Q&A with Rebecca Barnet, 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.
BIMF: What are some of your earliest musical memories?
Rebecca: I still remember the instrument ‘petting zoo’ I went to when I was nine years old. I knew I wanted to play a stringed instrument, and I thought the violin was too screechy and the cello too large, but the viola was perfect! I also remember playing a duet in 5th grade (Simple Gifts, a classic folk tune) with my twin sister, who also plays viola. We both played the top line because we both wanted to play the melody.
BIMF: At what age did you start playing your instrument?
Rebecca: I was nine years old.
BIMF: Does the instrument you play on have a story?
Rebecca: My viola is generously on loan from the Maestro Foundation, based in California. I was so lucky to find out that they had a viola and bow available for me when I was accepted into the program. I flew from Baltimore to Los Angeles, picked it up and signed contracts in the LAX baggage claim, and then I flew straight home. I’ve had it for over a year now, and it has completely changed my playing and confidence as a performer. I feel incredibly grateful to have it, and even more grateful that it is a wonderful match for me!
BIMF: What is the longest you’ve ever spent preparing a piece of music?
Rebecca: About a year and a half. When preparing for college auditions, my teacher wanted me to start most of the required repertoire at the beginning of my senior year of high school, to ensure I would be fully comfortable and ready with all of my music.
BIMF: If you could play with any musician who would it be?
Rebecca: My twin sister! Though we have played together before, now that we are both away at separate colleges we rarely have the opportunity to play duets together. As I mentioned, she also plays the viola, and there is some pretty cool repertoire out there for two violas. I love playing with her because it’s always fun, humorous, and we keep each other honest.
BIMF: How would you explain your passion for chamber music to a non-musician?
Rebecca: I find chamber music to be the most satisfying form of creating music. You have the opportunity to be both a solo and ensemble player. You work as a team, but you can also be a leader.
BIMF: How do you make a well-known piece of music your own?
Rebecca: I always start any piece with lots of listening, to get an idea of what other musicians have done. Once I have most of the notes, I find that I rarely listen to recordings, and spend most of my time practicing and perfecting the piece. Sometimes after a while of working on my own, I lose inspiration and need to listen to recordings again. It is at this point that I realize how much I have done on my own, and I have an even deeper appreciation for what other musicians have done.
BIMF: What was one highlight of the 2016 Festival for you?
Rebecca: Working with Ivo Van der Werff. He is such an amazing teacher, and I learned so much from him in a short amount of time.
BIMF: What’s next for you after the Festival?
Rebecca: It’s my dream that I will be able to explore as many avenues of a musical career as possible. I am interested in doing orchestra, chamber, and teaching professionally. They do not have to come in that specific order, nor all at one time, but I would love to do all of them!
BIMF: What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician?
Rebecca: Honestly, I think there is nothing more valuable than hard work. I truly believe you can do anything if you put in the time and dedication.