Introducing Andrew Justice, former Associate Head Music Librarian at UNT

What is your name?

Andrew Justice1779722_10152806287841011_45770707839496034_n

Where are you from?

Born in Los Angeles, grew up in Oregon

How are you connected to the UNT Viola Studio?

I am the Associate Head Music Librarian at UNT and am also a professional Baroque violist.

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

Having started on violin at age 6, people began suggesting a switch to viola as I filled out my 6′ 4″ frame / wingspan / hand size; I resisted this notion for quite some time, as I thought of the violin as my instrument and wanted to explore more repertoire / technical challenges. In the second half of my Bachelor’s degree, however, I started playing viola in symphony, then I divided my senior recital between viola and violin, and by the time I started my Master’s degree, I was a full-time violist.

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 by Howard Sands of Eagle Point, Oregon in 1996; I purchased it during my senior year of undergrad. Over the years, I’ve switched out the modern bridge and tailpiece for Baroque versions, but otherwise it’s a modern instrument which has served me quite well in various performance situations.

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

It really depends on the era and genre, but I find myself listening to a fair amount of Kashkashian for 20th c., Dutton & Tree for quartets, and Primrose for historical recordings. Wolfram Christ’s recording of the Bartók concerto (especially the second movement) specifically inspired me to study that piece. My teachers/mentors on viola were Marlan Carlson at Oregon State University and Leslie Straka at the University of Oregon. Both taught me incredibly important lessons, in vastly different ways.

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

That’s such a hard question to answer, but my gut (no pun intended) says Arcangelo Corelli; if you’ve ever played any of the Op. 6 Concerti Grossi, you know why. There’s something about his experience as a violinist, combined with 17th-c. harmonic techniques that just gets to me…in the right hands, performances of Corelli can be wildly exciting from a string/bow technique standpoint and then simply wreck your heart with simple chord changes in the slower movements.

What is your favorite piece to play?

I’ll have to put my foot down here and say: I can’t answer that. I will say, however, that I usually find at least one piece or movement or phrase or even moment on every program that I really try to sink into and suck all the marrow out of, because there’s almost always something, and what’s the point of doing all of this if you’re not going enjoy it to that level?

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

Instead of piece, I’ll say instrument: drums, because the coordination it requires is something different than strings or winds or keyboards, and as I get older I find myself focusing on the drums when I listen to [non-classical] music.

Do you come from a musical family?

Yes, my parents were always involved in church choirs (my dad used to direct; my mom sings basically all the time) and my stepfather played LP records when I was very young, which probably explains why I asked to learn violin at age 3 and now work with all kinds of sound recordings, both digital and analog.

What are your career goals?

To have a long and successful career as a music librarian and continue performing as a Baroque violist until my hands and/or ears will no longer allow me to do so.

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

When I was a senior in high school and contemplating my college/career path, I basically had to decide between music and being recruited to play college football — for me, it was never really a possibility to do anything other than music. Ever since I was young, I’ve basically lived music so studying it in college was an incredibly easy decision.

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

Maybe something with computers or technology, maybe teaching. Or maybe living off the grid and growing all my own food, hiking and other outdoor pursuits, etc.

If you could take a lesson from any person, alive or deceased, who would it be and why?

I’d be really interested to see what Stamitz played like, or Mozart…maybe Joachim. I think we would all be surprised to see/hear what they REALLY played like, and it could seriously change how we approach music of those eras.

Who has been the most influential musician in your life?

Marc Vanscheeuwijck, musicologist and Baroque cellist at the University of Oregon: he speaks several languages, can lecture just as easily about art history as music history, plays Baroque cello like a house on fire, cooks some incredibly delicious meals and is easily the most approachable and intelligent person I know.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

I like to play with clean hands, nothing too obsessive but just a simple wash before I pick up the instrument. Sometimes I have a banana, sometimes a bowl of pasta with a modest glass of red wine. Because I’ve been performing since I was 6 (started with Suzuki), I’ve never really had an issue with stage fright or nervousness.

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

Ha, like that’s possible to answer fairly — probably the most recent high point was performing with Manfredo Kraemer, who can do things you wouldn’t believe with the shortest Baroque bow you’ve ever seen. He’s one of those people who you feel like playing Twinkle with would be a life-changing experience…they don’t come around often, though, so enjoy it while you can!

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

Most of my colleagues (library or music) probably don’t know that I really enjoy cooking and baking; I’m not a superstar or anything, but I have received compliments on my pasta dishes, homemade pizza (with dough), grilling skills, and apple pie.

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