Q&A with Teal Vickery, viola

What leads someone down the path to becoming a professional musician? What is it that inspires practice, patience, and perfectionism? These are all questions touched on in Beneath the Music; an interview series examining a life in music. In this interview, we sit down with violist and Maine native, Teal Vickery.

BIMF: What drew you to a life in music?

Teal: According to my mother my interest in music, violins in particular, began before the age of four. As a little girl I first fell in love with violins while at Colby College listening to my aunt play oboe in the student orchestra. At four, I requested a violin. The request was met with skepticism. However, I was persistent. For instance, when my mother asked me what I wanted for dinner my reply would be, “I want to play the violin.” After six months my mother realized that it might be more than just a phase.

My first teacher, a wonderful Suzuki violin teacher, invited me into the world of music. Through her I developed my love for the violin, met some of my closest friends, and was connected with inspiring mentors. At the age of fifteen I found my musical voice in a new way when I moved from violin to viola. I was fortunate in moving smoothly from one instrument to the other and from one supportive network to another.

BIMF: Why do you feel passionately about playing chamber music?

Teal: I love the challenge of being responsible for learning and fine tuning my personal part while spending a tremendous amount of time working with others. The end product is so rewarding. The dedication needed to excel was obvious when I heard chamber music performed at the Faculty concerts. To perform at such a high level and with such attention to detail reflects a love of music and years of practice and collaboration.

BIMF: How is this experience different for you as a Maine native?

Teal: It’s great to be able to immerse myself so intensely in the kind of music studies that I’m used to during the year while still being able to enjoy a Maine summer. Having grown up in Maine there’s a lot of nostalgia surrounding Maine summers for me. In terms of connections and networking, Maine seems to be off the beaten path, so it’s especially exciting for me to see so many world-class musicians all gathered on a college campus in a small Maine town.

BIMF: You’re a new addition to the crayon box, what color would you be and why?

Teal: The ironic and obvious answer here is Teal, but I think I’d have to say black. Black may not be a cheery color for most people but it is for me. I spend much of my time in concert blacks and I honestly couldn’t be happier about it. Wearing black means I’m spending my time doing what I love.

BIMF: What is the best advice you’ve received from an instructor?

Teal: My teachers have offered one consistent, simple, but important piece of advice, “Always have fun.” Until now it has been easy to follow that advice. However, I am in the middle of earning my BM in Viola Performance at the Jacobs School of Music and at times the stress of being in school and living life can get to me. I now understand how important it is to embrace music and keep my passions alive. I hear my mentor’s voices reminding me that I’m pursuing a career in music because I love it and that it is fun even when challenges arise.

BIMF: What is one challenge you learned to overcome while at the Festival?

Teal: Performance anxiety, a difficult issue for many young musicians, was a struggle for me until the past two summers. As a participant of the Bowdoin International Music Festival I was given many wonderful performance opportunities. At first I lacked confidence but the faculty encouraged me and each time I performed I became more self-assured.

I participated in community concerts, played in weekly studio classes, and even performed a solo concerto in the wonderful Studzinski Recital Hall. The performance opportunities taught me not to just dip my feet in but to dive in head first. Now I have occasional jitters but they are a part of the process not a barrier to performing.

BIMF: How are the relationships that develop between student and instructor different at BIMF than at other festivals?

Teal: The relationships that develop between students and instructors at the festival are absolutely wonderful, and truly one of a kind. I found the faculty accessible, personable, and invested in helping me progress. I studied and formed relationships with wonderful mentor teachers. They encouraged and inspired me. I’ve had other excellent instructors but the student-instructor relationships at the Festival are unparalleled.

BIMF: How did the Faculty concerts improve your time at the Festival?

Teal: I was moved by the music, inspired by the talent, and was grateful to realize that these exceptional musicians were my teachers. They are skilled, music is their life, and they have found many ways to share their gifts. The concerts were fantastic but the impact moved beyond the stage and continued in the studio and master classes. I benefited and grew as a result of those concerts and the amazing faculty.

BIMF: What advice would you offer to an aspiring violist?

Teal: Really consider all of the advice and tips you get from instructors and always remember to be curious and ask questions. Keep your options open, take every performance opportunity that comes your way, don’ be afraid to blaze your own trail, think outside the box, and always remember to have fun!

Check back soon for more student interviews…