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Center Stage Strings


Key Information

U-M Faculty Director: Danielle Belen

June 17 - July 14, 2018


A full CSS Faculty listing is available on the Center Stage Strings website.

Artists in Residence

We are thrilled to announce that the Calidore String Quartet will RETURN and join us at CSS for a week-long residency, performing, sharing their experiences and wisdom and coaching our students!

The Calidore Quartet was the Grand Prize winning ensemble at the inaugural MPrize Chamber Music Competition in 2016. Learn more about them at

Mark Your Calendars!

All CSS events listed are free and open to the public. Events are held on the North Campus of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.




Center Stage Strings was founded by renowned violinist and U-M Professor Danielle Belen to develop the talents of serious young classical music students in the areas of solo and chamber music performance. The natural beauty of the campus surroundings and the music intertwine in this four-week long institute to create a unique summer experience. The first two weeks focus on solo repertoire and the last two weeks on intensive chamber music study. Students are expected to stay for the entire four weeks.

The young musicians chosen to participate will have a unique opportunity to focus purely on developing their talents without the distractions of normal, everyday life. An intense practice, lessons and coaching schedule is balanced with chamber music reading, socializing and recreational activities. Swimming, movie night and trips to vibrant downtown Ann Arbor are just a few of the many fun activities available to the students. There is also a focus on our students becoming "Complete Musicians", equipped with the skills needed for a professional musician today. These range from public speaking and stage presence to networking and even pedagogy.

In addition to the student-driven coursework of Center Stage Strings, there are also Guest Artist Recitals, Faculty Concerts and Masterclasses presented by world class artists and teachers. A sample schedule will be available in early 2018 with more about the exciting summer event schedule.


Center Stage Strings accepts applications from students ages 13-24. Students under 13 will be considered on a case by case basis depending on level and maturity. Minors reside in residence halls while students who are 18 and over by the start of the session reside in campus adult housing, all dining together in the main cafeteria.

Institute Offerings

Included in the session:

  • student-driven coursework
  • private and group lessons
  • Faculty concerts
  • Masterclasses
  • Guest artist recitals
  • performance opportunities
  • chamber music
  • "Complete Musician" professional development
  • community outreach performances
  • college application and audition preparation

Application Procedure

The application consists of five parts. (Applications are not complete until all required materials have been received.)

  • Online Application
  • Application Fee
  • Audition Upload
  • Letter(s) of Recommendation
  • Repertoire List



Performance Requirements (Upload)

Upload each of the following required selections as a separate file. Make sure that your face is clearly visible, with your upper body fairly near the camera and the background simple, uncluttered, and not too bright (e.g., don't stand in front of a window). Try to include a full-body and close-up shot at some point in the recording. Place the microphone close to you and away from the piano. Use an acoustic piano (not electric keyboard) and make sure that the piano has been tuned. Announce your name and the title of each selection.


Audition (one video file)

Your audition video must include a movement of a concerto (or showpiece of comparable difficulty) and a contrasting work. Bach would be acceptable as a contrasting work, or a slow Mvmt of the same concerto. At least one of these should be performed with accompaniment and all should be performed from memory (unless contrasting piece is a sonata). Audio and picture quality are important. Player should be clearly visible with camera set up no further than ten feet away.

Personal Statement (one file, required, 3 minutes or less)

  1. Speak about why you are passionate about music.
  2. Share something interesting about yourself.
  3. Discuss what brings you to want to study at MPulse Center Stage Strings.


Written Requirements (Upload)

  1. Repertoire List: Upload a list of solo and chamber works studied in the last 5 years.
  2. Photograph: Upload one color photograph. Photographs do not have to be professionally taken, but should be recent. Be sure headshots are front-facing as they will also be used for ID purposes.
  3. Recommendation: (Maximum 2) Ask a teacher (performing arts teacher preferred) who knows your work well to write a confidential recommendation for you. In addition to your abilities, the letter should discuss your personal characteristics such as initiative, maturity, leadership skills, and the ability to work with others. To invite a recommender, submit your recommender's email address, when prompted, as you upload your audition. Once you finalize your submission, the recommender will receive a notification and link to submit your confidential recommendation.


Admission Notification

Priority deadline for all application/audition materials is February 01, 2018. Admission notifications for priority applicants will be e-mailed on March 10, 2018. Decisions will not be given by phone.   

Late applications may be accepted while space is available, however priority will be given to applications received by the priority deadline. Admission and notification after the priority deadline will be on a rolling basis.

As a courtesy to the faculty and other applicants, please notify the MPulse office and withdraw your application if you commit to another summer program any time during our review/decision notification process.


Tuition, Fees, and Scholarships

Please visit the Tuition, Fees and Scholarships page for more information.



Q. What will my daily schedule look like?

A. A typical daily schedule would be something like the following:

7:30-8:15 AM - Breakfast in the residence hall cafeteria

8:30-11:30 AM - Individual practice / Private lessons / Chamber music

11:45 AM - 12:30 PM - Lunch

1:00-5:00 PM - Individual Practice / Chamber music / Complete Musician Seminar

5:15-6:00 PM - Dinner

6:00-10:00 PM - Concert / Masterclass / Evening Recreational activities

Q. Will we do anything besides practicing?

A. Yes! We will be in one of the most beautiful parts of the country - we will enjoy sightseeing, swimming, and playing outdoor games. One of the highlights of the summer is our kayak trip down the gorgeous Huron River. There will also be a movie night, ping pong, and all kinds of other activities.

Q. Will I have a chance to perform?

A. Yes, absolutely. There will be several types of opportunities to perform solo and/or chamber music, based on teacher recommendation. Performances range from Masterclasses and less formal Lunch Concerts, to outreach performances in the community, Sunday student showcases, and the Honors Recital, in which some of the most outstanding students are selected by audition to perform in a formal evening concert.

Q. What is a Presentation Seminar?

A. The way we present ourselves to audiences, both on and offstage, is an equally vital part of a long and successful career. At Center Stage, we've often referred to this as being a Complete Musician. Speaking to an audience and growing as an engaging performing is a part of your curriculum. While it is designed to NOT interfere with your ability to practice and still focus on your art form here at CSS, it is incredibly important to be able to present yourself to colleagues, donors, employers, mentors, and audiences both effectively and professionally. Some of our students who have already dipped their toes into the professional world understand that on a very real level, and have said that this aspect of CSS is one of the highlights from the summer. It's never too early or too young to learn these skills!



The General Information page includes many important items.


"Center Stage Strings at the University of Michigan was a truly transformative musical experience. I learned so much
from the incredible faculty, watched great master classes, and met so many passionate young musicians I had the
privilege of calling my friends."

Jiho, CSS 2016, CA

Danielle Belen Daniel Belen and studentCSS duet performance CSS violin soloist css chamber ensemble CSS youth performer

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower