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Ruth Kuefler


March 21, 2009 at 4:59 PM

Two syllables. Seven little letters. Such a small word to pose such a huge challenge for musicians. I've struggled with balance ever since I started college. But I feel like I'm finally finding my personal balance. The past five months have held the most steady peace and happiness I've ever experienced. At times one thing will dominate to the detriment of another, but life is like that. It ebbs and flows and I just have to flow with it. I find that as long as I have a few constants, the other things always work out. I fill my life with the things that I'm most passionate about, that truly make me happy. Music is of course one of these things, but in itself can't make me happy. Now that I balance it better with my faith and relationships, I stay happy and at peace no matter how busy I get. :)

So, I have a confession to make. I'm falling in love with the viola.

My major and main focus is still violin, but I love practicing viola. I love the sound. I love the larger gestures and the relaxation it draws from my body. I love the repertoire. I'm working on Bach D minor, Bruch Romance, and Stamitz Concerto. I'm also playing viola in a chamber group, doing the Mozart oboe quartet. It's so fascinating to see how the viola part fits into the texture and harmony. I feel like I'm right in the heart of everything. I share many melodic lines with the violin, but I also support the cello, or have my own independent accompaniment. It was weird practicing the part alone, because I'd stop every once in a while and wonder, 'wait, was that right?' because the inner harmonies I was playing were different to my ear. I've played my fair share of 2nd violin parts, but there is still something different about the viola's harmonic role. I haven't compared enough pieces yet to determine exactly what this is yet, but with time I'm sure I will understand it better. I'm taking an extra year to finish undergrad, so I'll use some of that time to gain viola experience in orchestral and chamber music. Despite my newness to the instrument, I'm almost getting more requests to play viola than violin. Just last week I recorded some film score cues, playing both the violin and viola parts. 

I wish I had a better idea of what I want to do after I graduate, but it's an evolving plan. I intend to apply for grad school, but I honesty don't know yet if I want to audition on violin or viola. My ultimate goals are to have a large private studio and an orchestra position. I would love to teach violin and viola at a small college, but with the competition these days, that might be a difficult position to find. But I have options, so I'll just go with the flow.

One last update: I'm happy to say that my tendonitis has been steadily improving. I'm back to orchestra, but have had hardly any flare-ups. They usually only happen when I'm stressed and let tension back into my playing. Otherwise, I've been able to get back to challenging repertoire with good results. I'm still not practicing as much as I'd like to, but I'm confident I'll be back to 4 hours daily by the end of the summer. I'm so happy about all this. Last semester was so frustrating, and sometimes my music left me feeling hopeless. I'm planning my junior violin recital this fall, and its very exciting encouraging to see it come together. 

I'll try to keep up with some more writing here. I'm really interested in exploring the relationship between violin and viola and how they influence each other, so I'm sure I'll revisit this topic. :)

From Tom Holzman
Posted on March 21, 2009 at 5:11 PM

Glad to hear your tendinitis is improving.  The lure of the viola is hard for many to resist and certianly will not hurt you in the future.  Good luck with it. 

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 22, 2009 at 11:42 AM

That's great, Ruth!  I've found learning to play the viola to be very enriching.  You describe the benefits and joys so well, too.  Glad to hear your tendonitis is getting better!

From Manuel Tabora
Posted on March 22, 2009 at 7:19 PM


I'm not too far from you, both in geographical location and in my life situation.

First of all, I have to say I really admire your talent and dedication. I play in the Topeka Symphony and I was there when you played the Lalo a couple of years ago. I must say it was an inspiration because I was working on the same piece at that time, in fact I had to perform it at my teacher's studio recital the day after you played it with the Symphony.

I am a violin student at Washburn and, since 2007, I've also been playing viola and I definitely love it. I've only done chamber music though (playing in the honors group). I have no experience with solo or orchestral playing on viola, but I'm definitely looking forward to gaining some of that as well.

By the way, I played with Sarah McQuere in that honors group that I'm talking about for the first two years. I think you've met her since she's been playing at KU a little after graduating from here.

I don't understand why some violists make such a big deal about the violin-viola switch, as if a person who starts on violin can never be as good as a "real" violist. I think if you have a solid technique on violin, that's a great foundation for playing viola. However, the viola will make you work harder to produce good sound. At least that's what I've found.

I also don't know if I'll be doing violin or viola for grad school. I actually had someone at the Sunflower Festival (Charles Stegeman) suggest that I do a double major for my master's. That idea has been bouncing around in my head, but I can't even imagine how time consuming that could be. I'm already up to my neck with stuff to do with only one major...

Anyway, I guess I can't really offer suggestions, just congratulate you on your success. Keep up the viola love!

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