Big Bear Valley, CA — Big Bear’s musical youth, namely those within the Steven G. Mihaylo Chamber Strings and Concert Orchestras and the Bear Valley Unified Elementary Strings Orchestra program, came away with top honors in the Forum Music Festival held at the Anaheim Heritage Forum Theater this month. The BVUSD elementary strings group, which is comprised of 75 students from Baldwin Lane, Big Bear and North Shore Elementaries, was honored with a gold rating—and, this, for their second year in a row! As Music Director Sharon Rizzo explains, “It’s a rating festival, where ratings are based on a national standard for school orchestras, gold being in the top ten percent. This really validates us as a strings program, because we’re not just recognized by Big Bear, but on a regional level. This particular festival gets about 300 entries per spring from all over the western U.S., and it is rare to even see elementary students at this kind of festival, and, on top of that, to get a gold rating. The judges were very impressed to see this many students from a small town like ours performing on a level like this. It was also exciting that our Mihaylo Chamber Strings Program, our most advanced orchestra, also earned a gold rating on the high school level, which is notable in that more than half of the students in this program are actually Big Bear Middle School students.” In addition to the gold ratings for elementary strings and the Mihaylo Chamber, both Steven G. Mihaylo-sponsored concert orchestras received silver ratings, while special distinctions were granted to violinists Tawny Williams and Jennifer Schick, both eighth graders, and the entire cello section for the strings and concert orchestra 1 programs. Though the Steven G. Mihaylo Foundation sponsors three of these award-winning programs, the fate of the BVUSD Elementary Strings Orchestra will be determined this Friday, June 4, as it is one of many programs that may be eliminated when the school board meets to make their final budget cuts for the upcoming school year.
Update: Students from the orchestras will be performing in concert at the Big Bear Lake Performing Arts Center on Thursday, June 3 at 6:30pm. Ticket price of $11 for adults, $9 for students includes food at the end of the show. To purchase tickets, visit or call the PAC box office at 866-4970.
Update: BVUSD’s Board of Trustees will not be meeting on June 4. As of June 2, no word yet on when final budget cut decisions for the 2010/11 school year will be made.

The elementary strings students of the BVUSD Elementary Orchestra tune up and get organized before their performance at the Forum Music Festival. For the second year in a row, Big Bear's youngest orchestra secured a gold rating! As Director Sharon Rizzo (standing, in black) tells KBHR, "The judges were very impressed to see this many students from a small town like ours performing on a level like this."