Mary Bellone has been a member of wcfsymphony since 1990 and serves as Violin II. Mary resides in Cedar Falls and teaches at the UNI Suzuki School. In addition to her musical interests, she enjoys tableware patterns from the 1930s. Mary has two daughters who are the light of her life.
What was your introduction to music and to wcfsymphony?
“I think playing music has always been part of my life. I began by stretching and playing rubber bands on my parents’ dresser handles (and bending them) when I was three years old. At six I began picking out tunes on the piano, and at seven I began piano lessons. A couple of years later, my piano teacher’s mother, who happened to be a violin teacher, suggested I watch violin lessons. I remember wondering why the student wasn’t playing in tune. Soon after that I started violin lessons. At nine or ten I went to a symphony concert and was absolutely enthralled. It was in Mrs. Zingg’s 7th grade English class that I decided I wanted to be a violinist when I grew up. I didn’t waver from that decision till my early 30s when I went back to school for my counseling degree. But I just haven’t been able to leave music behind.
“I became involved with wcfsymphony in 1990. I came to Iowa as a trailing spouse and was hired to teach with the UNI Suzuki School. I also auditioned for and was accepted into wcfsymphony. (In fact, I had a job with UNI Suzuki School even before my spouse had been hired by UNI!)
“I have found the atmosphere of wcfsymphony to be unique. The collegiality in our orchestra is very unusual. And the reception treats for each of our last evening rehearsal sets are unheard of at other symphonies. (Thank you symphony board!) We have many dedicated orchestra members whose commute takes as long as a rehearsal. But most importantly, it’s Jason. Due to his depth of knowledge of the music, composers, and historical contexts, as well as detailed rehearsal preparation, musical interpretation and lack of sarcasm, Jason creates an anxiety free rehearsal environment.”
What is your schedule like?
“In 1990, when I finished my Masters in violin performance/pedagogy, I had been playing five to six hours a day and did not need to spend much time out of rehearsals preparing my music. But life is not graduate school. Now, depending on the program, I need to spend several hours preparing my music for the symphony. As a violin teacher, my “day job” doesn’t start until after school or family hours. A typical day starts as soon as a student can arrive after school until early evening as well as Saturday mornings into early afternoon. I currently have close to 30 students. During symphony weeks it’s a scramble to rearrange my evening students so I can be at rehearsals on time.”
What do you value and enjoy most about being a professional musician and teacher?
“I value and enjoy having a career that I am passionate about. It’s difficult for me to separate it from my life. Being in charge of my own schedule isn’t bad either. However, three things stand out for me as what I value most. First, as a symphony player, is the overwhelming feeling of sitting in the midst of the symphony and physically experiencing the energy of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, or the grandeur of Brahms Symphony. (I could fill a page with examples.) Second, as a teacher, is sharing the “aha” moment when a student understands and then applies a new concept or technique; and then witnessing the growing confidence that takes place with that knowledge. And third is simply playing chamber music with friends.”
What challenges do professional musicians face?
“With the availability of everything all the time in the 21st-century, I believe people don’t feel the need to go to concerts. Also, auto tuning has given people a very unrealistic expectation of live performances.“
What are some of your memorable moments as a musician?
“I had a very memorable moment during the summer of 1976 while attending a music camp for orchestra & chamber music. The last week of camp we were all very unsure whether or not our conductor should be on the podium. He was an older gentleman and did not look well at all. (In fact, he died later that year). But as he conducted the music transformed him. He became a younger person. He moved with much more ease and he was completely present with us and focused on the music. It was amazing!
“Another unforgettable experience happened while playing the Vivaldi Gloria during a church service. Since we played with different parts of the mass, we paused in between the choruses and arias. The harpsichord player’s young son (perhaps only nine at the time) was at the performance and sitting next to her. After one of the choruses he threw up on the harpsichord. She frantically wiped off the keys as we held down the strings to keep it silent. Then we finished the piece.”