Archive for October, 2015

Introducing Kathleen Crabtree


What is your name?

Kathleen Crabtree

Where are you from?

I am from Lakewood, Colorado, the most beautiful state in the US. But I am equally at home in Rochester, New York, home of the Eastman School of Music (where I earned my bachelor’s degree), and Cleveland, Ohio, where I completed my master’s work (at the Cleveland Institute of Music).

How are you connected to the UNT Viola Studio?

This school year is my first as a Doctor of Musical Arts student at UNT.

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

Playing the violin was a rite of passage for my mother’s family, and I gladly carried on the tradition as a young adolescent into my teenage years. Plans were made, and practicing commenced, for college auditions as a violin performance major. But in my junior year of high school, a violist was needed for my church’s Christmas program. Since I could hack my way through the part (with many notes penciled in, thanks to the alien alto clef), I borrowed a viola from my school and brought it to my teacher, Basil Vendryes, for help. As soon as I sank into the C string, something about me changed. Yes, the violin has its high, sparkly virtuosic passages and repertoire for days. But the viola awakened my spirit as an artist and human being. Choosing to make it my main instrument allowed me to pick from a wealth of expression and emotion that I never imagined as a violinist.

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

My viola was made in 1804 by Joseph Fischer in Ratisbonne, Germany. When I started to look for a new viola in January 2011, George Taylor, my teacher at the time, recommended Reuning and Sons in Boston. This viola was the first one they sent to me, and it didn’t take long to realize that it was “my voice.” I call him Junior because he is such a small instrument – only 15 1/8 inches!

Who is your favorite violist? (To listen to or as a mentor)

It’s impossible to pick a favorite! But here are two that I come back to over and over. At the International Viola Congress in 2012, I was fortunate enough to hear Paul Neubauer perform the Glière concerto. Never before (or since!) have I been so taken by a player’s tone. When I’m seeking artistic inspiration, I listen to Yuri Bashmet. I hear in his playing overwhelming mastery and passion – the viola is his vehicle to expression. His recording of the Bartók concerto is especially gripping.

If you could play any non-viola piece, what would it be and why?

Two pieces immediately come to mind: Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, and Kodály’s Solo Cello Sonata. Both are full of exotic flair, stirring sentiment, and masterful string writing.

Do you come from a musical family?

I am very blessed to come from a family of musicians. My grandfather played alto saxophone in big bands in New York City in the 40s. Once he married my grandmother and saw that his jazz lifestyle wasn’t conducive to being an ideal “family man,” he taught himself cello (after moving to Detroit) and joined my grandmother in a ballet orchestra, where she was the concertmaster. Their oldest daughter, my aunt Cecelia, bloomed as a violin prodigy and played in the first violin section of an adult orchestra as a precocious 11 year old. The musical talent extended to my mother, who sang in a competitive women’s touring chorus; my twin sister, who trained as a percussionist; and my cousins, who sing and play piano for churches and musicals in southern Colorado.

Who has been the most influential musician in your life?

Not just one, but three, teachers occupy the “most influential musician” category in my life. Basil Vendryes brought me into the world of the viola. I’m continually amazed at how he can wear so many hats – principal violist, teacher, coach, conductor, chamber musician, recitalist – and excel at each one. George Taylor opened my mind. I am never less than awestruck at his insights into both teaching and the human condition. He is a truly brilliant man who doesn’t play favorites – each one of his students is made to feel truly special and unique. Stanley Konopka showed me the path to professionalism. His attention to detail, focus, and precision is unmatched. He took my playing – a raw ball of passion and fervor – and revealed how refinement will take you everywhere.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

When I’m preparing for an important concert, I visualize myself in the space in which the performance will be held. This helps me with goal-setting and calming nerves. Focusing on breathing always proves helpful if I need extra help while waiting to go on stage (breathing in for one count and out for three). But most importantly, I remind myself to take the audience on a journey and GIVE them the gift of music, rather than playing AT them or for myself.

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

My favorite memories come from summer camps and festivals. They are my “happy places:” from the forests of Vermont while at the Kinhaven Music School and Meadowmount School of Music, to the magnificence of my home state at the Colorado College Summer Music Festival and Rocky Ridge Music Center. The best musical memories are made from joyful performances with friends.

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

Just like the supreme Dr. Dubois, I too appreciate the martial arts! I trained in the art of Muay Thai while taking time off from Eastman, and plan on returning to it once I finish my degree at UNT. Besides self defense, I love salsa dancing and hiking with friends, biking and disc golfing with my boyfriend, and target shooting, camping, and yoga with my family.

Exploring Viola Duets with Ethan Rouse

IMG_0923Ethan Rouse
This semester I have the wonderful opportunity to play viola duets for my chamber music course. This is my seventh semester of chamber music at UNT, and in my previous semesters I have performed in a trio, a quartet, and a number of viola and cello quintets. It has been a great experience to explore music from the 18th-20th centuries in these more traditional chamber music groups, but it has been a particular joy and challenge to work on music from the 21st century as a duet. The very nature of a duet implies a certain intimacy beyond even what is found in many trios and quartets, and exploring that aspect of playing has been very enjoyable. I have the pleasure of performing with my good friend Cameron Rehberg, whom you will meet through this blog at a later date. Cameron and I both have a great appreciation for the music of the violist/composer Kenji Bunch, so it seemed logical to perform one of his works together. UNT’s chamber music course requires us to perform twice a semester, so for the first concert we performed Bunch’s “Three American Folk Hymn Settings”, which is also available in a version for two violins. This work makes the most of its two players through the frequent, almost constant use of double-stops in one or both parts. This writing provides a beautifully rich texture, displaying the depth and complexity of the violas’ interwoven sounds. The nature of this texture presents a number of challenges with regard to balance and tuning, so we often had to find the proper balance between the two voices in our own parts, something not so common in typical chamber music repertoire.
While much of our rehearsal was spent on what a chamber music group would typically do, we also enjoyed exploring the folk-like elements of this duet. The style of the duet is a reflection of Bunch’s own experience with folk and bluegrass music, resulting in music that is very different from what we as “classical” performers are accustomed to playing. I love playing music from the common practice period,   but this duet was particularly fun to play, as we were able to really bring out our inner fiddlers. I find great excitement in exploring new works, and this duet is something I am very glad to have added to my repertoire.
Keeping with the theme of living violist/composers, our next performance will feature two short works by Scott Slapin. “Nocturne In Memory of Richard Lane” is one of my favorite pieces by Slapin, and it is also the first piece of his that I learned. I first performed this piece about six years ago with my high school viola teacher, and it is an enjoyable challenge to now learn the other part of the duet. In addition to the Nocturne, we are also performing the third movement of Slapin’s 2007 Suite for two violas. This movement, titled “Lullaby” is a serenely light-hearted counterpoint to the dark nature of the Nocturne, exploring much of the tonal and color ranges of the viola.
Playing music written by violists has proven to be a great joy and challenge, as the music is written from a certain point of understanding of the viola. Though the viola certainly plays a vital role in traditional chamber ensembles, it is a nice change to play chamber music with the viola as the leading role. I know I have only begun to scratch the surface of music for multiple violas, so please let me know if there are any other duets you find particularly enjoyable to play. I know it would be of great value to many of us to explore this genre even further.


Kyle Davis on performing Brahms Viola Quintet No.1 in F Major


I hadn’t the slightest idea of how I would feel following this long-awaited chamber music concert of mine. The extent of my experience with chamber music was relatively small prior to attending UNT, having participated in the occasional string quartet throughout high school, but never had I been involved in a program with such quality and intensity. Thus, as I walked out onto the wooden stage, with lights illuminating my eyes and applause tapping on my ears, I felt a combination of nervousness and avidity to be performing my first chamber music concert at UNT. An enjoyable eight minutes or so of emotionally stirring melodies and equally evocative harmonies had passed in what seemed like an instant. Our bows left the string after sustaining the final chord of the first movement of Johannes Brahms’s “String Quintet No. 1 in F Major,” and I felt a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction with our performance altogether. There were, of course, the occasional nerves that briefly rattled my concentration during the performance, but there was an overarching feeling of comfort and ease about performing with my fellow chamber musicians that kept my awareness focused on our playing.

Brahms composed only two viola quintets in his lifetime, both of which are frequently performed among quintets containing two violas, but what lacks in quantity is certainly made up for in quality. Brahms’s “Viola Quintet No. 1” comes replete with challenges that demand a quintet’s complete cooperation and support among its five members. With the work’s use of syncopation and dynamic contrast, each member of my quintet needed to be cognizant of one another’s parts in order to keep the piece cohesive and moving forward. “Specificity” is a word that comes to mind when thinking about this first movement. Genuine attention to detail comes as a pre-requisite, as there are many specific mood changes and phrasing ideas that require attention. We, as a group, aspired to give every note and rest a story, a meaning. As with all chamber music, we had to attentively listen to one another to create a balanced sound. This proved difficult and became a challenge we had to face head-on. Each of us was enthusiastic to get to work, however, and we sought to help one another through the process. We scheduled multiple rehearsals a week for ourselves, including one coaching a week with one of our viola professors, Dr. Gerling. These coaching sessions were very beneficial, often opening our eyes to ideas and potential improvements we had not thought of before. With devotion to our goal of developing ourselves as chamber musicians, we set out to conquer our task and were thoroughly pleased with the results of our performance.

Playing chamber music, for me, is a wonderful source of enjoyment, creativity, and another opportunity to express myself musically. Having the opportunity to play chamber music with genuine friends, however, is something truly special. I had not been acquainted with three of the four other members of my quintet prior to joining their quartet as the second violist. We swiftly came to know one another and set off together on an expedition to musical development, both individually and collectively. The natural camaraderie among us created an atmosphere of support and this encouraged progress that made coming to rehearsal an exciting experience. Inside and outside the practice room we enjoy one another’s company, and this has come to be a unique experience to me both as a musician and a person. With our second concert fast approaching, we set our eyes on the goals we wish to accomplish for our next performance, as well as what we hope to gain from our next experience together as who we’ve come to be: chamber musicians.



Introducing Kyle Davis

What is your name?KyleDavis

Kyle Davis

Where are you from?

Shreveport, LA

How are you connected to the UNT Viola Studio?

I am a sophomore earning a Bachelor of Music in Performance.

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

I play on a viola made in 2014 by Stanley Kiernoziak. After trying many violas of varying qualities over the course of a semester, Kiernoziak’s called to me with its warm tone and strong projection. It currently is not named, although that will change in the near future.

What is your favorite piece to play?

Presently, my favorite piece to play is Hummel’s “Fantasie for Viola and Orchestra.” I do, however, wish to expand my repertoire in the years to come, hopefully resulting in a new favorite piece of mine.

Do you come from a musical family?

Yes. My mother is a pianist, my eldest brother is fluent in both piano and guitar, and my youngest brother plays the cello.

What are your career goals?

My career goal is to play for a renowned symphony orchestra someday. I thoroughly enjoy playing in orchestras and wish to make that a career of mine.

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

Music has been a major part of my life since the age of 5, when I began taking piano lessons. Ever since then, music has been one of the only constant things in my life and has been a rich source of joy and fun for me.

If you couldn’t be in music, what career would you choose?

Before deciding to pursue music as a career, I was determined on becoming a nurse and pursuing a career in the medical field. I enjoy helping others and believe that I would have enjoyed nursing, but I honestly enjoy music much more.

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

My favorite memory is from a time I performed Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 at Carnegie Hall in New York. It instilled in me a desire to continue orchestral playing throughout my life, thus resulting in my career choice.

Ruben Balboa and the Bancroft String Quartet

IMG_3001Being in a string quartet is one of the most rewarding experiences any musician can have. There is something very personal that a chamber musician must share and convey. Not only do you have to share your personal ideas and feelings about the music, but there are, in this case, three other peoples’ ideas, feelings, and messages that must be combined with yours and then communicated as one musical expression. I have the wonderful opportunity to do such a thing at the University of North Texas with the Bancroft String Quartet.

Being in the Bancroft String Quartet is one of the graduate assistantships offered at UNT. Seeing that acceptance letter, along with a scholarship offer was such a dream come true for me. I mean, I finally get to do what I’ve always wanted to do: perform in a string quartet, learn great repertoire, AND get paid for it – living the dream! However, it is and was not quite that simple. I learned very quickly there are many factors that can make or break any ensemble like time constraints, learning styles, personality differences, communication, and just life in general!

Last year was my first year in the quartet and it was definitely a learning experience. In the previous quartets I have been in, the quartets were formed through late-night jam sessions amongst friends. Being selected for this quartet almost felt like an arranged marriage; I knew no one in the quartet, I was the youngest, the only master student (the others being doctoral students), and I was also the new guy. This would also be my first time to experience overcoming the communication barriers that arise with a majority of members each speaking a different language. That being said there were some hurdles for us to overcome not only due to those issues, but also because the dynamic of a quartet can completely change with the exchange of one person. Like I said before, it can make or break an ensemble. For us, it not only enhanced our musicianship as a group, but also made us grow as individuals.   It was, in my opinion, a successful year of learning, growing, and making fantastic music with new friends.

This will be my second year in the quartet and I am no longer the youngest, I am no longer the only master student, and I am no longer the new guy. This year, there are two new additions to Bancroft, and the dynamics of the group have now changed. While we may have some of the same issues as last year, there will be new and different situations to experience now that half of the group is new. Rehearsals have already begun and everyone is finding their unique voice in the music, as well as in the quartet. I’m looking forward to learning about one another, making wonderful music and lasting memories and sharing our musical journey with you all this year.

Until next time,


Introducing Ruben Balboa


What is your name?

Ruben Balboa III

Where are you from?

Harlingen, Texas

How are you connected to the UNT Viola Studio?

I am a second year masters’ student majoring in music performance. Class of 2016!

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

I’d like to say that we chose each other. It was love at first sight. I mean, how can you not fall in love with that C-string?!

Who is your favorite violist? (To listen to or as a mentor)

Nobuko Imai. She is such a powerful performer. As a listener, I am always drawn in to anything and everything she plays.

What is your favorite piece to play?

Zwei Gesänge for Alto, Viola, and Piano, Op. 96 by Johannes Brahms. When I first heard this piece, I instantly fell in love. This piece is the reason why I play viola. I think it defines the viola perfectly.

If you could play any non-viola piece, what would it be and why?

Bach’s Chaconne in D minor. I could listen to this piece everyday. It really takes you on a journey. It’s truly a masterpiece.

What are your career goals?

I would love to teach on the collegiate level while continuing my performance experiences through chamber and solo music.

If you couldn’t be in music, what career would you choose?

If I had to do something other than music, I would definitely be a middle or high school teacher. There is something about teaching that really brings me joy. Even now, seeing my students’ eyes light up when they finally understand a concept is truly rewarding.

Who has been the most influential musician in your life?

The most influential musician in my life is my first viola teacher, Dr. Ames Asbell. She has inspired me countless times to work hard to fulfill both my musical and life aspirations. I am forever grateful for everything she has done for me and all the lives she touches.

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

Well, I used to be in the jazz and marching band back in the day as a bass guitarist! I was also a martial artist for many years.

Teaching in Brazil, Part 3: The National Viola Competition of Paraíba



The final component of the I Encontro Nacional de Violistas in Brazil was the Concurso Nacional de Violas, a competition for young violists, with three grand prizes: a master’s degree scholarship to Valdosta State University, a performance with the Paraíba Symphony Orchestra, and a beautiful bow crafted by Brazilian maker Willian DeMarchi. I had the pleasure of being a judge for this competition, whose five finalists played extremely well. I was also truly impressed by the integrity and excellent work ethic of my fellow judges. Every aspect of the competition went extremely smoothly, and should be a credit to viola competitions anywhere. Given what one hears lately about the shenanigans of international competitions, I found this really refreshing, and was proud of my colleagues for doing such a great job.

Here is a picture of the three prize winners, Gabriel Polycarpo (Concerto prize), Jessé Pereira (Bow prize), and Fábio Saggin (Valdosta prize.) Bravo to each of you!!! Parabéns, Queridos!!!


I sat down during an airport layover and subsequent flight to interview our Brazilian colleague Hella Frank about the importance of these events:

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Hella and I have known each other since 1985 (!) but we began working collaboratively to organize viola events in Brazil in 2012. The first gathering we organized at the university where she teaches drew 52 violists and 4 guest teachers to the city of Porto Alegre. Two years later, we organized a second gathering with Professor Glêsse Collet at Universidade Nacional de Brasília, in the nation’s capital. This year, we had the great pleasure of being among the 19 guest teachers invited to the first Encontro Nacional de Violas in João Pessoa, which brought together nearly 100 participants. It was a very historic occasion for violists in Brazil, because it was the first event sponsored by the ABRAV- the Associação Brasileira de Violistas, which is newly established as a non-profit organization, and will be an official chapter of the International Viola Society.

Why is it important to have a national gathering of violists?

One of the most important reasons is to bring all the most important viola professors from around the country to meet each other, to observe each other’s work, to exchange ideas, and to come together around the idea that we are all rallying around a common cause.

All the invited artists have very different teaching styles and artistic backgrounds to share with the students, and this created a very rich learning environment for all of us to share.

For the students it was very important to see that even as teachers approach things differently, they ultimately had the same goals and outcomes in mind.

Brazil is a very large country, so it was also amazing for all of us to network and create relationships and connections that will bring people from different states together. Over time, this will energize the viola community from the whole country!

The level of playing in the country has risen dramatically in the last ten years. More and more students are playing, and they are playing at an ever higher level.

Perhaps most of all, for students from around the country, it was a huge stimulus and encouragement, to meet so many peers from other regions and cities, and fostered an amazing sense of camaraderie and mutual support.

With this in mind, do you think there is any particular value in bringing international artists to take part in this kind of event?

It’s very enriching for the students here to be exposed to new or different teaching methodologies. This year for example, with Susan and you, we were able to learn so much about Karen Tuttle’s teaching style– it was wonderful for the students to be able to work on Coordination over several days. Also, it’s really important for the students to have an idea of what they are already doing well– playing for a foreign teacher can be a really validating experience, it can show them that they are being well taught at home, and it can help them understand what level of playing they have, in relation to a larger peer group, and to see in what areas they still need to grow, or to make technical changes.

Were there particularly strong themes in the programming?

Yes, one really important aspect of the Encontro and the Competition was showcasing modern Brazilian viola repertoire. Twenty eight works were programmed over the four days, some of them standard and others new to the audience. This was great for the students, so they could be more widely exposed to the music of our composers, and it was important overall to highlight the diversity of styles in our country’s modern repertoire.


A key element of the Encontro was the National Viola Competition of Paraíba. What was it like for you to have two student finalists who did so well?

Naturally I was very happy and satisfied to have two of my recent graduates place among the five finalists. It’s wonderful to see their work blossom and bear fruit– each of them was able to reach a new level of expression in their playing.

The competition took place in the far north of Brazil, and it was nice to have them perform so far away from home and receive validation for their work from our colleagues from other parts of the country. It’s easy here in Brazil for violists to feel isolated– a great outcome of the competition was having winners from different parts of the country, knowing how hard each of them worked to get to the point of winning, and celebrating the fruition of that work with their teachers. It is really something that brought me great joy!

Thank you Hella! 

Note: this post concludes a three-part series that attempted to to capture the rich experiences of this trip. Teaching and sharing these kinds of activities with musicians around the world is one of my chief joys, and certainly a huge reason for being a university professor. I am thankful to everyone who made this trip possible, including UNT, Susan Dubois, Hella Frank, Cristina Capparelli and Fredi Gerling, Ulisses Silva and ABRAV, and the UNT viola studio teaching fellow Michael Capone, who kept things running very smoothly at school during our absence. May these wonderful alto clef journeys continue!


Teaching in Brazil, Part 2: Encontro Nacional de Violistas, João Pessoa, Paraíba

Under the guidance of Professor Ulisses Silva and the board of the newly founded Brazilian Viola Society (Associação Brasileira de Violistas, ABRAV), the first national gathering of violists under the auspices of the International Viola Society took place between October 8-12 last week. It was a momentous occasion, bringing together 19 guest teachers, three orchestras, and close to 100 participants from all over Brazil and neighboring countries.

Each invited teacher was asked to present two master classes, and perform in a faculty concert. I enjoyed working with students on several works, including Weber Andante and Hungarian Rondo, Forsyth Concerto, Bartok Concerto, Bach and Brazilian repertoire. I performed pieces by Rebecca Clarke (Passacaglia), Vaughan Williams (Romance), and the Brazilian composer Ricardo Tacuchian (Toccata). Joining me to close the last faculty concert was Carlos Maria Solare, President of the International Viola Society. We had a lovely time performing Bulakhov’s enchanting Barcarolle. It was also special to be joined on stage by Cristina Capparelli, as we had not performed together on stage for nearly 15 years in Brazil. The congress closed with a large and raucous viola orchestra, which ended up being very fun, so I’ve included a couple pictures of that as well.



Susan Dubois performed the Bruch Romanze with the Municipal Orchestra of João Pessoa in the closing concert of the congress, which was a special honor. The audience went wild for Hindemith Op 25 #1 Sonata as an encore! Most exciting of all, her performance was filmed and shown on the news on TV! The standing ovation went on for several minutes… cheers!!!

The students were incredibly eager to learn, and many played at a very high level. Teaching them in master classes was really wonderful. I think I enjoyed myself doubly, because I spent a week teaching in Portuguese, and also had the pleasure of translating some of Susan’s classes for her. One of the most touching requests of the week was perhaps when Susan was asked for a lesson, but all the classrooms were full. Undeterred, the student led Susan outside to his favorite practice tree, and a lesson took place, under the branches, in the breeze!

There are two thoughts that really stayed with me throughout the week as a result of spending the week at Universidade Federal da Paraíba, which headquartered all the Encontro’s activities:

• We are very fortunate in the viola world, to work with generous colleagues who want to develop activities for all the young people in Brazil. Every teacher present was so clearly delighted to be there, and so engaged in the cause of good teaching and creating opportunities for each other. On the last day of the gathering, the faculty had a round-table discussion that turned out to be a fantastic forum for sharing ideas and transmitting knowledge to the students.

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• Our students in the US are so fortunate, but maybe don’t always realize it, because they are also always under so much pressure to succeed. They have access to such a wealth of material and intellectual resources that are harder to come by for students in Brazil. Coming home to UNT always reminds me how lucky we are to have good facilities, spacious studios, beautiful halls to play in, easy access to supplies and accessories for our instruments, and excellent libraries right next door. These are things not to be taken for granted; I’m grateful that they make our work possible each day.

Part three to follow!

I hope you’re enjoying following these adventures.


Introducing Hella Frank

Hella 1

What is your name?

Hella Johanna Frank

Where are you from?

Porto Alegre, Brazil. It’s the capital of the southern-most state of Brazil. There is a lot of German and Italian immigration, which seems worth mentioning since my family is originally German.

 How are you connected to the UNT Viola Studio?

I recently hosted Susan Dubois and Daphne Gerling for a teaching residency at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. The music department has about 320 students, and it’s the highest ranked music department in Brazil. Daphne and I have hosted a gathering of violists here before, in 2012, so the connection between us goes back quite a few years.

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

I have a deep dark secret, but it’s actually well known in Porto Alegre…. I am a violin professor, and I chose to play the viola soon after I finished my masters at New England Conservatory. I was able to stay for an additional year doing a graduate performance diploma, and I focused on viola during that time. When I returned to Brazil, I won my professorship as a violinist, but I was immediately engaged to play viola in orchestras and chamber music regularly, and I have taught both violin and viola full-time at the university since 1990.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

On the day of the concert I like to play my entire program once, just to refresh my memory. I try to eat normally and sleep well the night before. But the main ritual is that I have a typed up check-list that I go through before I leave home to go perform! It helps me remember everything I might need to bring: clothing, including hand-warmers and extra layers, safety pins, hangers, music stand, sheet music, extra parts for my peers, stand lights or other stage lighting for certain venues, water, food, kleenex, make-up, programs, any program notes for speaking about the concert, and lastly, a reminder to check on whether I need to bring the violin, or the viola! 😉

Who were your most important mentors?

My teacher from age 9 through finishing my undergraduate studies was Marcello Guerchefeld. He would sometimes teach me for entire afternoons. He was so generous with his time and skill. He was amazing at explaining fingering options, and I still use that information every day in my playing and in my teaching. He and his wife Maly are extremely kind– during the years when I was concertmaster of the São Pedro Chamber Orchestra in Porto Alegre, they would always host me on concert days, making sure I would rest and have a good meal in between services, as my home was too far away from the theater.

Eric Rosenblith was my teacher at New England Conservatory. Prof. Rosenblith was a direct student of Carl Flesch. Marcello had studied with Galamian at Juilliard, so in my masters degree I was exposed to a whole new lineage of teaching. Mr. Rosenblith had a very personalized approach to each student, and he was very inspiring musically– he was a very expressive musician. He gave me the tools to reach that level of musical expression as well. He was very creative in making up exercises for practicing every type of passage. He also thought that it was really important to find the right fingerings for your own hand and your particular instrument. He encouraged people to find different options that were right for them, and it would always make a lot of sense.

Eugene Lehner was very special as a mentor to me in chamber music. He was 84 when he taught me, and he was very sweet. He would constantly experiment with bowings. He would very often say “let’s try the reverse bowing. My name is Eugene “reverse-bowing” Lehner…. so let’s try it.” He really encouraged experimentation to get a musical idea across. So I think a lot of my love for chamber music comes from having had those experiences at NEC. Louis Krasner was also another inspiring coach I worked with at that time.

Do you come from a musical family?

My siblings and I started playing recorder and a little bit of piano by the age of 4 or 5, before each of us chose their own instrument. My mother Isolde was a music teacher, and taught recorder especially. She wrote an important recorder teaching method that is widely used in Brazil, called “Pedrinho toca Flauta.” She was also involved in a pioneering youth orchestra outreach program in Porto Alegre, which was called “Projeto Prelúdio.” These days she is retired, but still working actively on musical projects for her church.

Do you have any hidden skills or talents your students might not know about?

I craft traditional German Christmas ornaments. They are made from wheat straw, and shaped like stars.




Teaching in Brazil, Part 1: Porto Alegre and João Pessoa

As some of you may know, Susan Dubois and I travelled to teach in two cities in Brazil between October 6 and 14. We made a first stop in Porto Alegre, to teach and perform at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, where we were hosted by Prof. Hella Frank. Hella arranged a wonderful three days of activities for us, including a recital on Tuesday evening, where we previewed the repertoire we are performing at the I Encontro Nacional de Violistas in a few days. We also had two very full days of teaching, with about 7 hours of master classes in all. In Porto Alegre we were joined by pianist Cristina Capparelli Gerling to play a joint recital. Despite the short amount of rehearsal time, it was a really joyous occasion, to perform in my hometown, for an enthusiastic audience. Many students I have worked with over the years came to see us, including a very special group of students from IPDAE, a wonderful outreach organization that serves over 200 students from under-privileged backgrounds. Two of the violists from their group travelled north with us to the congress as well. Here is a post-concert picture they requested:


On Thursday we travelled from the Southern end of Brazil to the Northeastern tip of the country. João Pessoa, the capital city of Paraíba State, is a booming city of one million, but is considered by Brazilians to be a “smaller”, more tranquil state capital, given that so many cities here are so large. A neat geographical feature of this city is that it is the eastern-most point in South America!



This area is known for stunning beaches, but this week it is simply teeming with violists coming from all over Brazil, the US, and neighboring Latin American countries. We know the beach is there because we walked to it the first evening we arrived, but we have been solidly viola-ing for every waking hour since!

Proof of beach:

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Proof of teaching 😉 !!



I will share the remainder of this week’s adventures in a couple more posts over this weekend.

Warm wishes,