Introducing Ashley Pelton

Ashley Pelton

Photo by: David Klein

Where are you from?

I grew up in Queens, NY, and later moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

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

I am currently a senior at Rice.

Why did you choose to play viola?

I was born and raised a Suzuki violinist. Sadly, the music program I attended during middle school had very few violists. My dad thought playing viola would make me more marketable and open up more playing opportunities, so I started taking lessons in seventh grade. I doubled for a few years (oy, I carried that HUGE double case!) and then eventually stopped playing violin because I didn’t have enough time to balance it with viola and high school.

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

Prior to studying with Mr. Dunham at Rice, I studied with Laura Seay and Heidi Castleman.

What or whom are your most important musical influences?

Ms. Seay and Ms. Castleman truly transformed my viola playing and overall musicianship. From the days of playing Schradieck No. 1 and developing my poor pinky callus and agility, to our final year of preparing for college auditions, they knew how to play to my strengths and tackle my weaknesses. I have found both in academics and music that motivation is so specific to the individual, and what works for one student may not be productive for another. Ms. Seay and Ms. Castleman understood my learning style and saw through my go-to loophole strategies, using a balance of constructive criticism and positive reinforcement to motivate me to produce my best product. I was consistently challenged to expect more of myself and rise to the occasion. Through their team teaching in studio class and private lessons, I learned how to articulate my musical thoughts both verbally and through my viola playing. Ms. Seay and Ms. Castleman were a blessing to me, and I will always cherish the years I spent learning from them.

What are your favorite viola pieces and why?

I love the Brahms E-flat Sonata and especially love the second and third movements. The second movement spins with intensity, and in the midst of the chaos Brahms presents a beautifully, noble middle section. The third movement is delicate, gracious, and elegant throughout the theme and its variations. The whole piece is a joy to collaborate with piano.

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

I am so grateful for the time I have spent at Rice. I have grown so much as a musician, student, and as a person. Studying at a university has afforded me the opportunity to take classes in many different areas, to meet people who are studying a variety of subjects and who come from different backgrounds, and to get involved in campus organizations. I have loved being a part of the Shepherd School because of the close-knit community and the relationships I have developed with fellow students and faculty members.

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

Cello! I’ve tried . . . but I look a little silly.

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