Introducing Jill Valentine

1014c Photo JillWhere are you from?

Columbus, Ohio.

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

I am a senior undergraduate.

Why did you choose to play viola?

It was becoming clear in 4th grade that my very Midwestern dream of horseback riding wasn’t going to work out, so I needed a hobby, and the viola line was shortest in the orchestra signup meeting.

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

Chris Saetti and Cathy Carroll were my main teachers in High School. Now I study with Ivo.

What or whom are your most important musical influences?

Probably Ray LaMontagne, even though he isn’t a classical musician. His music has a folksy honesty to it that is so unique, but it also has an incredible amount of subtlety and depth, a combination I wish I could also achieve when I interpret classical music.

What are your favorite viola pieces and why?

I just love the Schnittke concerto. Don’t get me wrong when I call it ridiculous and (ugly?) because that is why I love it! It has all the emotions and virtuosity that a concerto should, but it is also a very honest portrayal of the viola. There’s a lot of struggle to project and articulate written into it rhetorically and so much lyrical beauty as well. The outlandish techniques in the piece show off the range and the sound capabilities, and the contemporary style is so important to our solo rep in general.

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

I’d like to be in an opera pit or a chamber ensemble. Hopefully playing a healthy mix of classical and folk and nonwestern music as well, even if just as a hobby.

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

I appreciate the supportive atmosphere. There’s healthy competition, but never to the point of animosity. It’s a very professional environment where you are constantly pushed to do beyond what you think is your best.

Who are your favorite violists and why?

Lawrence Power does what he wants and does it with incredible conviction. Whether one does or doesn’t agree with the way he caricatures many of his interpretations, he goes out on limbs that many of us cannot, and agreement aside I always enjoy hearing what he does to truly personalize a piece.

What was one of your best musical experiences?

I went to Schleswig-Holstein for orchestral study this past summer and thought I was going to die a few times from exhaustion, spider bites, food poisoning and second hand smoke . . . but it was without a doubt the best orchestral experience I’ve had. I’ve never been so drained from doing work I love, and I was surprised at how much I improved when there was zero practice time. Being my own teacher and performing nonstop for two months allowed me to internalize what I’d been learning at Rice and nail down playing techniques that work for me personally.

Who is the maker of your instrument and bow?

The viola is by Gary Garavaglia from Chicago.

Best awkward stand-partner/ orchestra/ audition experience?

A violinist in my orchestra once asked me to give him a tattoo before a concert with a marker. Naturally, I did—a giant dragon on his neck—thinking he’d wash it off before the concert. He didn’t. Local TV and radio stations came to record, and many wealthy donors came to the symphony hall to watch. Besides walking on stage with the huge tattoo, which was enough to probably offend a few old-school Germans in the audience, by the end he’d sweated it off and it had become a hideous, Gangrene-y blotch that covered his entire neck and stained his shirt too. What a shame! It was a great-looking dragon if I do say so myself.

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

Probably the jazz organ, because who else plays jazz organ (I didn’t know it existed until a New Orleans jazz concert I saw a few weeks ago), and the timbre is really funny. I feel like I’d never take myself too seriously if I played an instrument that sounded like that.

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