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.
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.
Top three reasons to join the Utah Viola Society
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 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:
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!
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.”
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
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!”
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.
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.
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!
All events will take place at Brigham Young University and are free and open to the public. Please join us for this historic viola event. If you haven’t had a chance to take a tour of the Primrose International Viola Archive, don’t miss this opportunity! See you there!
Thursday, September 21
7-9pm E-400 in the Harris Fine Arts Center at BYU
(NOTE: If you aren’t intending to attend this rehearsal and will be in Salt Lake City, please come join us for a Utah Viola Society masterclass with Nokuthula Ngwenyama from 6-8pm in Dumke Recital Hall at the University of Utah!)
Friday, September 22
3:00 pm Harold B. Lee Music Library
3:15-5:00 pm Music Library/PIVA
7:30-9:30 pm Madsen Recital Hall (Harris Fine Arts Center)
Saturday, September 23
10:00-11:30 am Lee Library Auditorium
11:30-12:15 pm Lee Library Auditorium
12:15-1:00 pm Break
1:00-3:00 pm (Music Library/PIVA)
Utah Viola Society’s guest blogger this week is the fabulous violist James Dunham. (Many of you will remember that UVS President Brad Ottesen studied with Mr. Dunham, and he was our distinguished guest for Viola Day!!! 2015!) Mr. Dunham is Professor of Viola at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. He worked with Alan de Veritch later in his viola studies, and considers him a dear friend and mentor. You’ll have an opportunity to see Mr. Dunham pass on the knowledge that he learned from Mr. de Veritch as part of the Primrose Memorial Concert/Alan de Veritch Tribute events September 22-23, 2017 at Brigham Young University!
“The path I took to studying with Alan de Veritch was not the usual one. As described in his just published autobiography “Malibu Man”, Alan was “the very first young virtuoso of the viola while still a teenager.” Unlike Alan, I was no young virtuoso of the viola nor, for that matter, of the violin! I was just a guy from a musical family who played violin with some success. It wasn’t until the viola discovered me that my thoughts turned to music as a lifetime profession!
Once that decision was made, the result of a most wonderful summer at Tanglewood as a full Fellowship violist following my freshman year of Liberal Arts study, I made a seemingly surprise decision. I opted to transfer to the just-opening California Institute of the Arts, founded by Walt Disney on property north of Los Angeles in Valencia, California! I actually went out to study with the well known Curtis trained violist David Schwartz, longtime Professor of Viola at Yale University and violist of the Yale String Quartet. As I soon discovered, Mr. Schwartz was also one of the main violists in the New York free-lance scene, and his eyes were on Hollywood! I had 3 very successful years with Mr. Schwartz, from my Junior year of undergrad study through the first year of Masters work. By this time, David (as I was then allowed to call him, as per Southern California informality) had built his career into that of first-call violist in the flourishing L.A. studio scene of the 1970s. He left Cal-Arts, and my fellow students and I needed a teacher!
Alan to the rescue. Young, charismatic, prize-winning, co-principal violist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic: what could be more perfect? He also lived IN Valencia, just down the hill from our school: ideal! So my final year of Masters study was with Alan de Veritch, just a few years older than I, but with a lifetime of difference in experience as a violist, performer and musician. And let’s not forget: pilot, flight instructor, businessman and real-estate expert!
What changes did I encounter at the beginning of this relationship that soon grew into friendship? Interestingly, after receiving many years of very “correct” teaching, it was a big surprise to encounter someone with tremendous facility and the great imagination to look for solutions in surprising places. Colors, timings, and especially fingerings that need not be about convenience, but were all about character, quality, charm and, not infrequently: daring! It was a great and wonderful invitation, and of course, these were things I took to heart, learned to love and seek out, and continue to use and pursue today!
As expected, I graduated on time after this final single year of “official” study, yet Alan continued to look after and mentor me. His dear friend (and later mine) Jan Hlinka, the elder co-principal in the Philharmonic, became ill and was out on sick leave for a month. Thanks to Alan, I was invited to fill out the back of the section for those four weeks. Talk about eye-opening! I had certainly played plenty of large orchestra in my life: two summers at the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan plus two academic years at the Interlochen Arts Academy, and even two summers at Tanglewood. But this was very different, with multiple programs per week, truly limited rehearsal schedules, not to mention a busy life in every spare moment!
By this time, the Sequoia String Quartet, of which I was founding violist, was well established, and we even had started a limited residency at Cal-Arts. I was also principal violist of Henri Temianka’s California Chamber Symphony and a section member of Neville Marriner’s L.A. Chamber Orchestra, with steady studio work coming my way, too. Even so, I still felt in need of “something.” Enter Alan again: William Primrose, his teacher and mentor, came to L.A. for a masterclass. As I was no longer a student, I was therefore ineligible to perform, so I pleaded for a private lesson with Mr. Primrose, which was granted. It lasted almost two hours and was life changing for me. Each question Mr. Primrose asked – “Can you do this?” – was followed by my reply: “Why…yes I can!” with a simultaneous and enormous “AHA” moment for me! At the end of our time together, Mr. Primrose suddenly looked startled and said: “I have told you too much at one time!” I protested, and he then instructed me to go home, write everything down, and come to Alan’s house that very evening so that he could confirm that I heard him correctly and understood all that he had shared. I still have these notes, and consult them on a regular basis!
In the years to follow, Alan and I remained in touch on many levels: he as mentor to me, I occasionally as flying “partner” to him if he had to get in some hours flying around Southern California, or to Catalina Island and back. We even incorporated musical topics!
As the years proceeded, I left California to join the Cleveland Quartet at the Eastman School of Music. Alan’s attention also moved eastward when he accepted the Professorship once belonging to William Primrose at the Indiana University School of Music. Still keeping me in the back of his mind, when IU sponsored the 1995 Viola Congress (just as the Cleveland Quartet made the difficult decision to disband) Alan called me and said I should really stay visible in the world of violists: “You must come to the Congress!” And he offered me several prominent roles to keep me front and center!
Well, now many years later, he’s continuing his thoughtful caring for his former students, notably Nokuthula Ngwenyama, Paul Neubauer and me. On the surface, the upcoming event at the Primrose Archives at Brigham Young University is all about Alan, his career and legacy. But leave it to Alan to include us, both to shine some light on his pedagogical impact, and at the same time to salute the achievements of three of his protégés.
If I may, in keeping with this time-line of history, I am also delighted to be returning to the Primrose Archives that I visited not long ago with my own former student, Bradley Ottesen. Now Associate Professor at Utah State University and violist of the Fry Street String Quartet, Brad is also President of the Utah Viola Society! So much to be proud of on all sides.
I eagerly look forward to the festivities at BYU in September. See you there!!