Viola players from all over Wisconsin and Minnesota — 115 in total — will come to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for the second annual Viola Jamboree on Saturday, Feb. 18. This daylong event is free and open to the public and will celebrate all things viola.
Sam Bergman, a member of the Minnesota Orchestra since 2000, is this year’s guest artist. He will lead a master class in the morning for violists from around the state. This year's event also will feature the works of composer-in-residence Michael Kimber, who will work directly with the students on his music. Kimber was commissioned by the American Viola Society to write a work for viola ensemble that will be played at viola gatherings throughout 2017, but the UW-Eau Claire Viola Jamboree will be the first event to feature this work.
"It’s very exciting that UW-Eau Claire will be the first place where this piece will be heard,” says Dr. Molly Gebrian, assistant professor of viola at UW-Eau Claire and the event organizer. “We are very fortunate that Michael Kimber lives in Iowa and is going to be here to work with our students. It’s a rare opportunity for students to get to work with both a living composer and a longtime member of the Minnesota Orchestra all in one day.”
The afternoon will feature classes and workshops on ensemble playing, viola technique, performance anxiety and improvisation. The day will culminate with a free public concert at 4:30 p.m. in Schofield Auditorium. This concert will feature Sam Bergman, Molly Gebrian, Michael Kimber and viola ensemble music played by the student participants, including the world premiere of Kimber’s new piece, played by all 115 participants together.
Historically, the viola was an instrument only played by those who were inferior musicians (due to lack of training, ability or advanced age) and so it took on the reputation of being the "ugly duckling" in the string family. In the early 20th century, the viola began to be championed by a handful of phenomenally talented players who showed the world how beautiful an instrument it could be. But because violists had been such an embarrassment for centuries, even today there is a feeling of being a bit "lesser than" amongst violists.
As students, violists typically feel somewhat marginalized because their parts in ensembles aren’t as exciting as other parts. Therefore, the purpose of having a Viola Jamboree is to bring together violists from all over Wisconsin to give them a sense of community and to celebrate the viola.
Twelve middle schools, 20 high schools and four universities will be represented at the event. There also will be middle school, high school and college viola teachers attending as participants. Most events will take place in the Haas Fine Arts. We hope to see you at the 4:30pm concert in Schofield Auditorium at the end of the day!
For more information about the Viola Jamboree, contact Dr. Molly Gebrian at 715-836-3524 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top photo caption: Sam Bergman, a member of the Minnesota Orchestra since 2000, is this year’s Viola Jamboree guest artist.