January Viola Events at the University of Utah-You’re all invited!

Dear Utah Viola Society,
The University of Utah has a brand new Viola Club! Welcome to the world, L’Alto! L’Alto is hosting two (count’em, two!) amazing guest artists at the University of Utah this month.

Professor Katherine Murdock will be offering a masterclass at the University of Utah on January 16, 2019 at 2pm, Room 318. Professor Murdock is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Maryland. If you aren’t able to attend this wonderful class at the U of U, she will also be offering an open masterclass at BYU on January 17, 2019 from 5-7pm, location TBD.

Both of these masterclasses are free and open to the public.

Dr. Molly Gebrian will be visiting the University of Utah January 22-23. Dr. Gebrian is Assistant Professor of Viola and Music Theory at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She will be presenting a lecture, masterclass, and recital as part of her visit. Her lecture entitled “What Musicians Can Learn about Current Brain Research” will be Tuesday, January 22 in David Gardner Hall at the University of Utah in Room 270 (“the choir rehearsal room”) at 4:10pm. The masterclass will be in Dumke Recital Hall at 6:15pm. On January 23, Dr. Gebrian will be featured with her partner pianist/percussionist Danny Holt performing Trios for Two.

All of these events are free and open to the public. Join us!

We are so grateful to the University of Utah College of Fine Arts and FAF Grants, and L’Alto: Viola Club @ U of U for making these events possible! Special shout-outs to the officers of the club: President Katherine Deneris, and officers Tara Hoellein and Rachel Dodge for their work organizing these two events. Bravi, tutti!

(If you want to keep track of what L’Alto: Viola Club @ U of U is doing, you can join their Facebook group!)

Membership! Join or renew today!

We are counting down the days until Viola Day 2018! (for those of you keeping track at home, it’s only 16 days away!)

Your support of the Utah Viola Society means that we can continue to bring you amazing guest artists and recitalists every year for our signature Viola Day events. This year’s Guest Artist is Brant Bayless, Principal Viola of the Utah Symphony. He will also be performing with his small band, The Teton Trio.

Personally, I think that’s worth the membership, but there is more…a lot more!

You’ll also receive admittance to our annual Members’ Recital. Our Members’ Recitals feature soloist level performances by violists who, like you, are members of the Utah Viola Society, and live and work here in Utah. You won’t believe what kind of viola talent we have here in Utah until you see one of these recitals. SAVE THE DATE! Our Members Recital is Sunday, February 10, Dumke Recital Hall, 3pm.

BONUS! There’s a bonus event this year that you will not want to miss…the details can’t be revealed just yet, but it’s going to be so deeply alto clef you won’t want to miss it. Watch this space for more information, or sign up for our newsletter! (Sign up for the newsletter and blog post alerts on the sidebar of our homepage!)

Additionally, if you are a member, we can help you sell your instrument, help you find an instrument, publicize your recital or viola event, help you find a teacher or meet a new student, and unite you with other like-minded violists in Utah.

Join or renew today! You can use PayPal, you can mail a check, or you can pay on Viola Day. Do you have a large studio that you’d like to bring? Sign them all up for a studio discount!

And finally, no words needed:





Fanfare for the Common Violist! Many thanks to Scot Singpiel for his recording and video editing work!

Recorded October 14, 2017 as part of Viola Day 2017 at the University of Utah.

Become a member of the Utah Viola Society, and join us for Viola Day 2017!

Top three reasons to join the Utah Viola Society

  1. Viola Camaraderie. Viola nerds, viola geeks, alto clef readers unite! Imagine being in a group filled with fellow C-string lovers! Being part of a Viola Society is like being with people who understand you, with whom you can share friendly companionship and a sense of community. Violists share a unique bond; some of my oldest and dearest friends are my viola friends. (But don’t tell my french horn friends!)
  2. Utah Viola Society gives you lots of bang for your buck! We are truly a bargain. Your membership dues give you entrance to all Utah Viola Society events, including our signature Viola Day events, our Member’s Recital, and other masterclasses or presentations we have along the way. More than just offering events, we can also help you build relationships in the community. We can help you connect with other violists, assist in finding a viola teacher, introduce you to your next viola maker, and help you promote your recital or studio event.
  3. Membership helps us grow. Your membership allows us to bring fantastic guest artists who help us learn through their masterclass teaching and inspire us in their recitals. Thanks to your memberships, the Utah Viola Society has had amazing opportunities to bring great guests such as our recent masterclass guest Nokuthula Ngwenyama, and other viola luminaries like Roger Chase, Patricia McCarty, and James Dunham, just to name a few! Our members help us push ourselves to create bigger and better viola events, and help us create the kind of society we want to be!

Bonus reason: ALTO CLEF COOKIES.

You can renew or join online, or send a check. We also have a group rate, so you can sign up your entire viola studio or orchestra viola section at a discount! You can also sign up at the door on Saturday, October 14, VIOLA DAY! We will take cash, check, and credit card. (But you might save time standing in line if you join early!)  You don’t even have to be a violist to join, it’s enough if you love the viola or love a violist!

Viola Day 2017 is right around the corner. Thank you to everyone who has already renewed their memberships. We are looking forward to meeting new friends, sharing stories with old friends, and learning from this year’s featured guest artist, Peter Slowik. We hope you’ll consider joining or renewing your Utah Viola Society membership today!

Viola Day 2017!!!

Viola Day 2017 is coming! We are looking forward to having Guest Artist Peter Slowik with us for the day.

Here is a rundown of the day’s violatastic events:

Saturday, October 14 – University of Utah, Gardner Music Building
Registration/Membership: $20 Adult/$10 Student
  • 9:00 Registration: Viola congregation and camaraderie
  • 9:30 Scale Play-in
  • 10:30 Masterclass: Guest Artist Peter Slowik
  • 12:30 Free Pizza Lunch! (Maybe, just maybe, cookies?!)
  • 1:15 Instrument Demonstration–Utah Symphony Principal Violist Brant Bayless will demonstrate the instruments and bows. We’ll have violas by local luthiers including Carrie Scoggins, Larry Furse, Dan Salini, and more!
  • 2:00 Meet Your Maker: Your chance to try out all the violas!
  • 3:00 Everything You Wanted to Know About Music School But Were Afraid To Ask, Conversation on Auditions and School Decisions with Peter Slowik
  • 4:00 Viola Orchestra – everybody join in!  We will be rehearsing and performing Sam Bergman’s famous viola choir arrangement of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Bring your violas and join in this fun event rehearsed and conducted by Peter Slowik! If you’d like to see the music in advance, get in touch with Brad Ottesen or Julie Edwards.

Please renew your membership or join today!

Alan de Veritch Tribute Weekend

This week’s Utah Viola Society guest is Alan de Veritch himself! Mr. de Veritch is one of the world’s most respected violists and teachers. He has been a soloist, a chamber musician, a principal player in the LAPhil and New York Philharmonic, a Los Angeles studio musician, a teacher, a conductor, and that’s just his musical career! He has also had  very successful careers in real estate, business, and has been a flight instructor for both commercial and private pilots.

Come meet Alan de Veritch this Saturday, have him autograph your copy of his recently released autobiography, “Malibu Man,” and view his amazing collection of memorabilia at the Primrose International Viola Archive. Attend the masterclass with James Dunham, Paul Neubauer, and Nokuthula Ngwenyama, and stay for the Panel Discussion with Alan. Don’t forget the excellent recital on Friday evening, and bring your viola for a viola choir performance of Alan’s arrangement of the Brahms songs! All events are at BYU, and are free and open to the public! Click here for a schedule of the events!

Alan de Veritch

Mr. de Veritch joined the faculty of Indiana University in 1994, where I was a student at the time, and I was fortunate to take what I believe was his first Orchestral Repertoire class at IU. I have two distinct memories from that class. The first was being puzzled about how much time we spent on Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. I couldn’t understand why we worked on it every week even though it isn’t asked for on professional orchestra auditions. I wanted to spend time learning all the tricks to playing a great Don Juan! I recall Mr. de Veritch saying that we would all thank him later when we found ourselves with jobs or freelancing and would be performing it on one rehearsal. Fast forward several years to when I found myself sitting in rehearsal, with about 15 minutes left for rehearsing 1812, and Alan’s words came back to me. It dawned on me that indeed, Alan was right! Thank you, Alan! My favorite memory was the moment when Alan demonstrated Berlioz’s Harold in Italy in rep class. It was jaw-dropping, stunningly beautiful playing, and I’m certain that I’ve never heard a Harold so lovely since then.

If you want to learn more about Alan’s life, career(s), and some very entertaining stories, be sure to pick up his autobiography “Malibu Man,” copies of which will be available for purchase at the event. (You can even have him sign your copy at the de Veritch Tribute event this weekend!)

Alan On Utah: “You know, I have quite a deep connection to Utah that goes way back. I had the good fortune of knowing and working with Maestro Abravanel since my earliest days as a teenager back in California. Additionally, it was Maestro Abravanel who offered my sister and her husband their very first professional orchestra jobs in the 60s. Consequently, for a number of years, my sister Nina de Veritch Smith was Principal cello and her husband, H. Dennis Smith, was Principal Trombone of the Utah Symphony. In fact, [former Principal Trombone of the Utah Symphony] Larry Zalkind studied with Dennis Smith for quite some time and even performed at his funeral service.  

My wife, Evelyn, and I always enjoy our time in Utah, and have the highest regard for BYU, PIVA, David Dalton, Claudine Bigelow, David Day, and Myrna Layton. Everyone here has been absolutely wonderful to work with and their handling of my collection has been superb.

On “inheriting” James Dunham: “Jim was already an adult when we met. When I joined the faculty at Cal Arts, I happily “inherited” him and he quickly became my teaching assistant. Extremely intelligent and possessing wonderful ideas of his own, James (as he is now known), has, since the first day we met, consistently remained one of the sweetest, most empathetic, and most gentle people I’ve known in my career. If I had anything critical to say of Jim, it’s that he’s too nice, which perhaps on occasion makes him a bit too forgiving! From the moment this event entered its planning phase, Jim has been totally supportive and enthusiastic. It has been wonderful to see him develop over the years. Everything he has accomplished reflects such constant growth.”

On working with a young Paul Neubauer: “By the time Paul and I first began our work together he had received some initial instrumental training and was beginning to exhibit signs of true musical talent…I was quite taken with him as a talented and precocious pre-teen…As I had predicted, accomplishing our goals did indeed require a great deal of work and perseverance on both our parts but ultimately the process proved to be an incredible learning experience for me and one of the most rewarding opportunities and journeys of my life.

For me, unquestionably, the most difficult element of our work together, was balancing the necessary discipline, structure and routine with Paul’s vivid imagination and innate sense of creativity. I cannot tell you how many times I would give him very specific technical and musical assignments for the following week only to have him return to his subsequent lesson having prepared, exclusively, thematic excerpts from popular Broadway shows…and all mostly by ear!! Somehow, we eventually managed to build an exceptionally strong technical foundation while keeping Paul’s creative spirit alive.”

    —de Veritch, Alan, Malibu Man, 2017, p. 215- 216

On meeting Nokuthula Nwgenyama for the first time: “…one day in the late 1980’s I received a call from Dr. Joe Thayer, who, at the time, was the Dean and Executive Director of the Colburn School in Los Angeles. Apparently, one of the extremely precocious young violinists studying at the school had become enamored with the viola and was begging him to find an appropriate viola teacher for her…He assured me that this student was an amazing talent and that I would not be disappointed…Unable to refuse I accepted his invitation and scheduled an appointment to meet with his “wanna-be violist.”

Arriving a few days later at the school, Joe escorted me to a teaching studio where I found an energetic young lady enthusiastically playing up a storm on her viola. As we entered the room Joe interrupted her violistic pyrotechnics just long enough to introduce me to: Miss Nokuthula Ngwenyama. After a few minutes of chit-chat “Thula” began to play for me. It took only moments to see the extraordinary potential of this incredibly gifted natural musical artist and instrumentalist…Just twelve or thirteen at the time, I remember being as impressed with her intelligence and maturity as I was with her playing. No question about it. This girl had absolutely everything and I would be a complete idiot not to accept her as a student although experience had shown me that this much talent could, at times, present numerous challenges. However, I was never one to turn away from challenges, especially if I believed strongly in the ultimate potential. In the end, the only real requirement I insisted on prior to accepting her as a student was the assurance of her exclusive commitment to the viola, forsaking all temptations to play her violin, at least for the first couple of years of our work together. To this day she frequently reminds me of my request and her many subsequent years of violin abstinence!”

    ––de Veritch, Alan, Malibu Man, 2017, p. 323-324

On pedagogy: ““The System” that Thula refers to [in her UVS guest blogger post] is one of the most valuable things I truly believe I have done. It derived from a series I created called “Learn the Viola in a Day…8 hours, that is. No joke!” I can basically present the major elements of this program in eight 1-hour modules. In these eight hours, I can cover just about everything I think there is to know about playing the viola. It doesn’t mean that people that have completed the eight hours are masters of the instrument, but it means they’ve gone through an organized method and can quite logically understand how it’s done.

I arrived at this pedagogical approach as a result of teaching so many other fields of study other than music: flying, corporate, real estate, law, business, etc. In music, every teacher has their own way, usually made up of a compilation of all of their teacher’s methodologies. How you would apply your teacher’s information for the rest of your life could ultimately be quite fragmented. It seemed like the music world needed an actual curriculum for teaching instrumental performance. The most common problem I’ve observed throughout my years in the world of music performance is people making things way too complicated. One of the major premises of my “System” is learning to teach everything one needs to know in a simple, straightforward manner.

When I began my studies as a violist, there were literally no young people who really wanted to play the viola. However as time progressed, interest in the viola began to boom. Sadly, it quickly became obvious that there were not enough truly proficient teachers to keep up with the growing interest. Part of my “System” was therefore designed to help develop qualified young teachers to teach pre-college violists.

The System actually evolved into becoming the basis for the first seven or eight lessons of every student I ever taught. It was amazingly effective; by the end of the first semester, the student knew their basics extremely well, and as we moved into more difficult repertoire I could refer back to a specific lesson in the System which quickly facilitated their ability to eliminate the difficulties they were experiencing. The first seven hours are playing fundamentals, and the eighth hour is essentially what became “The Art of Sensuality and its Impact on Great String Playing.” The first seven hours are how to play the viola; the eighth hour is WHY you’re playing the viola. Performing repertoire should be similar to reading a finished novel; the grammar and spelling are the basic fundamentals.

The meat and potatoes of the System is Schradieck Books 1-3, Carl Flesch scales, and Kruetzer etudes. Once you understand the theories, they can be applied to student of any age or proficiency. My “System” is rigid, but very flexible! It is a simplistic approach to fundamentals presented in an extremely logical and organized curriculum.”

For more on Alan’s pedagogical approach:
Let’s talk some viola pedagogy! Part I
Let’s talk some viola pedagogy! Part II

On his collection in the Primrose Archive: “The collection is “living,” and will be added to as time goes on. My collection has a wide variety, and at different points of my life I’ll release additional items as they become appropriate. The last category will most likely include the majority of my edited repertoire. For now, their inclusion will have to be delayed due to my current use!

When spending time working on my collection at the PIVA, the supervisors tell me, “It’s so cool to have you here. Most of our donors are dead!” I have to laugh, but in reality my collection really is somewhat different from other donated archives, due to my rather unique ability to personally participate in it’s development. We’ve been able to organize it together. One amazing thing BYU has done is take my reel to reel recordings and convert them to a digital format, going back as far as when I was 10 years old. They’ve taken 20 or so recordings, ranging from solo recitals, to chamber music performances, and put them on a listening station in the music library as part of the exhibit. These recordings include solo recitals, solos with orchestra, including a performance of mine with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and numerous chamber music performances with my own quartet, the Aldanya Quartet, and with such colleagues as Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman Sergiu Luca, Young Uck Kim, etc. while still all teenagers.

Some of my personal favorite items from the collection are

  • My grandfather’s Graduation Diploma from the Prague Conservatory on 1903 which contains all the original signatures of most of his personal professors as well as one of the last professional original signatures of Dvorak, who not only happened to be Director of the Conservatory at the time, but was also my grandfather’s composition professor.
  • My working copy of the Walton Concerto which contains a few hand-written words and signatures of Sir William Walton. (I was one of the only American violists to ever collaborate on this concerto with Walton personally.)
  • Many photographs from my career as well as an amazing collection of photos bearing personalized greetings to my father from many of the most notable performing artists of the 1940’s. This collection includes photos of such artists as Horowitz, Rachmaninoff, Piatigorsky, Heifetz, and even the catalyst of Primrose’s career, Richard Crooks.
  • My collection also contains a unique collection of original kiosk posters from my father’s European concert career from the 1930’s.”

Perhaps the thing I am looking forward to the most with regards to this weekend’s festivities is having this amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity to share with many of the individuals who have impacted my life the most, my family, friends, colleagues, students, to name a few, this Joyous Celebration of My Life and Heritage!”

On what the future holds: “It’s fluid. I want to keep my audience hanging for the sequel!”





We have a teacher-student bond that’s like family-Thula’s reflections on studying with Alan de Veritch

This week’s Utah Viola Society guest blogger is violist and composer Nokuthula Nwgenyama. Not only is she one of the viola superstars of next weekend’s Alan de Veritch Tribute/Primrose Memorial Concert, but she will also be presenting a Utah Viola Society Masterclass on September 21 at 6pm in Dumke Recital Hall at the University of Utah. See you there!

I worked with Alan de Veritch from 1989 to 1993. He was my first viola teacher after I switched from violin, and he put in tremendous effort in teaching me ‘the system’: reworking my bow arm and hold to the Franco-Belgian school. It’s all about tirez and poussez [pull and push] and contact point. He had a great ability to communicate how to draw sound from the instrument, exemplified by the sounds he would create during lessons. I learned just as much from the demonstrations as from his guidance, including the occasional “Do as I say, not as I do!”

I worked with him through the Colburn Community School for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles, CA. Lessons would either be in South Central at the annex or at his home in Valencia, CA. Sometimes we’d have a lesson in Port Hueneme, which was always a nice drive up the coast and through the strawberry fields.

The structure of my lessons with Alan depended on what was coming up. Initially it was training, so we focused on a lot of technique and less on repertoire work. As the technique solidified and I was able to manage it without as much supervision, we began worked on building the repertoire.

Tasks set for the week were expected to be accomplished. It’s not that Alan was strict, but we both knew we had work to do and did it. My lessons with Alan were long, 2-3 hours at times. If I was working on a piece it was generally practiced and ready. There was a lot of playing in my lessons. Exercises were prepared and scrutinized; phrases were equally scrutinized. The goal was always to be a more relaxed player, a better musician, a clearer performer, to continue to grow and build, to not let the little things slide, and to be ready for the next opportunity, whatever it might be, a la Walk on the Northside. His fingerings are the perfect combination of expression and function with inside Primrose-isms!  Alan had the ability to effectively analyze Primrose’s flair, from shifting, to vibrato, to bow contact, to living in the upper third of the bow. He shared his observations freely and with such loving humor. It’s a fun and deeply meaningful legacy to be a part of. The Walton fingerings and bowings are the best and only, they are true war horses! And Alan’s story behind them are priceless.

I rely upon ‘the system’ with a few additions to maintain the machinery. Schradieck, Flesch scales, especially the scales on one string, are great ways to center the playing. Everything is built on basics, and those he gave me remain a huge part of playing and teaching life. “Lead with the wrist,” “pinky flexibility,” “flat hair on the down bows,” “weight in the string,” “bow division,” “contact point,” and “breathe” forever!

What I admire about Alan’s teaching is its logic, intelligence, and his directness. It’s all about the basics!

We have a teacher-student bond that’s like family. It’s been like that from the beginning, and that is very Alan.

Paul Neubauer, Alan de Veritch, and Nokuthula Ngwenyama. Photo courtesty of Dwight Pounds

Training and preparing for the Primrose Competition is a particular highlight of our relationship, and a testament to his nurturing and intelligence. He was a complete teacher and mentor, in the sense that he thought about the cultivation of the entire person, not simply the approach to the instrument. The great teachers are like that. No discussion about it was really had until witnessing the 1991 Primrose Competition, which he brought me to with his lovely wife Evie. Afterwards he asked if I thought I could be ready for 1993. When I replied yes, the preparation program flashed in his eyes, and in that moment I knew there was work to do! We’ve gotten to share some profound musical and professional experiences.

Thula in 1993 after winning the Primrose Competition. Kathryn Lockwood, the Second Prize winner, looks on. Photo courtesty of Dwight Pounds.

I look forward to seeing Alan and sharing stories, of which there are so many! It’s also wonderful to commune with fellow students and brethren from LA. Both Jim and Paul are inspiring artists, pedagogues, and people I’m proud to call studio mates. We’re rarely in the same place at the same time. Doing so to celebrate Alan, whose personality may eclipse us all, ensures Provo is in for a real treat!