Introducing Dr. Susan Dubois

Susan_Dubois0046_duotone_smWhat is your name?

My name is Susan Dubois.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in beautiful San Diego, California. I studied at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and The Juilliard School in New York and now reside in Denton, Texas.

How are you connected to the UNT Viola Studio?

As Professor of Viola and String Area Coordinator, I have overseen the UNT Viola Program for nineteen years.

Did you choose the viola, or did the viola choose you?

Both, actually! We ‘met’ at a violin lesson when I was a teenager. The previous student had just returned a viola, and my teacher suggested I give it a try. I fell in love with the darker tone immediately. My teacher said I took to it like a ‘duck to water’ and suggested I take it home for the summer along with my violin. Our relationship was cemented with a full viola scholarship to study with Donald McInnes at USC.

Tell us about your viola! Who made it? How did you come to play this instrument? Does it have a name?

So, you’d like to know a little about Hermie? Well, he was made in 1987 by Tetsuo Matsuda. He has a warm, powerful tone and especially enjoys playing chamber music.

If you could only play the works of one composer for the rest of your life, who would you choose and why?

This is tough. Brahms–his works are so passionate and powerful. Then there’s Puccini — many beautiful singable and soaring melodies. But then again, there’s Bach — what amazing counterpoint….

 What is your favorite piece to play?

The Rebecca Clarke Viola Sonata is high on my list. The trumpet-like opening and seductive melodies of the first movement consistently speak to me and the audience.

Do you come from a musical family?

Yes, I do come from a musical family. My mom is an outstanding pop and jazz pianist. As a young girl in Michigan, she used to perform and sing on a weekly radio program. Although my brothers have gone into fields outside of music, they studied the cello and violin while growing up. In fact, we had a family piano quartet that played at weddings and other social functions for many years.

What made you want to pursue music as a career rather than as a hobby?

From an early age, music was something more than just for my enjoyment. Between performing with my family quartet, attending summer music festivals, and participating in music competitions, music became a way of life. I don’t think I ever really chose a career in music at any particular point; rather, my experiences and opportunities naturally evolved into a career.

Who has been the most influential musician in your life?

Three people have been very influential in my development as a musician: my mom; my USC mentor, Don McInnes; and my Juilliard mentor, Karen Tuttle. My mom is a natural musician. When she sits down at the piano, music just flows out of her. Don McInnes is the king of ‘dessert songs.’ His artistry, especially in pacing and color, is breathtaking. My Juilliard mentor, Karen Tuttle, was a very intuitive and passionate teacher. Ms. Tuttle never had a set formula for teaching. To her, every student was a unique individual, and she helped each student reach his or her potential.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

On the day of a concert, I practice my program repertoire very slowly to heighten short-term muscle and aural memory. As for right before the concert, well, that’s between me and Hermie!

What is your favorite memory, thus far, of being a musician?

Life as a musician has been so much more than I ever expected–a rich diversity of experiences both inside and outside the rehearsal studios and performance halls. What’s better than filling in for Pinchas Zukerman and rehearsing with economist, banker, and cellist James Wolfensohn in preparation for his 60th birthday concert at Carnegie Hall? Well, doing so AND cross country skiing with my Julliard colleagues in stunning Jackson Hole, Wyoming after rehearsals! And what’s better than performing with the Rackham String Quartet in the First International Melbourne Chamber Music Competition? Doing so AND wine sampling with the group at the beautiful Delatite Vineyards in Melbourne, Australia after the competition. Of course, there’s teaching and performing at the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival in South Africa AND going on safari with my colleagues to view the majestic animals and stunning sunrises and sunsets of an amazing land. Oh, the people and places you’ll encounter as a musician!

Do you have any skills or hidden talents your fellow studio members wouldn’t know about?

I have been very passionate about my studies in martial arts. Thus far, I achieved a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a first-degree black belt in Shin Toshi.



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