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Introducing Bailey Firszt

Firszt

Where are you from?

St. Louis, Missouri. Go Cards!

Are you a current Rice student? If not, what is your association with Rice?

Yes—I am a senior.

Why did you choose to play viola?

When I was in third grade, some of the orchestra students from the middle school came to do a demonstration of all the instruments. My parents told me that I couldn’t play the cello or bass because they were too big, and I didn’t want to play violin since so many other kids were doing it and I wanted to be different. So, I chose viola.

Where and with whom have you previously studied, and who is your current teacher?

I began studying viola in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with the late Terry Bjorklund, and in high school I studied with Dee Ortel Sparks in St. Louis. I currently study with Ivo.

What or whom are your most important musical influences?

I find the faculty at Rice extremely inspiring; I learn so much from chamber music coachings, orchestra rehearsals, and from attending faculty recitals. They think and play at such an incredibly high level, and being around them pushes me to strive for that level of musicianship.

What are your favorite viola pieces and why?

My favorite piece that I’ve ever played is the Hindemith Solo Sonata op. 25/1. It was while learning that piece that I learned how to express myself through playing, and it really pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I also love the Bloch 1919 Suite—so many colors!

Ideally where would you like to be in 10 years time?

I would love to be constantly learning and practicing. I want to teach, but I never want to stop being a student of the viola. I hope I can be performing at the highest level possible and collaborating with my soon-to-be husband, who is a cellist.

What do you like about Rice and the Shepherd School of Music?

Like I said before, the faculty here are so talented and inspiring. That’s my favorite part about Shepherd! Besides that, I love the supportive atmosphere, the incredible orchestra, and the quirky violists.

Who are your favorite violists and why?

Kim Kashkashian—she has such an incredible sound and has done so much to expand the repertoire of the viola. I also love listening to old Primrose recordings—he could do anything!

What was one of your best musical experiences?

Last year, the Shepherd Symphony Orchestra played Pines of Rome by Respighi, and there were six extra brass players up in the balcony for the fourth movement. The movement was so powerful and overwhelming and initiated one of the most powerful emotional responses I’ve ever had to a piece. I’ll never forget it!

Who is the maker of your instrument and bow?

I don’t know who made my viola, but my bow was made by Howard Green.

Best awkward stand-partner/ orchestra/ audition experience?

I was in an audition and I had to play the Tchaikovsky 5 excerpt, which is entirely spiccato. After I finished playing it, someone on the panel said, “Great . . . can you play it again, but this time play it off the string?” …whoops.

If you didn’t play the viola, what instrument would you play?

Bassoon!


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