Q&A with Wilfred Farquharson, viola

This past summer the Bowdoin International Music Festival welcomed 255 student participants from 27 countries and 30 states, including 17 remarkable Festival Fellows. Sixty-five percent of these participants received scholarship funds from the Festival. In celebration of an incredible 2016 season and in anticipation of an even better 2017 season, we’ve reached out to last year’s participants to reflect on their experience at the Festival and their lives as musicians.

Wilfred Farquharson, viola

BIMF: What are some of your earliest musical memories? 

Wilfred: I was in the fifth grade and I was playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” in my school orchestra. I was playing first chair, but I missed a few days of school and in that time the other students learned how to read divisi. When I got back I had absolutely no clue how to read the music because the majority of it was divisi. I remember being so embarrassed not being able to play my part, and the teacher called me out and moved me to the back of the section. 

BIMF: At what age did you start playing your instrument?

Wilfred: I was ten years old.

BIMF: Does your instrument have a story?  

Wilfred: I was visiting my brother while he was stationed in Maryland about three years ago and he lived close to a violin shop. I went and played on a viola made by Gunther Prager. I really loved the sound of the viola, but my mom and I both thought it wouldn’t be a great idea for me to buy an instrument without bringing it to my private teacher first. When I got back to Georgia, I searched until I found an instrument by the same maker. When I finally found one I loved it! My teacher gave me an opportunity to play it on stage at Symphony Hall and I fell in love with the sound and how it projected through the hall.

BIMF: What is the longest youve ever spent preparing a piece of music?

Wilfred: One year and five months. I was preparing the Hoffmeister Viola Concerto for my college auditions. My playing improved every single day.

BIMF: If you could play with any musician who would it be? 

Wilfred: Hilary Hahn. I love the way she is in total control of everything she plays and never sacrifices musicality for technical perfection. Her playing has inspired me to push myself and her recordings always make me feel better. I met her at a CD signing once and she seemed like such a sweet and sincere person.

BIMF: How do you make a well-known piece of music your own?

Wilfred: Figuring out the best way to express the composer’s musical ideas is what helps me. I research the intent of the composer and follow the instructions left in the music. Many times I search for an answer to a question that the composer has already answered in the part. You just have to look. 

BIMF: What was one highlight of the 2016 Festival for you?

Wilfred: Hearing the Penderecki String Trio performed with Rebecca Albers, viola.

BIMF: Whats next for you after the Festival?

Wilfred: I’ve started my freshman year at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music where I will be studying with Masumi Rostad of the Pacifica Quartet. I hope to either play in a professional chamber ensemble or in a great orchestra later in my career.

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

Wilfred: Play for anybody that is willing to listen, even people that do not play the same instrument as you. Make sure your personal practice time is prioritized, even when things get busy. Remember that your best will never be perfect and if you do your best, there’s nothing more you can do.

Finally, have lots of fun! Being a musician can be stressful, but it is really important to remember that we do this because we love it.