Introducing Michael Capone

Image (c) 2012, Glen M. Sanders www.gmsanders.com

Image (c) 2012, Glen M. Sanders

What is your name?

Michael Capone.

Where are you from?

I am originally from Rochester, NY, and worked for my Bachelor of Music degree in beautiful Ithaca, NY. Right now, I reside in Denton, TX.

How are you connected to the UNT Viola Studio?

Currently, I am in my second year of my Master’s degree in Viola Performance here at UNT. I am also the Teaching Fellow for the studios this year. This means that in addition to my performance and class-related responsibilities, I am teaching some violists who are pursuing music-related degrees other than Performance, as well as some students that are not music majors, but who want to continue studying the viola while they are in college.

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

A little of both, I think! I knew I wanted to play the violin from the first time I saw an orchestra perform, when I was maybe 4 or 5 years old. I wasn’t thrilled when I was signed up for Little League baseball instead – I have a distinct memory of sadly playing the air violin while I was supposed to be on first base.

When the time finally came for us to choose instruments at school a few years later, our teacher had expressed a need for more violists. Thinking they looked and played the same (how wrong I was!), I signed up for viola instead and never looked back.

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

Two right now – Tabea Zimmermann and Garth Knox. Ms. Zimmermann for her always passionate, incredibly moving performances. Her CD of Schumann works is what brought me to appreciate Schumann so deeply. Mr. Knox’s interpretations of contemporary works are so fully committed to the aesthetic and are always a source of inspiration when I work on any contemporary piece.

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

I think Bach just -barely- edges out Brahms in this category for me. We could spend many lifetimes with the string works, not to mention all of the amazing keyboard and vocal music he wrote. His management of and interplay among any number of voices and/or instruments is beyond words.

I would miss Brahms, Beethoven, Bartok, and Schumann, though, as well…

What is your favorite piece to play?

Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 – A whole world’s worth of emotion in an incredibly compact form. I also recently really enjoyed performing the Variations for Four Drums and Viola by Michael Colgrass. Finding ways for the two instruments to imitate each other so closely was an extremely fun experience.

What are your career goals?

Like most musicians, I believe I will be doing a little bit of everything in the future – teaching, performing, gigging… Fortunately, all of these things are extremely important to me. Teaching allows us to connect with other musicians and discover more about ourselves as musicians, and performing in an orchestra or in a chamber group allows us to be part of a team and work together for the same goals.

I am also very passionate about contemporary music, and would like to be bringing more repertoire into the mainstream focus – both unjustly neglected works and brand new collaborative efforts. Working with living composers also allows us to frame the “classics” in a new light!

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

When I was figuring out what to pursue in college, I knew I wanted to go for a career that would help me improve the human condition. I had originally thought of going into politics – but after a bit more research into what that might actually entail, I turned away pretty quickly from that field. Music is something that is more likely to elevate us and teach us compassion and empathy for our fellow man.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

I always take some time to meditate before big performances. I find it deeply centering to take moments alone and turn my attention to my breath. It often helps to heighten my awareness after I get back on stage, and it also tends to put everything in perspective, reducing my anxiety.

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

My fondest memories involve performing chamber music with teachers and colleagues – Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, the Loeffler Rhapsodies, and the Schubert ‘Cello Quintet are all performances that I have treasured. The process of working intensely and deeply on a huge piece that had felt just slightly out of reach at the time is richly rewarding. I’ve been very lucky to work with mentors on each of these projects and have taken away new insights from them all.

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