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Welcome back, and welcome to “From the Studio” 2016!

Dear Readers,

UNT’s Viola Studio has been teeming with activity since the beginning of the year. We’ve taken a winter recess to update some features of the blog, and are excited that you can now subscribe to “From the Studio” and receive the blog in your email account directly, every time we publish a new post. Thanks to Allan Lee for helping me incorporate this feature into the blog! Look to your right– the subscription box is right there…add your email, confirm, and voilà…viola happiness should flow into your inbox!

New Year’s brings change and new beginnings. As of January, we have said goodbye to two important members of our viola community, who have moved on to new positions and cities, so I will start this semester by sharing their contributions and wishing them well in all their new endeavors. We begin with DMA student Rui Li, who has moved to join her husband in Houston for the year. And we’ll continue with Andrew Justice, who recently left UNT to begin an exciting new post as Head of the Music Library at the University of Southern California.

UNT is big and keeps us busy, busy, busy…in the last two weekends alone we have heard auditions from dozens of new string applicants, (including several wonderful violists from all over the world!) We’ll soon catch you up to the concerts that have taken place…(next week we will reach concert #600 for the school year already…!) ….and this week many students and faculty will leave excitedly to attend TMEA in San Antonio. There is never a dull moment (and hopefully never a dull viola sound…!!)

Happiest wishes as 2016 Spring semester flies by…. We hope you will continue to enjoy sharing in the life of our viola studio!
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Kyle Davis on performing Brahms Viola Quintet No.1 in F Major

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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.

 

 


Welcome!

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The University of North Texas
Viola Studio is delighted to welcome you to the AVS’s “From the Studio” blog for the 2015-16 academic year. Overseen by Dr. Susan Dubois and Dr. Daphne Gerling, the studio enrolls approximately 30 violists from around the world, pursuing undergraduate, masters, and doctoral degrees in Viola Performance, Music Education, and related fields. The school year at UNT is packed with rich and varied opportunities for all violists. This year’s posts will explore the myriad teaching and learning issues related to playing the viola in the twenty-first century, including technique, repertoire, interpretation, wellness, business skills, student successes, campus cultural life, and community engagement through the writing of our students and our invited guests and alumni. We look forward to sharing the life of our studio with you this year!