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Introducing Dawson White

1111 photo IMG_1876Where are you from?

I grew up on a farm just north of Tyler, Texas, a smallish city an hour and a half east of Dallas where my family has lived since 1919. I am the first professional musician from my family.

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

I attended Rice as a Master’s student with Ivo van der Werff from 2010 to 2012.

Why did you choose to play viola?

In 5th grade Isidor Saslav played violin and viola for my class, and I was immediately drawn to the dark and mysterious viola, which I had never heard of until that point.

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

I started playing in the 6th grade with Ruth Morrow in Tyler, studied with Dr. Kathryn Steely at Baylor University for six years including my Bachelor’s degree, and then attended Rice for my Master’s with Ivo. I also spent three summers in California studying with Helen Callus and studied extensively with Joan DerHovsepian of the Houston Symphony while attending Rice.

What or whom are your most important musical influences?

First and foremost, Dr. Steely has been a monumental impact in my life. I met her while performing at the State Solo & Ensemble Contest in Austin during my sophomore year of high school. Shortly thereafter, I took a 30-minute lesson with her that opened my eyes to a new way of teaching. Over the next six years, she completely restructured my technique and became my greatest mentor. I now strive to serve as a mentor to my students in a supportive learning environment like she did for me.

What are your favorite viola pieces and why?

I tend to favor the Romantic pieces like Vaughan Williams’s Romance and Vieuxtemps’s Elegie. There’s something about laying into an open C string that fuels the inner-violist in me.

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

I have discovered my love of teaching in the past few years culminating in my recent appointment at Sam Houston State University, and I would like to continue cultivating a successful viola studio there. I also plan to get a doctorate in the next few years to maximize my teaching abilities.

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

When I first visited the Shepherd School, I was captivated by the orchestral sound that Larry Rachleff could achieve with college students. I truly learned the art of details in orchestral rehearsal techniques. Also, I learned a tremendous amount from Ivo about relaxed posture/playing and dealing with mental hindrances during performance.

What was one of your best musical experiences?

I played in the first YouTube Symphony in 2009 under Michael Tilson Thomas, and I will never forget the synergy in Carnegie Hall with thousands of cameras surrounding the orchestra. It was exciting to witness technology helping classical music foster a wider presence on YouTube rather than hindering its scope.

Who is the maker of your instrument and bow?

I just recently purchased my David Polstein & Christopher White viola, which received the Silver Medal for tone at the 2012 VSA Competition. It’s an incredibly balanced and rich viola with a bassy but clear tone. I’m currently in the process of finding a new bow.

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

Probably the clarinet; I so enjoy their beautiful tone and ability to literally dissipate into thin air. But I think I would miss vibrato too much.


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