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.

Dr. Alex McDonald

Now Hear This: An Interview with Alex McDonald

Dr. Alex McDonald

Dr. Alex McDonald

Accomplished pianist and educator Dr. Alex McDonald served at the Guest Festival Director for the 2016 Basically Beethoven Festival. He programmed the concerts, finding the right mix of performers and pieces to offer to our audiences this summer, and performed at the July 17 “Menagerie” concert. You may have heard him speak at the concert or met him in the lobby, but here’s an opportunity to get to know him better with our Q&A series.

What piece were you most excited to hear performed during the 2016 Basically Beethoven Festival, and why? Well, to be totally honest, I was really curious how the Stravinsky would turn out. [Dr. McDonald arranged Firebird Suite for three pianos, performed at the July 17 concert.] It was a fun experience having such world-class pianists join me on the stage and commit so wholeheartedly to the project. I’m extremely excited to hear the Schubert cello quintet this weekend. It is one of the master’s very last compositions, and many consider it to be his greatest chamber piece. The second theme of the first movement is absolutely out of this world, and I can’t wait to hear it in Dallas City Performance Hall, which is acoustically an absolute gem.

What do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing in a symphony? From playing solo? Chamber music is wonderful in that you can communicate with each musician. With concertos (which I love!), I find I communicate mainly with the conductor, and when I play solo, I end up just talking to myself, which I do anyways! I love the intersection of different musicians’ musical personalities, as well as the unique timbres of the instruments.

How old were you when you started playing piano? Why did you choose piano? I was almost 5! My mom chose it for me. She is a piano teacher, and I would build train tracks under the piano as a toddler. Or so I am told (I don’t really remember).

Am I seeing things, or do you use an iPad instead of sheet music? Why the change? I do use an iPad! I love that I can keep tons of scores on it, and I also like the Bluetooth page turner pedal that I can take with me and practice with. I’ve had some pretty funny and regrettable page-turning experiences (once my page-turner’s necktie was casually hanging out on the lower keys, and I was wondering how to navigate around it).

What type of music did you listen to as a kid? Have you always listened to classical music? I have always loved classical. I also listed to a fair amount of ’90s contemporary Christian music – I’m talking about Michael W. Smith. I think that’s why I tend to be so cheesy now! These days, I love listening to Bach cantatas, Nora Jones (my wife, Rachel, has it on in the car), or sometimes perusing whatever is a “latest hit.” I do enjoy mainstream pop. That way, when a passage in classical music gets difficult, I can “shake it off.”

What types of music do you like to share with your son? Well!! As of today, my son is 2 months and 9 days! He’s pretty non-discriminating at this point, although I did notice that he was decidedly happier when I practiced Schubert than Rimsky-Korsakov. I guess I’m proud of him for that! He is also rather fond of “the diaper song,” which naturally accompanies one of the less glorious parts of parenting.

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? That’s a hard question! I really have always loved Liszt, but I think Rachmaninoff would have to be a strong favorite—after it’s comfortably in my fingers, of course! I really love listening to and playing Bach.

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? I like the sound of a full symphony orchestra, in all its various combinations. My least favorite – I guess I’m not too fond of sprechstimme.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? John Cage’s 4’33”?? (Just kidding.) I think I would most want to hear Bach’s Et resurrexit, or maybe the slow movement to Rachmaninoff concerto no. 2.

Dr. Jonathan Tsay

Now Hear This: An Interview with Jonathan Tsay

Tsay, Johnathan 2016

Dr. Jonathan Tsay

Soloist, accompanist, ensemble member, arts administrator and all-around good guy Jonathan Tsay is part of the Feature Performance on July 24 for Basically Beethoven Festival 2016. In between practices, rehearsals, and performances, Dr. Tsay answered our “Now Hear This” questionnaire for our audience.

What is your favorite piece you’re performing on the July 24 program, and why? This is a tough one, because somehow it implies I don’t like the other pieces on the concert for some reason. We’re getting a chance to play Beethoven’s Piano Trio in C minor for the first time, which is something I’ve wanted to play for years, and I have a soft spot for tango nuevo, a musical movement that José Bragato was an integral part of, but I have to say that Paul Schoenfield’s Cafe Music, with its wild swings between genres from 20th century classical to ragtime to dixieland jazz and its overall manic energy, takes the cake here.

What do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing solo? In a symphony? I love the fact that chamber music allows for the freest exchange of ideas between colleagues. Performing solo is exhilarating, but it can get lonely; in a symphony, you are very often completely at the service of the baton out of necessity. When playing chamber music, you slip between the roles of musical leader and supporter constantly, which is a challenge but ultimately the most rewarding experience musically.

How old were you when you started playing piano? Why did you choose piano? I started playing the piano when I was about 5 ½ years old. I had two older sisters that played the piano, so like many younger siblings it became a rite of passage, a thing where I was constantly asking “When is it going to be my turn?” I also played the violin and viola for several years, but when I started playing music with my friends, I quickly realized that my place was behind the keyboard.

What type of music did you listen to as a kid? Have you always listened to classical music? Being a second generation Taiwanese-American and the youngest of three siblings, I was exposed to a pretty crazy range of music. Of course, my parents had classical music cassette tapes filled with Mozart, Beethoven, and the like. When I was in kindergarten, I apparently memorized and belted out the lyrics to Dolly Parton’s “Working Girl” in the car regularly (which, now that I’m re-listening to it, I probably only understood the chorus). I borrowed (probably without permission) my sisters’ Mariah Carey and Ace of Base tapes, and the first two CDs I ever owned were Eric Clapton’s Unplugged album and Leonard Bernstein’s recording of Holst’s The Planets with the New York Philharmonic.

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? I tend to go through phases, listening obsessively for a few weeks to “clean” composers like Bach, Mozart, even some Brahms, then changing gears and listening to more “complex” composers like Prokofiev, Debussy, and some more contemporary 20th-century/modern masters – then back again. To me, I like playing Haydn because it makes me feel clever, and Liszt because it’s often quite intuitive and comfortable for my body: it plays musically like it feels physically, which is more rare than one would think.

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? A well-placed slide between two notes. Unfortunately, it’s an effect that’s possible on every instrument and voice except the piano.

Least favorite? Alarm clock.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? To me, one version of a good afterlife would be one giant music-reading party/concert, where I’d reconnect with all the people I met throughout my life, musicians or not, to play and sing all varieties and styles of music. And to those that were more shy or less confident about their musical prowess, there would be plenty of time to practice. Of course, the occasional cameo by Chopin on the piano and Paganini on the violin would be kinda cool, too.

Dr. Catharine Lysinger

Now Hear This: An Interview with Catharine Lysinger

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Dr. Lysinger

Dr. Catharine Lysinger teaches applied studio piano at SMU and she directs the teaching lab for graduate students in piano pedagogy. On Sunday, July 17, Dr. Lysinger will join Dr. Alex McDonald and Andrey Ponochevny on stage for an afternoon of piano music.

What is your favorite piece that you are performing on the July 17 program, and why? My favorite piece on the program is definitely the Stravinsky. Alex McDonald has created a very effective arrangement for six hands on two pianos and we have had great fun learning this music. We performed it this week at SMU and are looking forward to performing again on Sunday.

What do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing in a symphony? Performing chamber music is a very inspiring environment because we can collaborate with friends who are like-minded musicians. The small number of collaborators allows us to interact in a creative and flexible way. I also love performing with a symphony orchestra. While this experience is certainly also collaborative, there’s a certain aspect of interpretation that is slightly less flexible due to the larger numbers of people involved. There also tends to be less time to rehearse. In preparation for this concert with Alex and Andrey, we have had time together that allows us to work hard and also have fun in the process.

How old were you when you started playing piano? Why did you choose piano?  I started playing piano at age 7 or 8. I was drawn to it because my father is a jazz pianist (as an avocation) and we had a grand piano in our home. I always feel very fortunate that when I told my parents I wanted to take lessons, there was an excellent teacher not very far from our home. Colleen Brashear is still an active member of Dallas Music Teachers Association.

What type of music did you listen to as a kid? Have you always listened to classical music? As a child, probably due to my parents’ tastes in music, I have always loved classical music. We used to go hear the Dallas symphony and I never missed going to Fort Worth to listen to the Cliburn competition. I must admit to also loving ’80s pop music!

What types of music do you like to share with your child/children? What type of music do they like? I have two children, Abby, 15, and Zach, 9. Both are active musicians. Abby has long been a member of the children’s choruses of the Dallas Opera and the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas. She is a member of her dad’s (Michael Lysinger) choral program at J.J. Pearce High School and was thrilled to be a part of the Texas all-state choir this year. We have been very fortunate raising them in Dallas with its exposure to great artists and deep musical experiences. Zach is more inclined toward science, math, and technology, but he also sings with the Dallas Opera and studies piano with one of my former graduate students.

You teach at SMU. What, if anything, have you picked up from being around college students? Constant engagement with these bright, creative young people is a constant stimulation. Every year, I feel that I learn as much from them as I hope they might learn from me. Our graduate students come from all over the globe and have so many ideas and convictions about music, piano, and teaching. It’s such a wonderful environment – I feel very fortunate to be a part of it.

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? Choosing a favorite composer feels like choosing a favorite child. But, I tend to play music of Scarlatti, Haydn, Chopin, and Prokofiev perhaps with more frequency than other great composers. One of my recent favorite composers is Australian composer Carl Vine. I have performed his bagatelles and have taught the Sonata. Incredible music. I have also thoroughly enjoyed collaborating on occasion with Voices of Change and have been involved with performances of new music of living composers. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed collaboration with my colleague Jack Delaney, director of the Meadows Wind Ensemble at SMU. Together, we have performed concerti by Stravinsky, Olivier Messiaen, and most recently Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? Ha! It’s rather presumptuous of you to assume I will reach the pearly gates! However, if I am so lucky, I am sure that all I’ll ever need or want to hear is Bach’s Mass in B Minor and/or choral music of the Renaissance period and anything of the British or French choral traditions. I suppose music written for my own instrument would be fine – but I often think that we pianists are just frustrated singers.


Molly Norcross

Now Hear This: An Interview with Molly Norcross

Norcorss, Molly 2016 BBFMolly Norcross, French horn for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, takes part in our Westerly Winds program on Sunday, July 10 – the first concert of the 36th annual Basically Beethoven Festival. She joins Sarah Tran, flute; Stephen Ahearn, clarinet; Paul Lueders, oboe; Peter Unterstein, bassoon; and John Owings, piano; in works by Beethoven, Francaix, and Ligeti.

What is your favorite piece you’re performing on the July 10 program, and why? I am really enjoying the Francaix “L’heure du berger.” This is the first time I’ve learned it, and I always like to learn new music. I think you’ll find it very entertaining, and a bit silly as well.

What do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing in a symphony? Chamber music is such a wonderful, intimate setting. The musicians can see one another’s faces, so compared to sitting in a large orchestra, it is a very different way of relating within the ensemble, and relating from the ensemble to the audience. We get to set the tone and pace for our rehearsals, and we decide what needs the most work and how to address it, rather than having a conductor make those decisions for a larger group. I feel like the audience can get a feel for each player’s musical personality in the smaller setting, which can be very intriguing and rewarding.

How old were you when you started playing French horn? Why did you choose that instrument? I started playing when I was about 9 years old, in fourth grade. Apparently, I actually chose the trumpet, but when I came home from school that afternoon I cried and said I really wanted to play the horn. For the record, I remember none of this. I was drawn to the horn for two reasons: my Dad grew up playing the horn, and from hearing great horn lines in movie soundtracks (thank you, John Williams!).

What type of music did you listen to as a kid? Have you always listened to classical music? I did grow up listening to mostly classical music. I went to orchestra concerts even before I was born! During my childhood my Dad would always play a recording of classical music during dinner and my siblings and I would guess the composer from the three options he would provide.

You play for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, but you’ve been traveling to Dallas for BBF rehearsals. How do you pass the time when you’re waiting in D-FW traffic? I am typically a big KERA listener, but I’ve been lucky that my friend Paul Lueders, who is the oboe player today, was staying with me during the rehearsal process. Paul and I worked together in the San Antonio Symphony for a year, went to the Tanglewood Music Center together one summer, and even overlapped at New England Conservatory for a year. We’ve been able to pass the time in the car by catching up, and planning where to eat! We actually did come quite early a couple of times so that we could get a taste of some Dallas restaurants and avoid the worst of the traffic.

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? I don’t know that I have an ultimate favorite composer for listening or performing, but right now, I think my favorite composer to listen to is Haydn and my favorite to play is Benjamin Britten. Haydn is always delightful and sneaks in little surprises. I’ve just started working on Britten’s “Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings,” which is a really cool piece. I’ll actually be performing it next season with the Fort Worth Symphony in November. You should come check it out!

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? My favorite sound is in the non-musical realm: thunder! Thunderstorms are one of my most favorite things. My least favorite sound is also nature related: the high-pitched whining of a mosquito right next to my ear. You always know they’re up to no good!

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? I would love to see Glenn Gould’s heavenly rendition of J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” perhaps with Bach himself standing nearby to give some pointers, or improvise a new variation!