Appearances: Southern Illinois Music Festival, 2015–18; Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, 2017; Castleman Quartet Program, Fredonia, NY, 2015–16; National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute, Washington, D.C., 2013–14; Eastern Music Festival, Greensboro, NC, 2012
What is your earliest memory of classical music? When I was 4 years old I can remember my mother asking if I wanted to play the violin or the saxophone. I know now that the decision was made for me because I was much too young to play a wind instrument, but I did choose the violin. My earliest memory of any classical music was opening the case of my new quarter size violin and drawing the bow across the strings. I created no sound at all (I had not rosined my bow) and I was so confused. I wanted to play just like the recording of the Suzuki CD playing in the background but I had no means to do so.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? I was not sure I wanted to pursue music professionally for a long time. Even during my first two years of high school, I still viewed my violin playing as an extracurricular to help get me into a college with a scholarship, but after going to my first real orchestral festival and meeting all the smart and hardworking students, I realized that I was barely scratching the surface of the music world. I knew that I wanted to take violin on as my priority and I knew I needed to get a whole lot better. So I quit lacrosse and tennis and started looking toward new festivals and college auditions to take me into the next phase of life.
What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century? I think orchestra concerts are going to continue to evolve. The dream is for them to become widely accessible without compromising too much tradition. I would hope to find a middle ground where entertainment can be a focus but not jeopardize the art. I think orchestral performances can look to the art of drama and learn from the performances of plays. When the audience sees the house lights turn off, the show starts and goes till the end of the act. It’s difficult to create a fluid program with stage changes and soloists, but I think avoiding any awkward silences can help hold the attention of the audience. Sometimes at orchestra concerts it can feel like the performance starts and stops. The theater manages to avoid this even with large set changes, I think that orchestras can learn from this.
Who is your biggest inspiration? My dad
Which genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? Impressionism
What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? Introduction and Allegro for Harp, String Quartet, Flute, and Clarinet. I love the balance of simplicity of themes and complexity of textures and harmony.
What has been your favorite experience as a musician? My favorite performance is still definitely the time I coerced my quartet to play the fugue of the Beethoven String Quartet No. 9, Op. 59, No. 3 for our amazing audience at this nursing home. We had only rehearsed it a few times, but we had already played the other movements and the third movement ended on a dominant seventh chord so it basically required us to move on to the fugue. Nobody wanted to play so I asked the audience to help me convince the quartet to play the last movement. My quartet was very upset, but it was no matter, for we continued to play one of my favorite performances ever.
Do you have any embarrassing performance stories? With my quartet in undergrad I once cued the start of the piece and I forgot to tighten my bow. My first opportunity to make a correction was a short tutti rest for which I cued the reentry. During that four beat silence I hastily used the pinky of my right hand to tighten the bow as much as I could and all that was heard through the hall was the clicking of my poorly lubricated screw. The worst part was that it wasn’t enough and I had to repeat the process two more times!
What is some advice you would give to your younger self? Listen to more music. Practice doesn’t just mean playing your violin. You should study and learn more about the motivations of these composers.
Favorite non-classical musician or band: Kendrick Lamar
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? Something in film, either on the writing side or the performing side.
What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why? Iceland because of the landscape and the aurora borealis.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why? Einstein, Ravel, and Nathan Fielder. I would want to play music with Einstein, talk about composing with Ravel, and have Nathan Fielder interview them both after.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: I have piloted an airplane across states.
Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Quit your day job. Music is possible, but don’t believe the saying: “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” It’s not true. In my experience, if you love what you do you’ll work at it every day of your life!