Director, Sharon Rizzo

Sharon Rizzo  has been teaching strings in the Southern California mountains since the year 2000.  Through the Bear Valley Unified School District, the Lighthouse Youth Orchestras and the Arrowhead Arts Youth String Ensembles, her programs have grown to over 200 students. Because of the dedication of her students, and the help of many community members and parents, these programs continue to improve and thrive. Her orchestras and individual students have won awards for their outstanding performances, and are becoming recognized in Southern California for their excellence in Strings. Sharon and her students can be seen performing all genres of music from Bach to Rock in many unique venues both on and off the mountain.

An accomplished and professional cellist, Sharon holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Connecticut, a Master of Music from the University of California, Irvine, and an Artist Certificate from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas where she was accepted on a full scholarship as the only American in the program for that year.  In addition, Sharon holds a California State Teaching Credential in Music from the University of Redlands. Sharon has performed in many professional symphony orchestras, and can be found performing regularly with the Redlands Symphony Orchestra. Sharon’s specialty is chamber music, as she is the cellist and one of the founding members of the quartet Bella Musica. Her affiliation with these professional ensembles has allowed her to not only practice her craft at an extremely high level, but to set an example of excellence for her students, set a high artistic standard, and share musical experiences with them.

Sharon was fortunate to have the opportunity when she was younger to travel and perform in many places both in the United States and abroad. Some of these experiences include the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado (her inspiration for creating a string program in a mountain community), the Oregon Coast Music Festival & the Rome Festival Orchestra in Italy, both as a student, and later a professional. Sharon has also performed with touring groups to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, and Canada.

In 2011, Sharon founded the MountainTop Strings of California, which consists of high school strings students from both her Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead programs.  This ensemble was also created specifically for the purpose of travelling and performing abroad. One of Sharon’s dreams since she began teaching, has always been to take a high school strings ensemble on a performance tour to Europe. After 11 years of dreaming, it finally became a reality when the MountainTop Strings of California took its inaugural performance tour to Europe in June of 2013 with performances in Italy and Austria. The second tour is scheduled for 2016.

Sharon is a native of Norwalk, Connecticut who began her strings study at age 7 in an experimental public school strings program, which has led to her lifelong passion of string playing and dedication to her students.

Ms. Rizzo currently resides in Big Bear, California with her husband Jay, and her daughter Sophia who is also a cellist.

MountainTop Strings is a collective of youth strings ensembles which have transformed our mountain community into a robust, thriving, and cultured musical destination for both the connoisseur and student of music. Our programs serve students 8 - 18 years of age, from beginning to advanced levels. MTS is known for its eclectic repertoire and variety of performance opportunities for our musical youth.

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