Introducing Stephanie Block!

What’s your name?

My name is Stephanie Block. It was originally spelled “Bloch” by my German ancestors, but someone changed it in the early 1900s! Also, in Greek, the name Stephanie means “crown.” I love that.

Where are you from?

I’m from Barrington, Illinois, about 45 minutes from Chicago. I’ve lived there all my life! However, I like to consider myself a Chicagoan because I commuted there at least once a week for rehearsals. 🙂

How did you come to the viola?

I played violin since I was four years old, and didn’t really become serious until I was around twelve years old. When I was in eighth grade, my teacher suggested I just play viola on the side to violin, but I came to love it much more and completely switched to viola within a month and knew I wanted to pursue it. I’ve never gone back, EVER.

Are you a Juilliard student?  Were you?  Or do you now work as part of the studio?

I am a first year undergraduate student.

Tell us about one of your favorite performances?

In July 2011, I performed on NPR’s “From The Top.” This performance was incredibly exciting and important to me because I had worked for this opportunity and had been previously turned down. Now that I finally had the chance, I was extremely excited. A week before the performance, I had been told I had to switch my piece from the one I had originally been preparing (and I had spent that previous week in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, out of contact). Although I should have been nervous, the staff was incredibly encouraging and made feel feel as if I was ready to play for the audience of 3,000. The size of the audience and the fact that I had so many friends and family in the audience to see me (this show was in Chicago at a huge convention) made the day absolutely perfect. I gave one of the best performances of the first movement of the Walton concerto, and I would have never guessed that would happen! I will always remember that day- for the first time in a long time, I was extremely confident and relaxed in my playing. I hope I get to feel like that again!

If you could perform any viola piece, what would it be?

I would really love to play Prokofiev’s Six Pieces from Romeo and Juliet. I absolutely love this work, and it would be amazing to be able to play some of the great movements from the ballet!

If you could play any non-viola piece, what would it be?

I would love to play any of the Carmen fantasies. I am obsessed with that opera, and I have wanted to play any piece that has to do with Carmen for so long! I hope I get that chance.

Who made your viola and how did you get to be the one playing it?

I am not sure of the maker of my viola, but I believe it is French. It is a David Tecchler model, and it is gorgeous. I am so lucky to have found a viola that fits my small size, but has the amazing sound of a large viola. I have always wanted an instrument that still has violin-like, virtuosic aspects, and I think I have found it! The day before I got it, it was dropped off at Sean Carpenter Fine Violins just the day before. The only person who had played it before me (at Sean’s house) was his brother, David! It was somewhat intimidating playing for a great viola soloist while trying out this viola, but I was so lucky to have such experienced ears listening to see if the viola would fit me well. I think it only took me about five minutes to know it was the perfect one for me. The only thing I dislike is that I can’t afford to be as harsh with my playing-the viola is too fragile to take it!

Do you have any secret skills?

It’s not really a secret, but I am sort of a triathlete! I have tried many things before viola…soccer, ballet, horseback riding, gymnastics, etc. However, I have actually stuck with triathlon. Both serious triathletes, my parents started me on triathlons when I was 9, and I never stopped liking it. I finally started training for them when I was 14 (it’s a little less painful if you train, haha) and have improved ever since! I ran on my high school’s cross country team Junior and Senior year, and that helped condition me for the races as well. Finally, the morning that I left to start my new life at Juilliard, I won my age group and was the fifth place female in the Chicago Supersprint Triathlon! That’s an achievement I will never forget, because for once I could do something that doesn’t have to do with music! I LOVE running and triathlon, and I intend to do it for the rest of my life until I can’t stand up anymore!

You are forced by the United States Government to not practice for a day.  What do you do with yourself?

I would go out on a long run, stock up on lots and lots of Asian food (especially Pad Thai, Orange Chicken and Spicy Tuna Rolls!), go shopping with my wonderful friends, and hang out on the cool lawn in Lincoln Center while eating candy.

Do you have a website?

I have my own fan club on Facebook that my friends created for me, but there isn’t much in it.

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