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Introducing Carey Skinner

0923C Skinner photo

Where are you from?
I’m from a small town in Western Kentucky called Paducah. It’s best known for hosting a huge quilting convention once a year, but if you haven’t heard of that, a better marker might be that we’re only about two hours from Nashville, Tennessee.

Are you a current Rice student? If not, what is your association with Rice?
I am currently a Junior at Rice.

Why did you choose to play viola?
My official answer is that I chose viola because the sound is gorgeous and unparalleled. And while this answer is absolutely true, what actually happened was that three of my older siblings played violin and one played cello and I wanted to be “unique.” So I switched from violin to viola when I was 11.

Where and with whom have you previously studied, and who is your current teacher?
When I switched to viola, I had the privilege of studying with Kathryn Plummer for seven years at the Blair School of Music in Nashville, TN. Now I am studying with Ivo-Jan van der Werff for my Bachelor’s degree.

What or whom are your most important musical influences?
One of my music theory professors here at Rice, Anthony Brandt, has been a very positive influence on my musical growth. He always inspires his students to appreciate the way music is an essential part of our everyday lives. After being in his class, I’ve noticed an incredible difference not only in the way I interpret the music I hear and study, but the impact it has on the world around me.

What are your favorite viola pieces and why?
Even though it’s a somewhat cliché answer, I love the Rebecca Clarke Viola Sonata because I believe it showcases the beautiful sonorities of our instrument in a way that few other pieces have done so flawlessly.

Ideally where would you like to be in 10 years time?
I would love to be established in a small chamber group, performing, recording, and giving master classes. Honestly though, I’m open to pretty much anything as long as I am serving people with my music, not starving, and no longer playing Vieux Études.

What do you like about Rice and the Shepherd School of Music?
The reason I chose Rice was because I knew that in addition to the privilege of attending a phenomenal music program, I would also be challenged academically. I believe that everything I am learning outside of the Shepherd building is only adding to my ability to be a well-rounded musician, not taking away from possible practice time.

What I love about the Shepherd school specifically is its supportive nature. It has been my experience that, between the staff, faculty, and students, everyone has contributed to cultivating an atmosphere that is simultaneously competitive and nurturing. I believe this provides the best possible environment for both musical and personal growth.

Who are your favorite violists and why?
Any time I’m starting a new piece, I find myself searching iTunes to see if Tabea Zimmermann has recorded it. I feel like her performances are always so clean technically in addition to displaying what the composer intended musically.

What was one of your best musical experiences?
At the end of last semester, the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra performed the Mahler Symphony No. 2. The performance occurred right after the Boston Marathon bombing and was the last performance of our school year, which also meant it was the last time I would perform with several of the musicians surrounding me. As we played the last page of that powerful piece of music and I listened to the booming choir behind us, I was filled with such a strong sense of why I was dedicating my life to this instrument. When the piece was over and we all stood for several minutes through several rounds of applause, almost the entire viola section was in tears, and I was so moved by that inexplicable experience with my colleagues and peers and how we were able to share it with everyone around us. I will never forget that performance.

Who is the maker of your instrument and bow?
My viola was made in 2009 at William Harris Lee & Co. by Peter Staszel.

Best awkward stand-partner/ orchestra/ audition experience?
While I’ve certainly had my fill of delightfully awkward stand partners (you know who you are), I’m not sure this intro can truly do them justice. I will completely embarrass myself though and tell the story of my first performance of the Telemann Viola Concerto.

I was twelve years old and playing in my first studio recital in the pre-college program at the Blair School of Music. I walked on the stage, bowed, and started to play. About 30 seconds in, however, I could tell something was off and I looked back at my pianist, Polly, and could tell from her shaking head that I had done something very wrong . . . I had started at the recap. If that wasn’t bad enough, as I was about to start the piece over, completely mortified and mentally kicking myself, I heard Ms. Plummer from the back of the audience say, “Wait, Carey! Let me tune your viola!” And thus began my career as a violist.

If you didn’t play the viola, what instrument would you play?
I have always wanted to play the clarinet! Firstly, because I think it would be great to learn a wind instrument, and secondly, because it sounds the most like the viola.


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