I came to Oregon in 2005 to pursue a doctoral degree with the intention of writing my dissertation on the violin works of Danish composer Carl Nielsen. This dream recently came true, but there’s more to my life than my academic pursuits. Promise. I’ll start here with a little bit about how I got here…
I grew up in a musical family in small college town in Mississippi. In many ways, it was an “arts desert,” but my parents made sure that my siblings and I were surrounded by music and literature. Well, they couldn’t help it. My mom was a soprano, choral conductor, and voice teacher, and my dad was an English lit professor who also played horn, was the president of the local symphony association, etc. I don’t know how my parents pulled off everything that they did to make sure that my sister, brother, and I had access to many of the monuments of the western art world. Much of my inspiration to perform and teach comes directly from my childhood experiences, though I never intended to become a musician…or a teacher. It just happened, and I love it.
December 25th, 1985 is among the most significant dates in my life as a musician. Santa Claus gave me a tape recorder and two tapes – one of Brahms Symphony No. 4 and Dvorak’s “New World.” To me, this was better than candy. I carried that tape recorder around with me everywhere. I went to sleep every night to Brahms 4. I made my parents play it on the tape deck in the car. I couldn’t hear it enough. I completely wore out the Brahms tape, to the point where it was so warped and the piece would warble over the tape heads. The fourth movement is pretty funny in the warped performance. If you know it, hum it in your head with a really slow, wide vibrato, and you’ll get the picture.
Why the violin and viola? Really, it was an accident. I loved music so much as a kid that it wouldn’t have really made a big difference to me what instrument ended up in my hands. I just wanted to make noise! It is by chance that I started lessons on the violin, and basically, I have my sister to blame for that. She started violin lessons when I was 2 years old, and it just worked out for me to follow in her footsteps… until I discovered the amazing world of playing the viola. Now, I perform regularly on both instruments, sometimes in the same concert, and
I teach both.
Nielsen’s 2nd symphony (the “Four Temperaments”) is another landmark in my musical life.
I fell in love with this symphony when I was in junior high school just as deeply as I had the Brahms symphony when I was younger. Then, my dad mentioned that this Nielsen guy had written a violin concerto, and the rest is history! I had to play it, and I had to know everything that I could about this fascinating Danish composer!