penrith Youth Orchestra

In 2015 we started our Penrith Youth Orchestra Program, an exciting partnership with the Penrith Symphony Orchestra (PSO) and the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre (The Joan).

To apply to become a member of the Penrith Strings, please contact Liz Strasser at