By: Taylor Breen
At the 2018 Strong Awards on Aug. 17, Strong Women, Strong Girls Pittsburgh is thrilled to present music by Sterling and Strings.
Founded in 2007, Sterling and Strings was created by musicians Susanna Reilly and Melissa Lessure. The two, along with their fellow group members, attended Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to earn degrees in the music field. Then, a little over a decade ago, Melissa and Susanna decided to form a musical ensemble.
“Both Susanna and I were thinking of starting groups around the same time in 2007, so we thought, ‘why not create a group together?”’ said Melissa.

(From left) Becky Rothermel, Melissa Lessure, and Susanna Reilly of Sterling and Strings ensemble, the musical guests at this year’s SWSG Strong Awards.

Together, they began Sterling Strings of Shenango. Within the last year, the group decided to drop the ‘Shenango’ in their name, as they now play all across Pittsburgh, and even into the Ohio and West Virginia areas, as Sterling and Strings.
Originally from California, Susanna attended CMU to earn her master’s degree in music performance. Susanna is a cellist who freelances with a number of prestigious orchestras and symphonies all over the area, including the Sterling and Strings group. She currently lives in New Castle, Pennsylvania, and teaches music courses at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania.
Melissa, the flutist for Sterling and Strings, grew up in Michigan and also attended CMU to earn her master’s degree in music performance. Melissa performs in orchestras and symphonies all over the Pittsburgh and Ohio area, also while being a full time member of the Sterling and Strings group. She teaches flute at the PYCO School of Music in Wexford, Pennsylvania, and loves to share her expertise with individuals who want to learn to play the flute.
The group typically performs at weddings, their most often-requested event, but they’ve also done birthday parties, funerals/memorial services, and various other types of events ranging in size. The group has also performed at many non-profit events, even before becoming involved with SWSG.
The chairwoman of SWSG’s Regional Board, Laura Freedman, is a friend of Melissa’s and requested that Sterling and Strings play at the 2018 Strong Awards. Melissa said she and her duet partner for the event, Rebecca Rothermel, are excited to join SWSG’s efforts by sharing their talents on the flute and viola, respectively.
“We are looking forward to being a part of the awards and enhancing the event for those there,” said Melissa. “We’ll be playing classical duets – classical is our favorite to play, though we play all different genres depending on the event.”
Rebecca Rothermel plays in the Pittsburgh Opera and in the Harrisburg and Wheeling Symphony Orchestras. She also teaches classes in chamber music and plays at summer festivals, both in orchestras and with chamber ensembles. Rebecca teaches at Washington and Jefferson College.
To learn more about the group and hear some of their previous performances, visit