Vermont Symphony Orchestra

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From the Wings

By Eleanor Long

In preparation for the launch of our new website this past year, we sent contracted musicians a questionnaire, asking them to send their answers and a photo to us for the musician page. I thought I knew “my” musicians pretty well, but much of the info that came in was new and fascinating, so I thought I would share some of that with you here. Of course, you can get all the details by going to our Meet the Artists page.

Humor Prevails

It was no surprise at all that a lot of the content was funny. (We told them they didn’t have to be deadly serious.) For example, our new principal clarinet, Kelli O’Connor, said she attended New England Conservatory plus the School of Hard Knocks, and violinist Hilary Hatch listed Crazy Cat Lady 101, 102 as part of her educational background. Asked about a typical day, most agreed there was no such thing, although I loved principal horn Shelagh Abate’s response: “coffee, practice, Broadway, repeat.” Assistant concertmaster Kathy Andrew’s typical day includes “too much computer time, not enough practice, way too much driving.”

From All Corners of the World

We are quite international, with musicians hailing from Singapore, Holland, Brazil, Japan, Ontario, Poland, and Russia; and far flung, with three musicians currently living on the west coast and one each in Texas, Louisiana, and Australia! Violinist David Gusakov boasts the longest tenure with the Orchestra (he joined in 1973), while several others qualify as lifers: principal bassoon Janet Polk (’75), cellist Dieuwke Davydov (’76), fourth horn Stewart Schuele (’77), and harpist Heidi Soons (’78). Bach got the most votes for favorite composer (even from tubist Taka Hagiwara), although “impossible to pick” was a common response. Brahms, Schubert, Beethoven, Prokofiev, Mahler, Dvorak, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky got honorable mentions. Principal oboe Nancy Dimock said, “I’m always happy after I play Ravel,” and violist Harold Lieberman said his favorite composer was “all of them except Delius.”

Families and Hobbies

Family listings included many beloved pets, with a preponderance of cats. Bassoonist Becky Eldredge wins the feline contest with four; that is, if you don’t count all of cellist Bonnie Klimowski’s feral cats, which she woos and has neutered. Principal viola and kitty-daddy Russell Wilson said, “I pay a good amount for my cat to have a nice place to live!” Of course there are lots of dogs; also guinea pigs, fish, rabbits, and doves.

Most interesting hobbies reported were: cemetery sleuthing (piccolo Peggy Friedland), geocaching (second trombone Ross Holcombe), and building bicycles (principal second violin Woonkuo Soon). MANY are into cooking, and several are into brewing beer. And then there’s principal trombone Matt Wright’s contribution: tightrope fencing, underwater trampolining, and sky cow tipping.

Dream Jobs (Other than the VSO)

Another question that produced a lot of interesting answers was, “What is your dream job – if not a musician?” Particularly intriguing replies ranged from “bagging at the grocery store” to manual demolition expert, airplane pilot, history professor, sculptor, police officer, international lawyer, sailing captain, veterinarian, astronomer, cabinet maker, dancer, and spy. But many said musician was the only life for them. Awwww.

My favorite question was about pet peeves. Some were serious (that health care is a for-profit business, the way art education has been pushed aside in public schools, lack of empathy); some quirky (those little stickers on avocados, people who knock incessantly on a locked bathroom door). A fair number of replies fell into the road rage category: people who don’t give an acknowledging wave, drivers who take forever to turn, cars that don’t move out of the left lane, crosswalk saunterers!! And then, to put all of this into perspective, from third horn Alan Parshley: “People who don’t appreciate everything that life has given them.”

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