As director of the UNI Suzuki School Ute Brandenburg works daily to prepare students for musical performance, but she’s also a superb performer in her own right. Ute’s been on the first stand of wcfsymphony violas for more than a decade and has played almost every piece we’ve done in that time, including a stellar reading of Brandenburg 6. Here, in her own words, is more about her perspective from the front of the violas (and the front lines of instrumental education):
“I took piano lessons as a child. When my father received a gift of the Beethoven symphonies on audiotape I fell in love with Beethoven and knew then that I wanted to play in an orchestra. The school had a viola in my size so that’s the instrument I ended up with.
“Now I am primarily a teacher, working with students from age 3 to 80. I love being part of a student’s development, seeing them gain insights, confidence and ideas and witnessing their growth and development over the years. No two days of teaching are ever the same – I truly found my dream job! And given that my own teacher was one of the most important influences in my life I would be honored if some day a student could say the same of me. Arts education teaches life skills and develops the most unique traits of humanity – creativity, love and compassion.
“Playing and performing add to my teaching for a perfect balance. As a musician I have always enjoyed ensemble playing more than solo playing as nothing compares to the experience of being in the midst of that magnificent orchestra sound. I enjoy seeing my students in the audience and showing them what wonderful opportunities await them as they progress. So it is important for me as a teacher and player to keep up my skills on the instrument. A certain amount of regular practice is necessary to keep up one’s skills and agility. Beyond that, preparation depends on the repertoire on a given concert. Sometimes preparing is painstaking work, other times more of a review of familiar or less challenging works. Listening to recordings of the repertoire is also helpful. As an orchestra musician I am grateful to have the opportunity to play the music I love most. It adds color and depth to my life experience.
“Working with Jason is challenging and rewarding. I don’t think he has ever wasted so much as a minute of rehearsal time in all the years I have played for him. He is intelligent, insightful, thoroughly prepared, demands much of us and yet is always patient and joyful. He knows how to get the best out of us and I always leave the stage after a concert with a sense of reward and accomplishment.
“There are challenges for professional musicians. On a large scale I think we are struggling with mass media entertainment replacing the live music experience. Entertainment and Art are not synonymous and the difference is increasingly not recognized. On a personal scale the challenge is scheduling. I have children and my work keeps me away from home during the afternoon and evening hours. I do love it when my daughters come to our concerts. My younger one in particular is always excited to see me and her teachers on stage. She wants to hear about what was “hard” and “fun” for us. It gives her an outlook on her own future as a budding musician and gets her excited about working towards her goals.
“Aside from teaching and playing my other passion is family history. I am an expert translator of old German scripts and have helped individuals across the country uncover secrets of their ancestors.”