As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had the privilege of growing up in a musical family. My parents met in music school and extended their love of music to me and my two older brothers. Just as I never experienced a quiet house growing up without scales and melodies filling the air, I could not imagine a life without music. I began studying violin when I was five years old, and one of my earliest memories is of walking in on my family rehearsing for a Christmas concert with my violin in hand—playing along to the songs they were practicing as best I could with my limited knowledge of the instrument. Needless to say, I played my first concert with them several weeks later, rocking purely open strings on my Dad’s clever arrangements of Christmas classics.
What was the most transformative course from your undergraduate education?
While the most growth undoubtedly happened in my applied lessons with my undergraduate professor, Routa Kroumovitch-Gomez, two courses stick out that pushed me to my academic limits: Advanced (musical) Analysis and Advanced Organic Chemistry. In Advanced Analysis, we greatly expanded upon our Music Theory toolbox with a technique called Schenkerian Analysis, which centers around breaking down a piece of music to its most basic motif and tracing the composer’s masterful expansion of that idea as it infiltrates the melodic and harmonic structure throughout its development. In Advanced Organic Chemistry, our central project was to propose a step-by-step synthesis of a complex molecule from readily available starting materials. I remember building a whiteboard in my apartment so I could map everything out visually until the wee hours of the morning without the spatial constraints of notebook paper. While at first glance these courses had absolutely nothing in common, I was always struck by the similarities in their end goals: learning to see (or hear) extremely abstract things as meaningful and interconnected on a fundamental level.
You recently finished your tenure as Concertmaster/Violin 1 for the 2nd National Tour of Hamilton. What were some of your favorite moments from the tour?
As I look back on my five years on tour, I am at a loss for words when it comes to naming my favorite moments, in the best possible way. My favorite moment could be the 50 times we moved cities and I was able to find myself at home in each one regardless of living in a hotel or Airbnb, alone or with co-workers. It could be the countless moments I sat in coffee shops and kept track of the passage of time and my own personal growth in the pages of my journals. It could be the over 1000 performances I gave, each one unique and special in its own way. It could be the hundreds of pictures I have (and the memories that accompany them) from Puget Sound to Niagara Falls, from the Mormon Tabernacle to Cedar Point, from the top of the CN Tower to the top of the Kennedy Center. Beyond the incredible experience of traveling the US and Canada nonstop and discovering so many places, I would have to say my absolute favorite moments from the tour were the incredible friendships I made along the way and the imposter syndrome I was able to silence for the first time in my life after years of working with my incredible therapist and life-coach. Lastly, there was something so special about our first performance back together after being shuttered for a year and a half during the pandemic: the roaring applause of the audience, the opening night butterflies coming back even three and a half years after we originally opened the tour, and the collective commitment from the company to never take the ability to perform for granted again.
Your undergraduate degree is in both music and chemistry. What is a lesson from your chemistry studies that you have been able to apply to your career as a professional musician?
One of the unique things about studying music is the innate subjectivity of the field from perception to performance. While the end goal is to create art that is simultaneously true to the composer’s intentions and infused with the performer’s authentic self-expression, it is very difficult to translate the technical elements of physically playing the violin into musical, artistic elements. Like music, chemistry is also very abstract: while we perceive and interact with the world from our macroscopic perspective, the actual chemistry is happening in the very different microscopic world. Just as the deliberate manipulation of controls and variables is the guiding light chemists use to discover the laws and intricacies of the microscopic world, it is also a foolproof method for bridging the gap between physical technique and musical expression, and, in so doing, bringing objectivity to an otherwise subjective field.
What role has your liberal arts education played in the development of your career? Why do you think a well-rounded arts and sciences education are important in today’s society?
While my time in college greatly expanded my professional network, provided countless opportunities to perform and collaborate with my peers, and taught me how to take care of myself, the biggest takeaway from those years was the discovery of just how interconnected academic and artistic subjects are as well as the inspiration that vastly different fields of study can bring to each other. There are countless skilled violinists in the world, but having a vast interdisciplinary knowledge to draw from has helped me to stand out in the crowd while also giving me the vocabulary and experience to express that unique perspective. While it is important to have a primary focus and to expand your knowledge of that field as much as possible, the cutting edge and path to distinction exists at the intersection of opposing fields, and those that can create that common ground will see the world in a completely unique way.
Phi Beta Kappa’s motto is “the love of learning is the guide of life,” and we are dedicated to life-long learning. What do you want to learn next?
I want to expand my knowledge of violin pedagogy and build a curriculum for potential private students as I look to expand my studio to New York after moving here just a few months ago. I also want to learn a new show to start subbing on in the Fall/Winter to expand past Hamilton and Sweeney Todd. On a lighter note, I have been a coffee zealot for years and would love to learn how to roast coffee beans at home.
What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?
In high school, my AP Chemistry professor addressed grades on the first day to a class of overachieving, grade-obsessed students. “I don’t much care for grades, and instead of worrying about passing the course with an A, you should instead focus wholeheartedly on understanding the material. The grades will then work themselves out.”
On one hand it was the age-old advice to focus on the journey instead of the destination, on the other hand it was exclaiming that good grades and a deep understanding of the subject are correlated but not causally linked, and altogether it was particularly impactful for this advice to come from a professor of one of the hardest high school courses.
What book(s) are you reading right now? Are you listening to any podcasts or watching any shows? Anything you'd recommend?
I am a huge fan of the podcast Smartless with Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett and cannot recommend it enough. Speaking of them, I’m also currently rewatching the first few seasons of Arrested Development.
Published on September 5, 2023