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.


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