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Michael Capone on his Performance at the SCI Conference – Part 1

When I began working last year as a member of the graduate string quartet responsible for assisting the conducting classes and Nova, UNT’s new music ensemble (a separate quartet from the Bancroft Quartet, one of our Center for Chamber Music groups), I did not anticipate that the work I did would lead me to a performance at a national conference. Yet I write this post sitting on a plane to Gainesville, FL, prepared to perform at the 2015 National Conference for the Society of Composers, Inc. (SCI)

One of the responsibilities each year for the Nova graduate quartet is to record works written by composition students who are new to the school. This occurs at the end of each Fall semester, and includes at least two recording sessions of reasonable length.  We recorded two such works last year, one of which was a string quartet written by Michael Sterling Smith, a composer pursuing his DMA at UNT.

This quartet, entitled Hyperflexion, used a two-note ricochet motive as its foundation – an inherently rhythmically unstable technique – and developed it across the ensemble. As notated, we were asked to play distinct pitches in strict canon, precisely in rhythm, using a very high tessitura, with a specific number of bounces, sometimes with (practically inaudible) glissando between two pitches. At first glance, the score was more than a bit intimidating. How could we get four performers to correlate such intricate parts?

After meeting our composer, though, we realized that to be successful, we must go beyond his notation. The notes on the page were simply indications of gesture, with only approximations of the desired pitches and rhythms. Once we understood this from his directions, our job became easier and our interpretation was freer. We could now react to each other’s attacks in an organic, musical way. The music demanded our complete liberation from the score – a notion which was somewhat new to me.

Inspired by this work we had done as a quartet, I approached Michael after our recording session, wanting to work together on another project. As it turned out, he was hoping to begin writing a solo viola work that would incorporate some of the same techniques as in Hyperflexion. We quickly set a date to begin working together. Our work before that date consisted of finding new sounds on the viola that we wanted to explore.

Soon, we were meeting every week, he with new ideas and concepts, I with research and practice behind me to incorporate and make consistent the sounds we had previously discussed. We aimed to create a piece in a similar structure as Garth Knox’s Viola Spaces, a set of eight etudes, each teaching a different extended technique appropriate for contemporary repertoire. This piece, however, would not teach the techniques as etudes, but would be a performance-appropriate piece in four short movements, each focusing on a different gesture(s) or technique(s).

Our final draft of the work, entitled The Broca Divide, included a movement on ricochet bowing with natural harmonics, one on harmonic trills with manipulation of bow position, a piece exploring tremolo in all its speeds and directions, and a final movement on the pitch class D. The C string is tuned up to C# for this movement not only to better facilitate the unison D on the lower three strings, but also to exploit sympathetic resonance on C#. All pitches in the movement fall between C# and Eb. Elements of other movements as well as microtonality are also explored in this final movement.

In July of 2015, Michael submitted this work to the SCI National Conference, held at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Both the score and the studio recording we created were extremely well received, and the piece was accepted to be performed at the conference. This conference is in its 50th year, and it will be an honor to perform there. The first conference, jointly held by Columbia University and New York University, included such prominent featured guests as Charles Wuorinen, Milton Babbitt, and George Crumb, so to even remotely be a small part of this legacy is incredible. I will undoubtedly meet a large number of composers and performers from around the country, and it will surely be an excellent learning experience for me to perform this new solo work for a wider community.

I will write again when I am on the plane back from Gainesville! I am looking forward to sharing the experience of the performance and the conference with you.

Michael Capone on his Performance at the SCI Conference – Part 2

Conferences such as the SCI (Society of Composers, Inc.) National Conference are a fantastic opportunity for performers just getting their careers started in new music. They can meet a variety of like-minded individuals from all over the world, broadening their horizons to learn from new composers, watch performances of brand new pieces, and hopefully find new opportunities for work in the future. The SCI Conference celebrated its 50th anniversary this year at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and distinguished composer Don Freund was the Composer-In-Residence.

This conference boasts a rich history of prominent composers – just from their first conference, the program of which was provided to us as a souvenir, names such as Milton Babbitt, George Crumb, Charles Wuorinen, and Mario Davidovsky popped right out at me. To be even a small part of such a rich line of participants in these conferences was a huge honor. It also reinforced the idea that “all music was once new” – in 1965, during the first conference, we were still 10 years away from the Shostakovich Viola Sonata, for instance. Pieces by composers who are now firmly entrenched in contemporary “canon” (insomuch as there can be such a thing) were performed at the first Conference – perhaps some of the pieces performed and their composers at the 50th Conference will also become significant in history.

SCI Program page 1SCI Program page 2SCI Program page 3

One aspect of performing at a conference that is different from most performances at school or at a gig, for instance, is the extremely limited amount of rehearsal and warm-up time available in the actual performance space. There were seven total pieces during the concert on which I performed The Broca Divide, by Michael Sterling Smith, and the sound check began only a couple of hours before the performance began. With four of these works using electronics in some form, and my own performance needing to be amplified, the sound engineer running the concert had quite a busy afternoon. I came prepared to simply check the loudest portions of the piece, but with no expectations of running through the whole work in the hall. With warm-up space and practice space at a premium, this would be some of the only time I had that day to warm up at all.

Fortunately, however, the sound check had gone quickly, and one group had not yet shown up, despite their call time being earlier – so I had enough time to hear the space, first checking levels for the microphone, then running the piece once. One interesting aspect of performing Broca is that there is a degree of bow noise and surface noise that makes up a rather significant percentage of the sound transmitted to the audience. Usually we try to hide these noises as part of our preparation for performance. It can therefore be difficult to know just what the right percentage of “noise” versus pitch content is for a given moment. Additionally, what sounds quite loud under my own ear sounds quite muffled and less apparent in the hall; the microphone helps ensure that the sounds of the ricochet harmonics, for instance, are heard throughout the auditorium. Having both the engineer and the composer in the hall while we checked levels ensured that the balance would be appropriate for each movement. (The fourth movement, containing more straightforward pitch and rhythm content, can be lowered in amplification significantly.)

The performance itself was a great experience, too. I found it extremely satisfying to perform in front of a very supportive audience of other composers and contemporary performers. During intermission, I was able to network with some of the audience members who were interested in learning more about the composition. By far the most frequent question that Mike and I fielded involved his notation – how much of this piece is strictly notated, and how much freedom and interpretation is given to the performer? The answer is a mixed bag – some movements, like the second and fourth, are quite restrictive in their notation. Specific pitches, rhythms, and effects are called for, with a relatively reliable expectation of what sound will be produced. The third movement is also fairly reliable in terms of sound production, but much more freedom is given to the performer in terms of what pitches are played and how long each gesture is to last. Approximate durations are given in seconds above each gesture, but a stopwatch is not necessary for the effective performance of this movement.

The first movement is perhaps the most ambiguous in terms of its notation – a series of “32nd notes,” all under a ricochet bowing, without any rests or pauses notated save one towards the end. At first glance, this seems to be a frenetic perpetual motion, but remember – this piece is all about gesture! The speed of the ricochet is determined in part by the initial attack’s dynamic, so already, we know that not all notes will be perfectly even rhythmically. Softer dynamics will tend to be slightly slower, and louder dynamics have more elements of a “thrown” ricochet, with less regard for the specific number of bounces. It is up to the performer to create his or her own phrases and breaths as appropriate in this music.

The Broca Divide page 1

Overall, everyone we talked to seemed very supportive of the work that Mike and I had done. Hearing interested questions and observations from composers and performers across the country helped us realize that the efforts we put into our independent project were not in vain. Having worked closely with him on this new piece, I felt quite comfortable fielding questions independently, and could include an informed perspective on the processes behind it. It was also valuable to talk to other composers because I could better understand how they view our work. The more we can open ourselves to conversations with our composer colleagues, the more we can find opportunities to work and grow together.

Until next time,


Program Notes for Isaiah Chapman’s Fall Recital



William Alwyn – Pastoral Fantasia for Viola and String Orchestra (1939)

Premiered in a BBC broadcast on 3 March 1940, violist Watson Forbes and pianist Clifford Curzon débuted William Alwyn’s Pastoral Fantasia in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Latham in London. Forbes would perform this piece again with the string orchestra of the BBC Orchestra, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult on 3 November 1941.

Opening with a lush harmonic sequence from the orchestra, Alwyn establishes a scene for the soloist to quietly enter in. Instantly engaging the listener by starting on the lowest note of the instrument, the melodic contour explores the range of the instrument through the first cadenza, gradually building momentum to meet with the reentrance of the orchestra. After this gesture is repeated, a seamless connection into the first theme occurs. A series of pastoral tunes eventuate, evoking nostalgia of an England before the war took place. In a very intricate manner, Alwyn climaxes with an impassioned cadence, subsequently restating the opening passage. The restatement connects to what dually functions as a pastoral hymn–a sacred, yet rustic tune. The piece concludes with one last desiring hope: to regain and retain tranquility in the world and for all humanity.


William Walton – Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (1929, rev. 1937)

Originally proposed by Sir Thomas Beecham to write a concerto for violist Lionel Tertis, William Walton’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra remains a dominant force in the standard viola repertoire. With reasons ranging from ailment to the disapprobation of Walton’s music, Lionel Tertis’s denial in performing the piece led to Walton asking Tertis to suggest another violist to play, with Tertis proposing the violist and composer, Paul Hindemith, to premiere on 3 October 1929 in London with Walton conducting the Henry Wood Symphony Orchestra. With a successful premiere, Tertis’s original stance was regrettably squashed, subsequently, taking on the work and performing it. With such eminent violists – Lionel Tertis and William Primrose – frequently performing this piece, it was Frederick Riddle’s revision that left an impression on Walton, thus, becoming a revision published through the Oxford University Press. Riddle would also record this piece with Walton conducting in 1937. Other emendations of this piece, namely William Primrose’s, would also be a version typically performed. Expressed through the British romantic tradition, Walton’s viola concerto will forever leave an indelible impression on the composer’s life and his music.


Darius Milhaud – Quatre visages, Op. 238 (1943)

Commissioned by violist Germain Prévost and pianist Gunnar Johansen in 1944, Milhaud composed a musical joke about four imaginary women that are depicted in the following movements: I. La Californienne; II. La Wisconsonian; III. La Bruxelloise; IV. La Parisienne. Throughout this piece, Milhaud’s characteristic influence of jazz and polytonality are exemplified.

I. La Californienne

The opening of this movement starts in the viola with a perfect fourth motive – an important interval throughout this movement. With a buoyant interplay between the viola and the piano, Milhaud creates arched harmonies that are filled in with colorful transitions. To play on the joke of the piece, Milhaud endearingly ends on a harmonic to emphasize the charming nature of La Californienne.

II. La Wisconsonian

Whimsically brisk, the perpetual feel of La Wisconsonian commences with sixteenth notes in the viola, answered by syncopated chords in the piano. To ensure the fleeting fickleness in this very short movement, Milhaud alternates the positions of the violist and the pianist, uniquely interweaving chromatic harmonies and themes. The two instruments meet together for a brief syncopated section, clearly influenced by jazz. Once again, the violist resumes the sixteenth notes, concluding in a coquettish upward scale and met by a surprising ending.

III. La Bruxelloise

Bluesy and sultry in form, La Bruxelloise gives Quatre visgaes a true connection between classical and jazz. With a very melancholic opening, the violist colors the melodic line with blue notes, glissandos and a contour draped over the bar lines. Milhaud’s sardonic wit closes this movement with a paraphrase of the Belgian National Anthem, distorting the time signature, the rhythm and the key.


IV. La Parisienne

The piano opens this movement with a majestic march, emphasizing the half-step interval. When the viola comes in, Milhaud cheekily denies the interval by having the violist open with a whole-step interval. Adorned with grace notes and arpeggios, Milhaud juxtaposes the themes to show La Parisienne’s eclecticism. With the momentum driving towards the end, the piece cadences in a stately manner.

Notes written by Isaiah Chapman





Life before Telemann: Andrew Justice discusses the untold riches of the Baroque viola repertoire.

When people ask me what I play and I tell them Baroque viola, it’s always interesting to see their reaction: casual listeners of classical music will often feign some polite understanding or appreciation, and a few will mention Brandenburg 6. Meanwhile, fellow musicians usually respond as if I had just admitted to being the world’s foremost authority on the music of Mozart’s lesser-known cousin Bill!

Yes: I am a “full-time” Baroque violist.

Of course, I don’t make a living solely off of being a Baroque violist (although I know of a select few who actually do): my day job is music librarianship, which enables me to be more selective with the performance opportunities I pursue– a very fortunate situation indeed.

How I became acquainted with the world of performance practice was pretty standard: my Master’s program required one term of Collegium Musicum. By the second or third class meeting, I realized that the techniques of earlier music caused me to play with less tension and the musical approaches to phrasing and ensemble performance were right up my alley.

Combining that with a growing sense of “how in the world am I going to make a living as a freelance performer and teacher” over the course of my Master’s program, I decided after graduation that I wanted to focus exclusively on performing earlier works using historical approaches. At the same time, my interest in music history and how it intermingles with those techniques motivated me to study musicology at the doctoral level.

Suffice it to say that it didn’t work: the predominant musicological attitude of “Publish or Perish,” and the ensuing lack of emphasis on teaching (and certainly performance,) disillusioned me right out my coursework after only one year. Fortunately, I eventually realized that what I really enjoyed about my year of musicology was all the time I spent in the music library, regardless of content or outcome.

So I ended up getting a job at the Cornell music library and completed a Master’s of Library Science from Syracuse (mostly online). I came to UNT in February 2007 as Music Librarian for Audio and Digital Services and was promoted to Associate Head Music Librarian in 2013; by the time you read this in early 2016, I will have taken up my new post as Head of the Music Library at the University of Southern California.

Working in a library is obviously a huge benefit to my performing career, and vice versa: I can easily find music to play or program and my various gigs introduce me to new repertoire, scholarly studies, recordings and other materials to seek out for my library’s collection.

It also enables me to observe certain trends among college music students, one of which I’ll begin to address with this blog post: the prevalent belief that viola music basically doesn’t exist before the Telemann concerto.

While it’s true that we count this piece as the earliest well-known example of solo writing for our instrument, it is probably not the first and definitely not the only extant resource for understanding the viola in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

First, it’s important to realize that how most of us are taught to think about viola repertoire tends to be a result of the late nineteenth- and twentieth-century “conservatory to concert hall” mindset, where one’s worth as a performer leans more toward how accurately you can play the Prelude and Fugue from the  Bach C-minor Solo Suite than how you contribute an excellent viola voice to Brahms’ Op. 51 Quartet of the same key.

I think this mentality is changing, but at a glacial rate: as long as we can trace our pedagogical tree back to Auer or Joachim or even Corelli, we will probably continue adhering to this solo-centric tradition…or at least until professional concert audiences are regularly outnumbered by the number of performers on stage.

So if the general idea of the viola “coming into its own” as a solo instrument doesn’t really exist until the Brahms sonatas (and even those are problematic: clarinet), how then does it make sense to retroactively impose a twentieth-century notion onto music of 200 or 300 years prior?

Clearly, Stamitz and Rolla didn’t approach the viola in the same manner as Dvořák or Hindemith. However, to go back even further in time from the first two means that one must redefine what a violist (and indeed, the other members of the violin family) actually was in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century string writing.

Our instrument family, alongside that of the viola da gamba, has an early history in the Renaissance-era courts of Italy as a quiet inner voice belonging in a chamber ensemble– the “musique de chambre”– played indoors, in contrast to the militaristic pomp of loud exterior ensembles which included shawms, brass, and drums.

As the seventeenth century developed, ensemble compositions appear by composers like Giovanni Paolo Cima, Dario Castello, and Giovanni Battista Fontana for interchangeable numbers and ranges of instruments…it’s not until later with Corelli and Vivaldi that our instrumental voices become codified into “The Orchestra”.

There is a fair amount of documentary evidence (treatises, employment records, etc.) to support the notion that, if a seventeenth-century violist was available to play a part (which may or may not have laid comfortably on the instrument, to say nothing of clef), they probably did so.

Scholars and performance practitioners alike mostly agree: they worked with what they had.

Exploring this repertoire, playing with ensembles in the alto/tenor role but also reading and transposing music clearly for soprano or bass voices (Uccellini sonatas work quite nicely, as does playing along with basso continuo lines), these are ways of wrapping one’s head around early Baroque string writing.

Moving into the eighteenth century, studying the dedicated viola lines of Corelli, Muffat, and Buxtehude opens up a world of how the “instrument of the middle” can actually drive the overall ensemble…and this is not to mention the orchestral music of Lully!

But seriously: spend some time listening to and studying the scores of Corelli’s Op. 6 concerti grossi, paying close attention to the viola line – it’s not a third violin and it’s not a little cello, the structure would simply fall apart without that voice and I believe it’s because those pieces were written by a string player who keenly understood how the different voices of the violin family did and could work.

The second major factor in this discussion is: how to find repertoire and resources, and I’ll lead off by saying that relying upon free online options like IMSLP is fine, but you’re only seeing part of the picture and you’re tacitly accepting editorial decisions which could be completely wrong.

Grove (also known as the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and/or Grove Music Online) should be a default resource for basically all of us. The articles in both the paper and online versions include comprehensive works lists and bibliographies, which nearly always outperform Wikipedia and other sources in their depth, breadth, and reliability. In the U.S., almost every library with a decent music collection should certainly allow you to access one or both versions.

In addition to Franz Zeyringer’s Literatur für Viola and the Primrose International Viola Archive at BYU, the most valuable resource I’ve found for Baroque- and Classical-era viola music is Michael Jappe’s Viola Bibliographie: das Repertoire für die historische Bratsche von 1649 bis nach 1800.

Organized alphabetically by composer, I usually start with the indexes which include subsections for Solo Viola, Violin-Viola Duos, Viola-Viola duos, etc. The entries for the compositions almost always include manuscript and publication information, as well as incipits; in the past 15 years, I have used this resource to find and program works at least 50 times.

Once you’ve found that something exists, then you need to figure out how to get your hands on it. After searching your local library catalog, you should definitely not forget about WorldCat, which is essentially the largest worldwide database for library holdings.

For any given item, WorldCat will sort the holding libraries so you can either plan a trip or make an Inter-Library Loan request – using the latter, be sure you note the OCLC number for the item, which will guarantee you get the right thing.

It’s extremely important to not give up on the research process, just because you can’t find a PDF of the piece for download within three minutes of searching. Current general thought tells us everything is digital, and that’s simply NOT true…especially when it comes to something as contentious (from a copyright standpoint) as music.

If you’re digging deeper than the Primrose or Katims editions of Bach suites (and you absolutely should, in my opinion) or that tired old Bärenreiter edition of Telemann, you’ll quickly start finding that it requires time spent in a library and/or employing some pretty serious critical thought.

But as the Italians and Spaniards say: vale la pena (it’s worth the pain). There is an entire galaxy of untapped material awaiting the violist who is curious about “life before Telemann”, and you don’t necessarily have to play with historical performance techniques to appreciate this repertoire.

Study scores/parts, listen to recordings, read about the people and places and trends; sink your teeth into it, and feel free to ask for a librarian’s help!

The Mother Of Us All, by Myles Miller
Susan B. Anthony, (image credit Biography.com)

Susan B. Anthony, (image credit Biography.com)

The Mother Of Us All, the second and last collaboration between the composer Virgil Thomson and the poet Gertrude Stein, is an underdog of twentieth-century opera. With few performances and fewer recordings, the work lies beneath a mountain of other compositions favored by the public and struggles to find its way into the limelight. However, despite this relative obscurity, Thomson and Stein’s masterpiece deserves far more recognition than it currently receives. An amazing combination of style and substance, the duo channeled the emotions of more than a century of activism and political understanding into a two-act staging.

The opera begins with Susan B. Anthony writing letters advocating her cause, worrying whether or not her fight is even possible to win. Stein and Thomson narrate the scene, and the whole passage sounds as if taken straight from a book. The plot moves forward into a political meeting between famous figures of U.S. history. Daniel Webster, Andrew Johnson, John Adams, Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Comstock, and Thaddeus Stevens all represent the male establishment, while two humorously named veterans of the Civil War, Jo the Loiterer and Chris the Citizen, mock the politicians’ overly somber demeanors during political discourse. Susan B. Anthony declares herself to the assembly and begins debating with Daniel Webster, who throughout the debate refers to her as “sir”. This specific title in reference to Susan B. is historically important with no explanation as to why located within the libretto. In the media of the nineteenth century, the suffragettes were often described as “unsexed” or “manlike” with newspapers going so far as to refer to the suffragettes as actual men. This kind of slanderous dialogue led to Sojourner Truth, another well-known suffragette, famously baring her breast during a speech in Indiana (Truth being the deliverer of the iconic “Ain’t I A Woman” speech).
Susan B. Anthony next dreams of the allies to her cause and how, in the end, their assistance is meaningless if women themselves do not rise up together to achieve the right to vote. The scene is marked by the VIP’s of politics, again Johnson, Stevens, and Webster, finally taking a serious interest in the idea of women’s suffrage, and Susan B. lecturing Jo the Loiterer and Chris the Citizen on the differences between the rich and poor. In the final scene of the first Act the opera begins to truly take on a political slant, as Susan B. argues that perhaps marriage is necessary only because men are helpless without women to guide them. Proceeding from this dispute, Susan B. and the chorus rise up together and declare that all people of this nation will one day obtain the vote.
The second Act opens with Anthony and the supporting cast addressing the double standard of women being required to take the man’s name in marriage, and Jo the Loiterer’s girlfriend, Indiana Elliot, refuses to marry Jo until he agrees that she will not have to take the name of Loiterer (Stein’s playful libretto here shows its face again, as “Loiterer” is obviously not a real last name). Anthony accepts an invitation to speak to a gathering of politicians at the behest of a crowd of fervent supporters. She returns from the speech with a new air of confidence, having spoken convincingly enough that the reactionary politicians of the government have deliberately written the word “male” into the Constitution out of plain fear of her movement. This new confidence is shadowed by only one doubt; that if Anthony succeeds, women will become as weak and as afraid as the men who are resisting this movement towards equality. In contrast to this doubt, Jo the Loiterer and Indiana Elliot finally agree to be married, each taking the other’s last name and becoming Jo Elliot and Indiana Loiterer. Finally, in a stunning display of choreography and composition, Susan B. Anthony sings her closing aria summarizing a life well-lived and one that was dedicated towards a singular purpose. As the final notes of the aria fade away, Susan B. becomes a statue in front of the Capitol, symbolizing the eternal achievement of the movement that brought women the vote.
Gertrude Stein’s libretto, combined with Virgil Thomson’s unique compositional style, lends this artistic accomplishment a sense of unity nestled between abject dissonances. The lyrics are often direct in their message, yet interspersed between them are series of nonsensical phrases that seem to digress from the main subject. At the same time, Thomson feeds us a musical landscape of minimalism and romanticism that flows between the words, at times almost as if they are completely separate yet whole. In Thomson’s own words, the score is “a memory-book of Victorian play-games and passion…with its gospel hymns and cocky marches, its sentimental ballads, waltzes, darned-fool ditties, and intoned sermons… a souvenir or all those sounds and kinds of tunes that were once the music of rural America.”
Rehearsing this opera presented a challenge. As an orchestra, we were immediately met with an unfamiliar work and had no context of what it should sound like and no idea of how to bring it together. With many disjointed rhythms and eclectic harmonies composed throughout each scene, the first rehearsals sounded similar to an orchestra warming up before a real performance. To tackle a work like this, one where the orchestra did not possess any familiarity with it beforehand, the rehearsals required slightly different tactics than what would be expected of a standard symphony or even a more well-known opera. The early rehearsals consisted of attempts to run through the opera as far as we could, with intermittent pauses in playing that were filled with explanations as to what would be happening on stage during a section had we been actually been performing, and also a brief synopsis of what was happening in the plot. Eventually the orchestra felt more comfortable with each scene and had an idea of what the whole picture was meant to sound like. When the vocalists finally joined us for rehearsals, the opera truly began to take on a polished form. We were now able to hear a cohesive melody above our minimalist, repetitive sections of quarter notes and down-beat chords.
Along with trying to make an unfamiliar opera sound true to form, this was my first time to be principal of a viola section. This meant that I had to also account for and be responsible for an entire group of violists that was as unfamiliar with the work as I was. I spoke with a few of my friends and fellow violists in the UNT viola studio, along with my professor, for some insight as to what would be expected of me as principal and some tips on how to bring the section together. Recommendations ranged from holding sectionals to offering enticements, such as chocolates, when the group performed admirably. While I personally felt that the music was simply not difficult enough to merit full sectional rehearsals apart from the orchestra, and the director, Dr. Stephen Dubberly, bought chocolate and other candies for the whole orchestra at every performance, I was left with the role of being a micromanager. I would give suggestions and directions on how to perform certain passages in the music, such as where to shift and what position to play in, and all the rest of the basic instructions that a principal is tasked with delivering. In the end, the group did not need much more than the occasional fingering suggestion or technique advice, and I ended up being extremely proud with my section’s progress.
Despite the pride I took in my section and the relatively little work that I had to do because of their strengths, being principal of the viola section for this opera was still a privilege that I do not take lightly. Being in an orchestra and playing an instrument requires hard work, but it is work that I love dearly more than anything else in my life. I am appreciative of the people in my life that allowed me the position and provided me with an experience that will stay with me and guide me through any and all future endeavors as a violist. In the words of Susan B. Anthony, “I don’t want to die as long as I can work; the minute I cannot, I want to go.”