Introducing Lynsey Anderson

Lynsey AndersonWhere are you from?

My name is Lynsey Marie Anderson. Though, after 28 years of sporting this very common name of Swedish descent, my name will soon be changing on one of those happy life occasions . . . the wedding is set for May!

I grew up in small-town Michigan near Grand Rapids; a farm community with surprisingly strong Scottish heritage pride. I remember the bagpipe rehearsals that took place in my high school and how every pep assembly was adorned with drones and kilts. My elementary mascot was . . . “the fighting Scots” . . . My childhood boasted of long drives through corn fields, a neighbor lady piano teacher, Sunday Sabbaths, and trips to Meijer as a weekly highlight . . . those from Michigan understand what I’m talking about. The fact that little Caledonia, Michigan, had such a strong orchestra program is pretty much a miracle of dedication shown by one amazing man: Pete DeLille

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

I am an alumna of Rice. I did a three-year Master’s program from 2008–2011 in Ivo’s studio. I still live and work in Houston and am lucky to keep in contact with Ivo as much as I do.

Why did you choose to play viola?

Music was a requirement elective for my middle school, and we had three options: choir, band, or orchestra. I didn’t want to sing or honk, so orchestra was the only other option. I didn’t know about stringed instruments, and I felt like the only kid in the class who hadn’t already started orchestra in 4th grade. Mr. DeLille assured me that I could catch up and asked me what instrument I wanted to learn. I told him to choose for me. He literally chose viola for me. We both agree that was the best decision he ever made! I started formal lessons at age 14 with Heather Storeng of the Grand Rapids Symphony, and she was my teacher and advisor until I went to Cleveland Institute for my undergrad.

What or whom are your most important musical influences?

I love the Bach Suites. I do not feel complete without practicing them on a regular basis. I’ve always performed unaccompanied Bach on a recital, and it is movements from the cello suites that are my go-to pieces when asked to play on the spot. Some movements are so ingrained that it’s like my viola taking a deep breath of fresh air when I run through one of them. I was asked unexpectedly to play viola on my most recent job interview, and I just did the first thing that popped into my head—The G-Major prelude, and I wasn’t nervous at all. It just felt right and natural for me.

I’m currently working on the Andante from the Violin Sonata in A Minor. I could just loop myself in those repeats and never stop playing that movement. I am lucky that one of my good friends specializes in Baroque performance, and I have the most amazing example of the sound and beauty that is possible with that movement. I strive for the clarity of sound and balance that you can get on a violin as I learn it on the viola.

Overall, Bach is just a huge influence as far as musical preference. I love the complexity and harmony. Try analyzing one of his 371 harmonized chorales—it’s amazing. Sometimes I get an actual craving to just sit down at the piano and play his chorales. So, his sound and musical voice has been a major presence in my life.

I also have a huge appreciation for folksy, bluegrassy music. When I’m cooking or doing other chores, I just love having the backdrop of Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, Yo-Yo Ma, and Mark O’Connor doing their collaborative instrumental folksy stuff. You can’t beat it. The sound is absolutely infectious. Some of that stuff will get stuck in my head for days and days! I’ve made it a goal to memorize lots of fiddle tunes (it’s a great way to inspire younger students) and the way they play influences how I play—definitely, definitely. I also have a good friend from college named Brandon Vance—and he always brought the house down with his Scottish fiddling after his recitals. I have to say, hanging out with him for four years has enriched my love for really great fiddling. It’s the people with impeccable technique that can really pull it off, and that’s another reason I’m so captivated by it.

What are your favorite viola pieces and why?

I love the Brahms Sextet in B-flat—OMG amazing. That’s all I can say about that piece.  Also, I love his Piano Quartet in G minor. Brahms’s chamber music is lovely viola meatiness. Tons of great chamber music out there, but Brahms happens to be first impressions for me. My first real chamber music experience was in high school at Western Michigan University, and I played his String Quartet No. 2, 4th movement only . . . and that was it for me: obsession.

What was one of your best musical experiences?

As a freshman at CIM, one of the first faculty recitals that I went to had me sitting in the second row in front of William Preucil, who played first violin on the Souvenir de Florence. Preucil is extremely energetic and showy, and he did things on the violin that made me laugh out loud, it was so unbelievable . . . and there was a nest of bow hair under his seat by the end of the performance. The energy and excitement generated from mere technical proficiency was pretty overwhelming for me at the time.

At Rice, my favorite performance was doing the Rite of Spring with the Symphony Orchestra under Larry Rachleff. Stude Hall was standing room only, and we played the heck out of that piece and at the end, you would have thought by the audience reaction that we had just won the Superbowl. It was my last performance as a student, and Larry was shaking the score up in the air like it was our trophy (it was of course to credit Stravinsky). But anyways, it was sentimental for me and something that I will miss.

Who is the maker of your instrument and bow?

My viola comes from Potter Violins in Maryland. It was bought in 2001, made in ‘84. My parents bought it for me in high school. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have a viola. I’ve never upgraded—no one has ever told me that it was a bad instrument. My professors seemed to think I can get a decent “noise” out of it (Ivo’s ideal: “a great noise”). It is the only viola I’ve ever performed on and now I would never dream of selling it. The bow, however, comes from Oxford violins. I bought it in 2011.

Best awkward stand-partner/ orchestra/ audition experience?

My most embarrassing and possibly awkward experience in orchestra happened at the Shepherd School. Let me just say the particular semester when this special moment occurred was unusually demanding, and I was averaging 3–4 hours of sleep a night and it was about 3 weeks into this 4 hours a night routine . . . and I was starting to not be able to control whether or not I could stay awake. It was getting to the point where I would literally fall asleep trying to play whole notes in a scale in the practice room at 7:00 a.m. in the morning, falling asleep standing in the shower, falling asleep at the wheel . . . I mean, it was bad! So, when Mr. Rachleff was working with the wind section during one orchestra rehearsal, I fell asleep so fast . . . what woke me up was the sound of the rest of the orchestra playing—all the violas around me. The thing is, I was out enough that when I woke up to the loud music and the bows moving all around me and Mr. Rachleff staring incredulously in my direction, I literally couldn’t tell if I was actually dreaming or not. I was so disoriented! When I finally got it together . . . I was absolutely mortified. Nobody ever called me out on it, and I’m not even sure my stand partner noticed . . . but, you know, I can’t remember for sure.

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

I would play the cello. In fact, I do play the cello. In fact, I’m living the dream by taking formal lessons currently with a great professional cellist, Eric Moore, in San Diego. He teaches me lessons over Skype every other Monday, and it’s just amazing talking about the sometimes subtle, yet fundamental differences in physical technique between viola and cello. I’m currently trying out his new method book that he’s publishing himself. It’s great fun!

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