In my series „Vorgestellt“ (”Introducing”) orchestra musicians talk about their relationship to instruments, auditions, rituals, concert experiences and “musical wishes”. Musicians from various orchestras, whether they play in a symphonic, opera or chamber orchestra, in a German or a foreign orchestra get a chance to talk.
Today Interim Principal Second Violinist Robert Simonds from The Louisville Orchestra will introduce himself.
What kind of relationship do you have with your instrument?
I perform on a violin made by Mario Bedocchi in 1927. I purchased this instrument around 2003 while I was a member of the Richmond Symphony in Virginia. At the time I was very serious about winning another job and I felt like I needed a better violin to improve my chances. So at that time it was a very utilitarian relationship; I could play things on this violin that I simply could not on my student instrument.
In 2004 I won a position in The Phoenix Symphony and my relationship with the violin began to evolve. During my years in Phoenix, I was focused on becoming the best section player I could. Which meant playing as accurately as possible while finding that tricky balance of merging a big sound while still blending with my colleagues. While in Phoenix, I also began to perform more chamber music which forced me explore new areas of my instrument’s sound possibilities.
For the past two years I have been the Principal Second Violin of the Louisville Orchestra. As a titled player I have again had to evolve my sound and approach. My goal now is to match and support my concertmaster while producing a sound that my section can play into. Given the register that the second violin lives in, I need to play on the loud side with as much resonance as I can create. And I believe my instrument is especially well adapted for this.
What do you remember thinking at the audition for Louisville Orchestra?
My current position in Louisville is my third full-time orchestra job. However, this one is a principal position. Therefore my goal with the audition was to project more of a soloist’s quality. I put aside some of the elements of a section player’s determined and rigid approach. I wanted the committee to first have confidence that I could play with a big sound and make large musical gestures. Being too careful would have been the kiss of death.
Where is your favorite place for practicing?
If possible I like to go someplace other than home to practice. It’s like having an office, I suppose. I often will seek out the practice rooms at the local university’s music school, especially if I have to be there late into the night. But that is not often possible or practical. I have a dedicated practice room in my home where music, metronome, tuner and a stereo are close by.
What was your most exciting concert experience?
If one is lucky enough to win an orchestra job, you play hundreds of concerts a year. I have been doing this for 11 years now and have too many concerts behind me to count. And it makes narrowing it down to one nearly impossible.
A few that come to mind are:
Pinchas Zukerman conducting The Phoenix Symphony. He’s one of my violin idols and his coming to solo and conduct in Phoenix was a big deal for me. I doubt the orchestra ever sounded better. We performed Beethoven’s Symphony #1 and no string-playing detail was overlooked.
Playing chamber music with the folk singer Joe Pug. Joe is a once in a generation talent and writes songs that simply knock me over. The Downtown Chamber Series performs traditional and contemporary chamber music in art spaces in Phoenix. But on these concerts we joined forces with a great arranger, a small classical ensemble and had a great couple of shows back in 2011.
„Star Wars in Concert“ at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. The concert was packed and John Williams was there. It was one of the first stops on a big national tour and it felt like a pretty awesome introduction into the world of commercial music.
Do you have a sort of pre-performance ritual? Will you tell us?
My pre-concert ritual is pretty simple. I like to show up at the venue early and go through all the music again. Certainly not to literally play every note but to keep the mental sequence fresh. Each page has its own challenges and it’s crucial to not get caught off guard.
If you had a free wish for your musical live, what would that be?
The music business has been very good to me. I have made a living playing the violin and have shared the stage with some pretty amazing artists from many different genres. Of course there are a few folks in the stratosphere of the profession that I haven’t worked with or worked for, but along those lines I feel pretty fortunate.
I suppose I would slightly re-phrase the question and say I have musical ambitions. My ambitions have less to do with working with established luminaries but rather to collaborate with artists on their way up that I deeply believe in. In some ways, it is a very exciting time to be making music because the walls between genres are crumbling. And sometimes a collaboration with a musicians whose music you greatly admire is just an email away.
Twitter Profile: @SimondsViolin