Introducing Jarita Ng

Where are you from?

I am from Hong Kong. The weather there is pretty similar to here in Houston.

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

I am a second year Master’s student at Rice. I also teach general music to 4–6 year olds in the prep program here as a Brown Fellowship recipient.

Why did you choose to play viola?

My parents gave me a 1/32 violin when I was 3. I had a lot of fun holding the violin the way I wanted to and sang along while I played open strings with a terrible bow arm. When I was 5, I started to learn how to play the violin the proper way, first with my mom, then with various teachers.

I started playing the viola when I was 17, because my friends needed a violist in their chamber group. I made the switch a couple months later, while still keeping up with the violin until I went to college—because I could only bring one instrument on board flying from Hong Kong to the US.

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

Both of my parents are violin teachers. My mom teaches little kids while my dad teaches older students. I started with my mom until around 5th or 6th grade. My dad then taught me for a couple of years. In high school I studied with Ms. Ho-Ying Ho, who is a graduate from Juilliard studying with Dorothy DeLay. (You can find her in the documentary “From Mao to Mozart” on Isaac Stern’s trip to China in 1980. Ms. Ho was the little girl who played Tartini’s Sonata for him.) Then I came here to the US, went to the University of Michigan studying with Prof. Yizhak Schotten. Now I am here studying with Mr. James Dunham. This semester I am also studying with Ms. Joan DerHovsepian on orchestra excerpts.

What or whom are your most important musical influences?

All of my teachers have shaped me into the viola player I am now. My mom taught me every day —from ear training (she made me sing everything in fixed-Do solfège before I played the pieces), to keeping a good posture, to correcting my intonation. She helped me build a strong foundation for later development. Ms. Ho opened my eyes and made me take the first step into working on pieces in details that I never imagined before. Mr. Schotten helped me a lot with the transition from violin to viola and building the skills for viola playing. Mr. Dunham is a great teacher and mentor who not only (very nicely) gives inspiring suggestions and comments, but also gives me emotional support. Ms. DerHovsepian is the excerpt police and forces me to fully use my technique and ears. She makes sure that I try my best all the time. All the teachers I have studied with have made significant influence on my musical studies!

What are your favorite viola pieces and why?

Super Viola (2011) for solo viola and eight violas by Michael Foumai. It is because: one, I commissioned this piece for this ensemble; and two, it is a really fun piece to play! A recording of an excerpt of the piece can be found hereSuper Viola doesn’t mean that the viola is super. The piece uses nine violas and makes them one section—a super instrument.

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

Winter in Houston is like fall in the Midwest. Winter is when we sit on the grass to sunbathe. Students here are all very driven and friendly!

What was one of your best musical experiences?

I really enjoy working with composers. It doesn’t matter if it is the commissioning and discussion of ideas, demonstrating different techniques, trying the pieces that are still in progress, or rehearsing the final product and discussing difficulties and/or changes that could be made. In this way I feel I play a role in the creation process of a piece of art. It is exciting!

Who is the maker of your instrument and bow?

I don’t own an instrument due to financial reasons. Mr. Dunham kindly lent me one of his instruments to play on. It was made by Gabrielle Kundert in 2000. I don’t know where my bow came from . . . My dad brought it home one day from work. It was my first viola bow.

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