Now Hear This: an Interview with Eunice Keem, violin

Eunice Keem is the Associate Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, a position she’s held since 2014. Ms. Keem was the driving force along with FACP Artistic Director Rogene Russell in putting together the Bancroft Family Concert series season opener on October 14.


Was there one piece on the program that you especially wanted to perform, or were you equally interested in all three (Szell, Strauss, Piazzolla)? I definitely wanted to perform the Strauss and Piazzolla – the Szell was suggested to me by Rogene. I had no idea it existed until recently!

Why was a Fine Arts Chamber Player concert the place to perform the pieces? I feel like it is the ideal situation for a chamber music concert – presenting the lesser known works, in addition to more popular pieces, to an audience who is open and perceptive to experiencing them is always fulfilling for a musician.

How old were you when you started playing violin? I started playing violin when I was 4. It was technically chosen for me – I received it as a gift for my third birthday. Actually, I didn’t know what a violin was; I was just enamored by the little black violin case wrapped with such a huge shiny red bow (I guess one could say I am a sucker for packaging!). I also played piano briefly for a few years, as well as flute for very short period of time. Violin was the one that really stuck!

What type of music did you listen to as a kid, and what do you listen to now? I grew up listening to mostly classical music – my family always had the classical radio station on in the mornings. I first started branching out in my teens, and listened to a whole slew of genres. These days, I enjoy most kinds of music. The only genre I am not terribly keen on is country. Am I allowed to say that in Texas?

It’s not unusual to hear of humorous stereotypes for certain musicians and their instruments in an orchestra. What’s a typical violinist like? According to others, violinists apparently are: self-centered, perfectionist, neurotic divas who always leave their practice door open just a little bit so everyone can hear how brilliantly and virtuosically they are playing (I can’t take credit for this line: thanks to “Toby Appel’s Irreverent Guide to the Orchestra”). However, I’d like to think we are simply musicians who care a whole lot about what they are playing and sound like!

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? It’s impossible to name just one! They all provoke such different experiences, both as a listener and a player. Of course, Bach is always a winner. Cleanses both the ears and the soul, and I find it so wonderful for centering and keeping oneself in playing shape.

What advice would you give 14-year-old Eunice? For 14-year-old Eunice, I would have given two pieces of advice: (1) Ask this question in times of insecurity (it’s an oldie but goodie) – what would you do if you weren’t afraid? (2) If what you have been doing so far is not working for you, it might be time to consider trying something different. You’ll make a whole new set of mistakes in the process – which often ends up being a good thing!

What advice would you give a high schooler who wants to pursue music in college? Besides working and practicing as hard as you possibly can, expose yourself to as many different musical experiences as possible. Play as much chamber music as you can (all different groups), participate in orchestra, attend all kinds of concerts, and not just the ones for your instrument! Travel, if at all possible. It doesn’t mean having to spend lots of money on lavish trips, but getting as much exposure as you can to different cultures and languages and experiences will enrich one’s soul as well as their music making. And finally, I do strongly believe it is always good to have a long-term goal in mind. However, keep an eye on the process of how you will get there. Oftentimes, that will lead to doors opening in other amazing directions you may not have anticipated.


Now Hear This: an Interview with Shields Bray, piano

You may know Shields Bray as principal keyboard of the Forth Worth Symphony Orchestra (he’s held the position since 1986) and as host of the FWSO pre-concert discussion series (since 1993). Get to know him this Sunday, July 30, as a critical piece of the chamber music ensemble for our final Basically Beethoven Festival concert “Americana!”


Bray, Buddy 2017 bwWhat piece on the program are you most excited about? What should audience members listen for? They’re all such beauties, but I’m especially attached to Jennifer Higdon’s Piano Trio. It appeals to musicians because it’s so well-written, and to audiences because it communicates so directly. That’s true of all her work. The Bernstein clarinet sonata is perfect in front of the trio: it’s one of his earliest pieces, and one of his most appealing. He knew the character of instruments, and how to bring that character forth. Copland was one of Bernstein’s mentors, so I like having that connection in the program. Appalachian Spring is, of course, one of the great achievements in American music. It started life as a ballet for Martha Graham, and it really has never been out of the mainstream since. 

As a pianist, what do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing in a large symphony or solo? Learning to play the piano is such a solitary pursuit, and pianists don’t generally have large-ensemble experience when we’re young. It’s why I love playing with instrumentalists and singers. I love that shared experience. It’s also why, after 30 years, I still really love orchestral playing. I like being part of a bigger effort.

How old were you when you started playing piano? Why did you choose it? Did you learn other instruments? I was 8 when I started, which is about four years late, really. I think it chose me. I’ve never wanted to do anything else.

What type of music did you listen to as a kid, and what do you listen to now? I listened to top 40 until midway through high school, and then I suddenly didn’t listen to the radio anymore. Now I do, but to NPR. For music, I listen to singers, mostly. There’s something about the human voice – the immediacy of it, the warmth.

You are based in Fort Worth. What would surprise out-of-towners about Fort Worth? I love Fort Worth. I love that, as a city, it gets behind its arts and stays behind them. I love that Forth Worth has a feeling for its history, too. 

It’s not unusual to hear of humorous stereotypes for certain musicians and their instruments in an orchestra. What’s a typical pianist like? I wonder if there IS a typical pianist! We do practice an awful lot, and most pianists talk about pianos and what goes on under the hood. 

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? To listen to: Mozart. That’s perfection. I played him a lot when I was young, and I hope I’ll get back to him when I’m 70 or so. He’s a lot to live up to. For the past 15 years or so, I’ve jumped at every chance to play Messiaen. He’s a real original, and I’m fascinated by him.

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? My favorite sound is the ocean. My least favorite sounds are sirens of all kinds.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? I want to hear Mozart play the piano!


Now Hear This: an Interview with Stephen Nielson, piano

Steinway artist Stephen Nielson headlines Sunday’s Basically Beethoven Festival concert, “Stephen Nielson & Friends,” on July 23. He’ll share the stage with violinist Motoi Takeda, the Associate Concertmaster Emeritus for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and with Caroline Nielson. Ms. Nielson is not only an accomplished mezzo-soprano in her own right – she happens to be Mr. Nielson’s daughter! Continue reading to learn about Sunday’s performance and to get to know Mr. Nielson.


Nielson, Stephen pianoWhat piece on the program are you most excited about? The entire program! It is a special treat for me to be on the same concert stage in Dallas with my daughter, Caroline. We’ve purposed to provide the audience with the treat of music for violin/voice/piano, violin/piano, voice/violin, voice/piano – mixing it up, for sure!

As a pianist, what do you love about chamber music? The interaction of the players in an intimate setting; discerning a composer’s weaving of thematic material between the instruments.

How old were you when you started playing piano? As I often say: about nine months before I was born, since my mother was a pianist, church musician, and teacher. I demonstrated an early affinity for the piano and never considered other instruments simply because commitment to serious piano study was so consuming.

What type of music did you listen to as a child, and what do you listen to now? What type of music did you share with your children when they were growing up? Always classical. On Sunday mornings my father played recordings – LPs, you know! – of the legendary organist E. Power Biggs and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Musical education for our two daughters was in place from the beginning. I took our older daughter, Christiana, to her first opera at age 6 – the Dallas Opera’s presentation of Hansel and Gretel.

You have been based in Dallas for most of your career. What would surprise out-of-towners about the Dallas area? What’s your “hidden gem” in Dallas? Except for undergraduate and graduate years at Indiana University School of Music and then seven years as Artist-in-Residence at a college in the Chicago area, Dallas has been my “home base.” Out-of-towners are frequently surprised by the richness of the musical offerings and activity in the North Texas area. Hidden gems? Marvelous people and relationships plus fantastic food possibilities forever changing!

It’s not unusual to hear of humorous stereotypes for certain musicians and their instruments. What would you say a typical pianist like? There is no typical pianist, I think. Though as a Steinway Artist I play Steinways often, sometimes in out-of-the-way locales that is not possible, and I must adapt to what the sponsor provides. In piano circles, such a piano is sometimes cynically referred to as a “P.S.O.” – piano shaped object. I’ve played my share of those!

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? Difficult to answer on both counts! I like the composer whose music I am preparing for the next concert. I’m probably a romanticist at heart, but am overwhelmed by the mathematical brilliance and symmetry of Bach, the depth of Brahms, and the color of the great Impressionists, Debussy and Ravel. I also love the great choral masterpieces of Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Berlioz, Mahler, Fauré and Duruflé.

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? Favorite is the sound of Caroline’s voice! Least favorite – the yard crew mowing and blowing just outside my studio windows when I’m practicing or teaching.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? Hands down –  “Worthy Is the Lamb” from Handel’s Messiah.


Now Hear This: an Interview with Joseph Kuipers, cello

Based in Richardson, cellist Joseph Kuipers is an in-demand international performer, hitting stages in Quebec, Germany, Italy, and closer to home. He joins several other local musicians on the Basically Beethoven Festival concert on July 16, “A Spirited Afternoon.” Read below to get to know Mr. Kuipers, and click HERE to watch performance clips.


2017-07-16 Joseph Kuipers promo shotWhat piece on the program are you most excited about? What should audience members listen for? I must say Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence – the melodies are truly gorgeous, almost embarrassingly beautiful!

As a cellist, what do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing in a large symphony or solo? I like to view all music as chamber music – meaning an interaction between musicians! When I play a Bach solo, I see myself as playing trios between the voices all on my cello. In orchestra, I try to breathe and move with the other musicians on stage. That said, in chamber music the cello plays a role of being an individual, yet the foundation of the group with our occasional singing solos grabbing the spotlight.

Why did you choose the cello? The sound, of course! There is something so human about the sound of the cello. The range encompasses the rich, dark tones of a bass, through the sensuous tenor and alto range, up to the soaring heights of a soprano. Although, I must admit, my earliest memory of the cello is an old black and white photograph of my grandfather Percival Harding with his cello, and its appearance simply attracted me. I just felt drawn to it, and still have an immediate closeness to everything about the cello.

What type of music did you listen to as a kid, and what do you listen to now? I grew up in a religious family, so much of the music were the great old Protestant hymns of the Reformation. That certainly influenced me to be drawn to the pure, early music of Bach, and Gibbons. Later as I studied composition, I went through phases of being obsessed with radically different composers and styles of music. Now I listen to music that makes me feel – music that gives me a heartbeat! From Ivry Gitlis playing Tchaikovsky to Johnny Cash

How long have you lived and performed in Dallas? What would surprise out-of-towners about Dallas? I’ve been based in Dallas since 2012. The cultural scene in Dallas is exploding and draws some of the most brilliant artists of our time!

It’s not unusual to hear of humorous stereotypes for certain musicians and their instruments in an orchestra. What’s a typical cellist like? We love beautiful melodies, singing out the sound, and enjoying every note. We also love to socialize and sometimes this is not a good fit for diligent practicing.

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? Who/whatever I am playing at the moment.

What’s your favorite sound? Least favorite? Favorite sound would be the harmony of human voices, least favorite is complaining.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? I have an imagination of the sound of Archangels singing like the Elves from the “Lord of the Rings” in some otherworldly language, tonality, and sound … where the sound becomes almost visible. That would be my hope to hear!

 


Now Hear This: an Interview with Chloé Trevor, violin

Chloé Trevor travels the world as a solo violinist, and lives her life as an ambassador for the instrument, particularly to young audiences and members of her generation. Ms. Trevor will be joined on stage by pianist Jonathan Tsay for the July 9 Feature Presentation, “Dances & Romances,” opening the 2017 Basically Beethoven Festival. Read below to get to know the artist, and click HERE to sample some audio clips of Ms. Trevor.


 

Trevor, Chloe 2017 (violin)What piece on the program are you most excited about? What should audience members listen for? I’m most excited for Prokofiev’s four pieces from Romeo and Juliet. Prokofiev is one of my all-time favorite composers and this piece embodies a lot of my favorite musical characteristics of his. There’s a lot of intensity and sardonic wit alongside extremely elegant and heart-rendering melodies. I hope the audience members can pick out different characters from the story as we go through the movements.

As a violinist, what do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing in a large symphony or solo? I love playing chamber music because to me it feels like a combination of playing in a symphony and playing as a soloist at the same time. You can’t quite get that feeling doing anything else — it’s really special, especially when you get to play alongside some of your closest friends.

How old were you when you started playing violin? Why did you choose it? Did you learn other instruments? I started playing the violin when I was 2. My parents saw me reaching for my mom’s violin when she would practice and so they eventually found a tiny — but real! — violin for me to play. My mom was my first teacher for the first few years of my studies. I began taking piano lessons when I was 6.

What type of music did you listen to as a child, and what do you listen to now? As a kid I listened to classical music, non-stop. Now I listen to classical music, non-stop. It’s what makes me feel the most comfortable and at home. Every so often I might put on some j-pop [Japanese pop music] though.

You grew up in the Dallas area. What would surprise visitors about Dallas? What’s your “hidden gem” in Dallas? I’m not sure what would really surprise people about Dallas, except that very few people who live here have Texan accents. At least that’s what people always seem to be surprised about when they find out I’m from Texas! But my “hidden gem” in Dallas would probably be the Bishop Arts District, or some of the many amazing coffee shops such as Mudsmith, Pearl Cup, or 1418 Coffeehouse. I really like coffee. And pie. Go to Emporium Pies!

It’s not unusual to hear of humorous stereotypes for certain musicians and their instruments in an orchestra. What’s a typical violinist like? I think a lot of us are very “high-strung.” I know that’s true for me though I combat it as much as possible. We’re also extremely analytical in and out of music, which can be annoying at times (because our brains can’t ever turn off), but does definitely have its benefits — especially when you want to make sure something is done right the first time.

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? Probably Prokofiev and Shostakovich for both.

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? My favorite sound is rain, and my least favorite is the sound of people chewing.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? Definitely a recital by my late violin teacher, Arkady Fomin.


Filip Fenrych, violin

Now Hear This: an interview with Filip Fenrych

Get exclusive insight on this month’s Bancroft Family Concert! An accomplished musician, violinist Filip Fenrych has the added feather in his cap of being Jaap van Zweden’s first hire at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra nine years ago. He joins DSO french horn player Kevin Haseltine and concert pianist Dr. Zahari Metchkov on stage this Saturday. As always, the free concert begins at 3 p.m. at the Dallas Museum of Art. Doors to the Horchow Auditorium open at 2:30. Come early to guarantee seating!


Fenrych, Filip 2017

Filip Fenrych

What piece on the program are you most excited about? What should audience members listen for? Very qood question. I think we’re most excited about playing Brahms, but we have spent so much time learning the Ligeti it’s hard not to feel excited about that. Normally, you would expect to have one piece on a program that you’re excited about, but this time our attention is divided. One piece is so close to the heart (Brahms) and one is so close to the brain (Ligeti) that the analytical aspect of it is another challenge all together.

When listening to the Brahms, the audience should know it is a very, very special piece of chamber music. Brahms’ melodies are to die for, really, and the sadness of some of the melodies relates to the death of his mother. It was a piece that was close to him; therefore, the intimacy is palpable.

As far as the Ligeti goes – an audience member has to be like a sponge trying to soak up the sounds that are coming at one’s ears. For instance, there are very unexpected intervals played. It can be challenging for an audience member to listen to, actually, but we’re hoping our performance makes it less tough.

What do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing in a large symphony?  Playing chamber music is my favorite–absolute favorite–thing to play. It’s the immediacy of communicating ideas with the other performers, the ability to communicate what you individually want to hear and play, versus in a big orchestra you’re told what to play and how to play it. The camaraderie on stage with chamber music is my favorite thing.

How old were you when you started playing the violin? Why did you choose it? Did you learn other instruments?  I was 6 ½. My dad took me to a classical music concert as my sixth birthday gift. We were on a train for many hours, arrived at the hall, and I was blown away by the music, the soloist, by the hall. When I came home after the concert, I told my parents “that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.” They didn’t listen at first! But, eventually, I got the violin and started playing.

I also learned piano through my public school’s music program in Poland. And we learned recorder! My music teacher said that my violin lessons wouldn’t count for my music credits in school. You will not catch me with a recorder in my hand any more.

What type of music did you listen to as a kid?  I listened to classical music, and whatever I could get my hands on growing up in communist Poland. I found and listened to some jazz. As a teenager, I came across Depeche Mode, Metallica, and I was a huge fan of Queen. I was trying to listen to things other than classical, but for sure, classical music was the main thing.

You had the initial idea for this concert program—what was it about these pieces that inspired you to put them together for Fine Arts Chamber Players?  Surprisingly, I have never played chamber music with the french horn before. I have played so much string music, but never played with the horn. So, with the original idea to pair violin and french horn, Brahms came up immediately. Then as a companion piece, Ligeti was added to the mix.

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play?  I enjoy listening to Beethoven a bunch, but I don’t necessarily seek out violin works to listen to – I enjoy listening to Beethoven’s piano sonata, and there’s always Bach! I enjoy his choral music. I think performing Romantic composers are probably closer to my heart and more satisfying. The list isn’t limited to one composer in each category. 

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite?  My favorite is the ocean. My least favorite is the sound of an alarm, especially a morning alarm (I’m not a morning person).

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to?  Because it would be fun, I’d like to see Mozart playing and see if he was actually as funny as we think he was.


Theodore Soluri, bassoon

Now Hear This: an Interview with Theodore Soluri

Get to know Theodore Soluri, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s principal bassoonist since late 2015. Mr. Soluri pairs with cellist Jennifer Humphreys to play Mozart’s sonata for bassoon and cello on the program for the upcoming Bancroft Family Concert on Saturday, February 25. As always, the free concert begins at 3 p.m. at the Dallas Museum of Art. Doors to the Horchow Auditorium open at 2:30. Come early to guarantee seating!

Photo by Jennifer Brinkley

Photo by Jennifer Brinkley

What piece on the program are you most excited about? What should audience members listen for? I have always found the Mozart Sonata to be wonderfully quirky. It’s a relatively early work, though later than the bassoon concerto, but it still shows Mozart’s well-known melodic genius. {Now Hear This! Click to hear an excerpt of Mr. Soluri playing Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B-flat Major, K. 191.}

As a bassoonist, what do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing in a large symphony? Playing chamber music is very different than orchestral work. The challenge of playing without a conductor is so rewarding and always makes a musician’s listening skills sharpen. It also gives us a chance to put more or our own ideas into the complete performance.

Is chamber music for bassoon a big part of the repertoire? There is a fair amount of chamber music with bassoon, but certainly not as much as for strings, piano, and other wind instruments. As I primarily play orchestral music and opera, it’s always fun to get to play chamber music.

How old were you when you started playing the bassoon? Why did you choose it? Did you learn other instruments?  I started playing clarinet in seventh grade and took to it very quickly. I started eighth grade knowing that I would be first chair in the band. But when I showed up for the first day, my band director handed me a bassoon, a reed, and an etude book and told me I had two weeks to learn the basics before I was to start playing with the band. So for those two weeks I would sit in the instrument storage room during band rehearsals and learned all the fingerings I could and my C, F, and B-flat major scales. Then two weeks later I jumped right in.

What type of music did you listen to as a kid? I was a child of the ’70s. The music in my house when I was growing up included The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Frank Zappa, lots of folk music as well as some classical. I definitely had–and still have–a really varied taste in music that goes well beyond classical.

You’re a relatively new transplant to Dallas. What has been the biggest surprise about Big D? Well, not surprising but definitely challenging has been learning my way around such a huge city. I’ve been in medium-sized cities for the past 22 years that were all easy to get around. Learning how to get to places and also learning alternate routes when the traffic is bad (which is more often than not!) has been interesting. I’m really enjoying Dallas, though. The people here are so nice, the food is great, and of course the orchestra is amazing. I’m honored to be here.

It’s not unusual to hear of humorous stereotypes for certain musicians and their instruments in an orchestra. What’s a typical bassoonist like? Bassoonists are known to be very fun and laid back. Maybe that’s a reaction to playing one of the hardest instruments there is!  But I also find it interesting that bassoonists also enjoy being in leadership positions, like orchestra committee chairs, delegates to musician conferences, and even personnel managers.

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? This changes a lot but in general I love playing Mozart, Mahler, Strauss, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky. But my all-time favorite thing to play is a Mozart opera. Nothing cleanses my soul more than that! 

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? My favorite sound is a purring cat. My least favorite sound is a screaming child on an airplane.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? Wow, this is interesting!  I would have to say the concert I would want to see is Tosca starring Maria Callas. What a true artist in every sense of the word.


Now Hear This: an interview with Katie Wolber

Katie Wolber, French horn player with the Dallas Opera, joins DSO horn Haley Hoops and six other woodwind musicians for “Passing the Torch” – our Bancroft Family Concert at the Dallas Museum of Art’s Horchow Auditorium on January 28. Doors open at 2:30 for the 3:00 concert. As always, the concert is free. The program features woodwind octets by Haydn and Mozart.


wolber-katie-2016A devastating crash, an amazing recovery

In May 2011, Katie and her husband Kurt were in a horrific car accident. Traveling on I-35, they were hit head-on by a driver with Alzheimer’s driving the wrong way on the highway at full speed. Their car spun and was struck again by another driver. Their sedan came to stop facing the wrong way on the highway. Kurt sustained a badly broken left hand that required surgery and lives with metal plates and screws in his hand. He had burns on his right hand and arm, a puncture wound to his chest, and a neck injury.

Katie’s injuries were much more severe. She had multiple fractures to her pelvis, vertebrae, rib, ankle, both arms, and at the base of her skull. Katie also had damage to her shoulder, lungs, neck ligaments, a dislocated kneecap, and many injuries to her mouth and face. Her worst injury was a near-fatal lacerated liver. Most people would not have survived the accident. In fact, the ICU nurses told Katie they thought it was a mistake on her file that she had not been brought in on life support.

Haley, Katie at hospital

After a visit from Haley Hoops, where they talked about her car’s safety features, the Wolbers bought the same model vehicle which Katie still drives today!

Despite all that trauma, Katie and Kurt remain thankful and feel like they have “won the life lottery.” Doctors originally told Kurt that Katie would never walk again, then changed the diagnosis to six months until she could walk. However, Katie walked in 8 weeks. Multiple surgeries, physical therapy, and another health scare followed, but 2015 marked the first calendar year with no surgeries for Katie. She credits the safety features of their vehicle, their healthy lifestyle and fitness levels before the accident, and divine providence for their survival and healing.


 Katie, thank you for sharing about your accident. Needless to say, we are so glad you are on stage and able to play! You had to take seven months off from playing the horn. What was it like to pick up the instrument again and play for the first time? I tried to play too soon – just four months after the wreck. My face hadn’t healed enough and I couldn’t play properly. It was like one side of my face wouldn’t work and kept collapsing. I was extremely frustrated, but I didn’t want to compensate for the left side of my face and form bad habits, so I put it down and tried again three months later in January of 2012.

I had a lot of injuries to my face, along with a fake tooth that doesn’t feel quite the same as my original. Things felt weird at first, but within minutes of picking it back up in January 2012 I had adjusted and felt used to it. Everything felt normal, and I had no physical problems. It was a HUGE relief. I honestly think that if I were a string player, I probably would have quit playing altogether. My right shoulder strains to bring my arm across the body, and playing would be unbearable.

What was practice like at first? I started out slow and easy to make sure nothing felt strange, but quickly realized that everything felt just as it did before the accident. The first week or so I only practiced basics like long tones and scales. I decided that since it felt normal, the best thing to do would be to jump back into playing – full speed ahead! The symphonies and the contractors in the area knew I wasn’t able to play (and many thought that I never would play again, from what I’ve been told), and I wanted everyone to know that I was back and as good as new. One of the ways I did that was to audition for two summer festivals. I made tapes for them a few weeks after picking up the horn again. I was accepted by both and attended both – the Sarasota Chamber Music Festival, and the Youth Orchestra of the Americas where I was the primary principal player on a six-week tour in Chile.

Within two weeks I had enough endurance to play for a concert. I asked my main teacher from SMU Greg Hustis, the former principal horn of the DSO, if I could come play for him. He couldn’t believe how I sounded – like nothing had happened. It was one of the most exhilarating lessons of my life. I played with the Dallas Symphony in March, and went on their European Tour in 2013. It was unbelievable and I was incredibly happy.

How long did it take to get back to the level you were at before the accident? I think three weeks, tops. That’s when I had my lesson with Greg Hustis. I still have my audition tapes I recorded from then if you’d like to hear them!

Did returning to the horn feel like a burden or a release? It was definitely a release! I had been teaching private horn lessons in public schools and continued to do so for another year after the accident, but playing is my passion. I wanted nothing more than to be back in the saddle performing around town.


For “Passing the Torch” four DSO musicians partner with four of their protégés. You, in this scenario, are one of the protégés. How does it feel to play alongside these mentors? When I was a student at SMU, my friends and I always revered our teachers and the musicians of the DSO. They were examples of what we wanted to become, and they set the bar high. I’ll never forget the first time I had the opportunity to perform with the symphony – I was incredibly nervous and felt so lucky. It is still an honor to play alongside them today.

What piece on the program are you most excited about? I would have to choose the Mozart Octet. One of Mozart’s great friends was a hornist named Joseph Leutgeb, so I’m sure he had him in mind when he wrote the piece. And, who doesn’t love Mozart?

What’s the most challenging thing about being a professional musician? For me, personally, it’s the schedule. Musicians typically work nights and weekends, and our schedules are somewhat irregular. My husband, on the other hand, is an attorney who works a more traditional schedule. As a result, it can be tough to coordinate our schedules at times.

Do you have a particularly memorable performance or recital you could tell us about? I would have to say playing Mahler’s Sixth Symphony in the Concertgebouw Hall in Amsterdam. I had been invited to play with the DSO on their European Tour in 2013, which was an unforgettable experience. Not many musicians get the opportunity to play such a fantastic piece in one of the most famous concert halls in the world. The performance was also live-streamed online, so my friends and family were able to watch back home.

How old were you when you started playing the french horn? Why did you choose the horn? My parents tried to start me when I was in second grade, so I was about 7 years old. Unfortunately, I was too short for it and couldn’t reach the mouthpiece while resting the bell on my leg. My dad held the bell for me and taught me to play a C scale and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Obviously that was not a good long-term solution, so we put the horn away and I picked it back up two years later. My parents are band directors and basically told me I would play the horn. I didn’t want to have the same instrument as anyone else in the family, and I always liked the look of it when I would see miniature versions as Christmas tree ornaments.

What type of music did you listen to as a kid? I listened to whatever my parents had on – mostly classical and jazz.

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? To listen to, definitely Strauss – he has some great horn parts! To play, I think Mahler – his music is just so powerful and fun to play in the orchestra.

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? This is a question I’ve never been asked! I’d have to say that right now I enjoy hearing the sound of my horse’s lips smacking together as he reaches for a treat – it’s just too funny. I recently took up horseback riding and I make sure my horse is good and spoiled! My least favorite sound? Probably the sound of one of my dogs getting sick in the middle of the night.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? Louis Armstrong!


Now Hear This: an Interview with Kimberly Cole Luevano

2016 Kimberly Cole LuevanoKimberly Cole Luevano, associate professor of clarinet at the University of North Texas,
answered these questions for FACP’s discerning audience. Kim, with soprano Lindsay Kesselman and pianist Midori Koga as Haven Trio, performs at our upcoming Bancroft Family Concert series at the Dallas Museum of Art’s Horchow Auditorium on November 12. Doors open at 2:30 for the 3:00 concert. As always, the concert is free. The program boasts the WORLD PREMIERE of Jon Magnussen’s TWINGE, songs inspired by survivors from the 2004 Indonesian tsunami.


Haven Trio and Jon Magnussen received a grant from Chamber Music America for him to compose this song cycle specifically for you three musicians. What was that process like? Did Jon present it to you as a finished work, or was there some back-and-forth? One of the really fun parts about working with living composers is that it truly becomes a collaborative process. Jon heard our performances and knew what our collective and individual strengths were, so he had that in mind as he wrote. If he had a question about something or wasn’t sure if it would work, he asked us. We met in August to play through the work for the first time, and after that, Jon made a few more adjustments.

Haven Trio is described as “a refuge for the creation of new music for soprano, clarinet, and piano.” How did you come to focus on contemporary chamber music? We all love all styles and genres of music, but I think it’s fair to say that we all like the process of bringing a piece to life from the initial stages of working with composers in composition, to performing the work, to introducing audiences to contemporary works. We tend to perform music of composers who know us well and are not afraid to tell us exactly what their vision of a work is. These same composers also know our strengths and can, therefore, write well for us. In our careers, we have found that listeners may be ‘scared’ of contemporary music. Ideally, we want to create music and present it so that audiences feel connected to the music.

You live in the Dallas area, but Lindsay is in North Carolina and Midori lives in Canada. How did the three of you meet and form Haven Trio? How do you work on music together? Is there a lot of traveling, or do you Skype? Well, it is a long story of how we met! Midori and I played together in a different contemporary music group for over 10 years when we both lived in Michigan. After that group stopped performing, Midori and I continued to perform, but she was in Toronto by that point. (Michigan and Toronto—still not so far apart.) Lindsay, Midori, and I then began to collaborate when Lindsay and I taught at the same institution in Michigan. We found we really had terrific chemistry, a similar outlook in our approaches, and we really love performing together. Even when new jobs and life decisions drew us to geographically distant places, we wanted to continue collaborating. Typically, we do 10-day “residencies” twice a year when we come together for a series of concerts in a single location. We do some Skype-type work, but we also do lots of recording of our own parts that we send to each other for help in preparation. When we arrive in the concert place, we have time to rehearse, but since we’ve recorded and listened lots to each other’s parts by that point, we can get right to music-making and interpretive decisions.

Do you find that being a teacher influences you as a performer? If so, how? I tell my students, “Teaching educates my performance; performing educates my teaching.” I couldn’t imagine doing one without the other. If I am guiding my students to reach musical decisions or to incorporate certain ideals or aesthetics for effective performances, I am reminded that I must always do the same!

How old were you when you started playing the clarinet? Why did you choose it? I started playing the clarinet in my public school band program in New Mexico when I was 8 years old. I am grateful to my band directors—I wouldn’t be a musician today were it not for their guidance. I was lucky to begin private lessons when I was 12 years old. I hate to say it, but I chose clarinet because my older sister played flute! I didn’t really know enough to have a good reason to pick it! However, I truly love the clarinet sound and color—I can’t imagine playing any other instrument at this point.

What types of music do you like to share with your kids? What type of music do they like? We listen to all kinds of music at home. Honestly, my children prefer popular music to classical, but both play instruments and have studied music their entire lives. When I’m not teaching or playing, I typically listen to something other than classical music (since that’s what I hear almost all day). I love jazz and world music—especially Brazilian music.

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? Whatever composer’s music I am currently working on. Truly, I don’t have a favorite—there is so much wonderful, moving music!

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? I love sounds of nature—waterfalls, birds singing, wind rustling through trees, rainstorms. Least favorite? Fingernails on a chalkboard.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? That’s a tough choice! If it were possible to hear the premiere (or one of the original performances) of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, that would be amazing, I’m sure. But I wouldn’t say no to Bach at the organ… or Mozart at the piano.


Emily Levin, harpist

Now Hear This: an Interview with Emily Levin

Emily Levin, newly appointed principal harpist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, answered these questions for the Fine Arts Chamber Players audience. Ms. Levin, along with three other harpists, opens our Bancroft Family Concert series at the Dallas Museum of Art’s Horchow Auditorium on October 15. Doors open at 2:30 for the 3 p.m. concert. As always, the concert is free and in a family-friendly environment. The program includes work by Johann Bach, Bernard Andres, Cesar Franck, and Carolyn Lizotte.

Photo credit: Dario Acosta

Photo credit: Dario Acosta

What piece on the program are you most excited about? What should audience members listen for? The harp is an incredibly unique instrument on its own, so having four harps together in one concert is going to be quite the experience! It’s impossible to choose just one favorite, because each piece is so different–the program is structured to highlight the multi-faceted nature of the instrument, with a variety of genres ranging from Bach to tango music. We’ve also chosen different combinations of quartets, duos, and solos so the audience can hear the harp both in ensemble and as a solo instrument.

What do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing in a large symphony? I love how communication, both verbal and nonverbal, is such an integral part of chamber music. Not only are you rehearsing and playing together, but also everything you do with your instrument is part of a larger musical goal, which can’t be accomplished on your own. Being able to make music with others is an incredibly special experience for me. I find that great orchestras (like the Dallas Symphony!) create a larger version of this chamber experience. With orchestra, you still have that communicative experience, and your involvement helps create that amazing orchestral sound.

Is chamber music for harp a big part of the repertoire? What is a typical performance for you: solo, chamber ensemble, or orchestra? I think chamber music is an incredibly important component of harp performance, because we spend so much time playing alone. Even in orchestra, most of the time you are a one-person section and only occasionally are there two players. When we have the opportunity to play and create music with other people, it’s a wonderful experience. And some of the best repertoire for harp (in my opinion) is chamber music, like the Ravel Introduction and Allegro (for harp, string quartet, flute and clarinet.)

I try to perform a variety of genres, so it’s generally a mix of all three. This season is a lot of orchestra playing with DSO, and also some solo recitals and a few chamber music recitals (I’m in Colorado later this year for a residency with the Colorado Chamber Players.) I also love new music, and am in a new music ensemble back in New York.

The harp is a huge instrument! How tall is yours, and how much does it weigh? Did you have to buy a car specifically so it could fit a harp? What’s it like moving it around?

The harp, although beautiful and wonderful to listen to, does not win the award for most portable instrument! It’s about six feet tall and 90 pounds, and I’ve developed amazing arm strength from lifting it in and out of cars. Harps generally fit into station wagons, SUVs, or minivans. I currently own a Subaru—I only bought it a month ago, after moving from New York! In case anyone is wondering, harps do NOT fit into the Subaru Impreza hatchback. I learned this the hard way at an audition, and had to physically hold the back door down while my friend drove me to the hall. I made quite the entrance!

In addition to playing for the DSO, you’re involved with a performance group in NYC and and perform in other cities. What’s the travel like? Do you have to take your harp from city to city? When I do travel to other cities to perform, it’s always an adventure finding a harp to play. The harp world is small and very supportive, so I generally rent from another harpist in the city I’m going to. Each harp is different, so there is always a bit of adjustment needed, but it is certainly better than driving everywhere! I do bring my own strings with me. So far TSA has not tried to confiscate them.

How old were you when you started playing the harp? Why did you choose the harp? I was five years old when I started the harp. My dad would read me bedtime stories every night, and one night he told me the story of David playing the harp for Saul. I went to my mom the next day and announced that I, too, was going to play the harp (I was four years old at the time.) She had me on a waiting list for cello lessons, and it took me almost a year to convince her that I preferred harp to cello.

What type of music did you listen to as a kid? I listened to a lot of classical music growing up, and I think it instilled early on a love a classical music. We went to a lot of concerts, orchestral and solo, and I fell in love with the performance aspect. There is something so special about live music!

What is your favorite thing to do to pass the time while you’re traveling to gigs? Podcasts are my favorite—I listen to them while driving, running, or working out. My personal favorites are “This American Life” and “Ask Me Another.”

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? Ooh, that’s a hard one! I love listening to Brahms symphonies, especially because there is no harp and so I can’t play them. I also love Mahler, and think he might be the best orchestral composer for the harp. He writes for the harp in a way that really brings out its unique voice.

What’s your favorite sounds: musical and non-musical? Least favorite? My favorite non-musical sound is the wind rustling the leaves on a tree. Musically, it might be the sound of an orchestra tuning. My least favorite sound is the painfully loud sirens that pass you on the streets of New York, or the sound of chewing.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? I will have front row seats to Simon and Garfunkel. Hopefully they won’t mind me singing along.