Introducing Blake Turner


Where are you from?

I am from Bulverde, TX, located in the Texas Hill Country just outside of San Antonio.

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

Yes, I am a first year Master’s student. Fun fact: I also studied at Rice for my undergrad.

Why did you choose to play viola?

Well . . . when I was young, I started on the piano while my younger brothers took violin lessons. I soon also wanted to pick up a string instrument, just to see what it was all about. Around the age of 10, I went to a quartet concert, and I just loved how the violist played. And since my brothers already played the violin, it was a no brainer for me to choose the viola!

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

My principal teachers up through high school were San Antonio Symphony members Suzy Perlman and Long Zhou. I then studied at Rice University with Ivo-Jan van der Werff for my undergraduate, and now I’m in James Dunham’s studio for my Master’s.

What or whom are your most important musical influences?

Well, of course my teachers! I feel especially grateful for my teachers growing up as they bestowed upon me their passion and joy for music. Growing up in the South also made it impossible to avoid fiddle music. I still enjoy fiddling with my brothers when we are together.

What are your favorite viola pieces and why?

I would say that one of my favorite pieces is the Vieuxtemps Viola Sonata in B-flat. Vieuxtemps, just really knew how to write for the viola, utilizing its unique colors and sonority. I can still remember falling asleep to Roberto Díaz’s recording of this piece while at the Interlochen Arts Camp.

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

Oooh, that’s a tough one. I really like performing, so I would love to play in a professional orchestra or an ensemble in 10 years. By 10 years, I also would like to have started my own company.

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

Rice is such an amazing place! As an undergraduate, I enjoyed being a part of the residential college system and interacting with people outside of my major. (For those of you not aware of Rice’s college system, think of Hogwarts).

And I love studying at Shepherd. The faculty and students really foster a loving atmosphere, which has enabled me to grow as a musician.

What was one of your best musical experiences?

One of my favorite musical experiences occurred recently while on tour with the Alkalki Ensemble in Curaçao this summer.  During the tour, we got the chance to perform at a care center for the mentally disabled. It was really fulfilling to see the joy that our music brought to those people, and it just confirmed for me why I am a musician.

Who is the maker of your instrument and bow?

My viola was made in 2005 by Raymond Melanson in Massachusetts, and my bow was crafted by Howard Green.

Best awkward stand-partner/ orchestra/ audition experience?

During an audition last year I failed to notice that the committee had shortened the list the day of the audition. So halfway through the audition, I started an excerpt (not in the list), and the committee immediately stopped me! Since I didn’t know which excerpts to play next, the monitor had to whisper them to me for the duration of the audition. Awkward . . . However, despite all of that, it turned out OK in the end.

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

I would play the piano. But I’ve always thought it would be fun to learn the bassoon.

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