Mariya-Andoniya Henderson


Hometown: Plovdiv/Assenovgrad, Bulgaria

Alma maters: The Colburn Conservatory, Yale University

Photos by Matt Dine


Appearances: Hartford Symphony, CT, substitute, 2016–present; Santa Barbara Symphony, CA, tenured section bass, 2013–17; Chelsea Music Festival, NYC, 2018; Crested Butte Music Festival, principal bass, 2018; Verbier Festival Orchestra, 2017; The Aspen Music Festival, 2009, 2015–16; The Perlman Music Program, 2007–08, 2010, 2015; Tanglewood Music Center, 2013–14; Music Academy of the West, 2012

What is your earliest memory of classical music? Watching the annual Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concert on TV.

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? My mother is a pianist and she pushed me to also play the piano. It was always a given that I will be working in that field, but this career path became truly mine when I switched to playing the bass.

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? Early Romantic era—Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Dvořák

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 holds a special place in my heart. I first came to know and perform the piece during a challenging time in my life and since then it has become a personal favorite and a symbol of personal growth.

What has been your favorite experience as a musician? There have been so many experiences that are worthy to be my favorite. Playing with a good ensemble of people who are attentive and serving the needs of the music is invaluable.

Do you have any embarrassing performance stories? In high school I struggled a lot with handling my nerves when performing in front of audiences and had a particularly awful case of stage fright at a concert at a summer music festival. I attempted to perform the Allemande of Bach’s First Cello Suite but ended up forgetting and fumbling through the whole piece. After my cringe-worthy performance I was so embarrassed that I hid under the piano in my practice room thinking that no one would find me there. To my surprise a faculty member had seen my long legs sticking out from under the piano and came and sat under the Steinway with me. She told me that everyone has those experiences and that one bad performance shouldn’t discourage me from doing what I love. Since then I haven’t had a disastrous experience such as that when performing (knock on wood) and I hold this memory dear.

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? I would advise myself to take my time and let my love for music drive me, not my ego.

Favorite non-classical musician or band: Radiohead and the Red Hot Chili Peppers

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? I’d probably be a journalist.

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why? Lisbon, Portugal. I loved the city, the culture, the food and the people!

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why? Anthony Bourdain, Leonard Bernstein, and Michelle Obama. All three were/are strong, charismatic figures and beacons of hope who never apologize/d for who they are/were or what they believe/d in.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: I am part Greek.