Introducing Nadia Sirota!

What’s your name?

My name is Nadia Sirota. Sirota is actually a Russian surname that means orphan, though I’ve heard that in different slavic languages the exact definition ranges from orphan to vagrant to just “poor.”

Where are you from?

I was born in Boston, where I lived until age nine. I then moved to a suburb of New Haven for three years, then to Baltimore for five. I come from a family of East Coast academic itinerants.

How did you come to the viola?

As a little kid I was fiercely competitive with my older brother, who, at 6 and a half years older then me, was a pretty elusive target. We both started by playing violin and he switched to viola around age 14. I followed suit a few years later when I turned 13 and realized that it was a far cooler instrument than the violin.

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

I graduated Juilliard in 2006 with both a Bachelor’s degree and a Masters degree. For my undergrad I studied with Heidi Castleman and Misha Amory. For my Masters, I studied with Heidi and Hsin-Yun Huang.

Tell us about one of your favorite performances?

I experienced a real performance epiphany at the 2006 Airwaves Festival in Reykjavík, Iceland. This festival isn’t super genre-narrow, but it certainly is not predominantly a Classical Music festival. I was there performing in support of Nico Muhly, a composer, friend, and colleague I met at Juilliard who’s been a constant collaborator since college. He had written me what amounts to a 14-minute viola sonata, which I found myself performing in a hot, smokey venue in front of hundreds of whisky-soaked standing spectators. As I performed, the audience was completely rapt, and at the end of the piece they showed there enthusiasm in an arrestingly visceral way. They didn’t care that the piece was a viola sonata or that it was conceived for the concert hall, they took the music in and appreciated it for its beauty, energy, and emotion. This concert sort of changed my whole approach to performing, to concert flow, and to programming.

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

I am SO EXCITED to perform this NUTSO piece I am commissioning from Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy. If all goes according to plan, it’ll be a 45-minute piece for viola, six viols, and just-intoned electronics based on Irish plainchants about the solstice. I am beside myself.

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

If I could play and non-viola piece, it would be the Stravinsky violin concerto!!! And actually maybe the Barber violin concerto.

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

My viola was made by Gregg Alf in 2002. I was looking for an instrument and became slightly obsessed with my friends VIOLIN, which has tonal characteristics I was looking for in a viola. I asked about her maker, tried a couple of Gregg’s instruments and fell in love.

Do you have any secret skills?

If an overabundance of Christmas Spirit counts as a secret skill, I am one talented lady.

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

If I was forced by the US Government not to practice for a day (?), I’d love to go to Spa Castle in New Jersey and soak and steam forever.

Do you have a website?

My website is nadiasirota.com

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