Violinist Brian Lewis to perform at ETSU
Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013 23:01
Juilliard graduate Brian Lewis is concert master of a chamber orchestra in Houston and artistic director of a symposium on Violin Studies at The Juilliard School in New York and the Starling Distinguished Violinist Series at Butler School of Music at University of Texas-Austin. In addition to his professorship at University of Texas, he is also a visiting professor at Yale School of Music.
Meanwhile, the violin virtuoso continues to traverse the world, performing solo and with orchestras in American venues such as Carnegie and Avery Fisher halls and Lincoln Center and international locales such as Germany, Peru, Taiwan, France, Australia, Brazil and Canada. He started touring at age 9.
To open Mary B. Martin School of the Arts’ spring 2013 season, Lewis will be in Johnson City to engage in both performance and teaching activities. On Friday, Feb. 1, Lewis will perform at First Presbyterian Church in Johnson City at 7:30 p.m., with ETSU music professor Chih-Long Hu on piano. The following day, Saturday, Feb. 2, Lewis will hold master classes and talks starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m, also at First Presbyterian, 105 S. Boone St.
“There are a lot of fine violinists on the concert stage today, but few can match Lewis for an honest virtuosity that supremely serves the music ...” said a review in the Topeka Capital-Journal. “This is artistry that isn’t to be missed.”
Lewis is known not only for his virtuoso performances, but also for his diverse and adventurous repertoire and ability to communicate with audiences of all ages. The Feb. 1 performance will include Mozart’s Sonata No. 5 and Brahms’ Sonata No. 2, both in A Major and a number of smaller pieces including Aaron Copland’s “Hoe-Down” from Rodeo, “Banjo & Fiddle” by William Kroll, “Sicilienne” by Maria Theresia von Paradis and “Four Pieces for Violin and Piano” by Joseph Suk.
“I am so happy that Brian chose this repertoire …” says Hu, who will be performing with Lewis for the first time. “These pieces have so much different color and texture and fun, too. I am very much looking forward to how he will interpret so many different styles and textures.
“His last two pieces [“Banjo & Fiddle” and “Hoe-Down”] are very interesting choices. They show his interest in the bluegrass and Appalachian heritage of this area. I don’t know if he chose this repertoire specifically for this region. I am sure people will be able to feel the joy of these pieces.”
Tim Barrett, executive and artistic director of the Tri-Cities’ Academy of Strings, recommended the artist/educator to Mary B. Martin School Director Anita DeAngelis, based on Barrett’s experiences at Lewis’ violin symposia in New York and Kansas, Lewis’ home state.
“Although he is young, Brian is already becoming known for his great violin pedagogy,” Barrett says. “Brian Lewis is passing that torch [of Juilliard violin teacher Dorothy DeLay] on. I think he is going to become one of the most legendary violin teachers. Students are turning down full scholarships to Juilliard to study with Brian Lewis.”
Academy of Strings is coordinating the day of master classes and lecture. Lewis will conduct violin master classes at 10 a.m.-noon and 2:30-4:30 p.m., as well as a noon-1 p.m. talk on modern violin performance — all at First Presbyterian Church in Johnson City. While the one-on-one sessions have been filled by audition, the master classes and talk are open to observers from the public at no charge.
“We are hoping it will be very inclusive not exclusive,” Barrett says. “I have been approaching youth orchestras and high school string programs, as well as ETSU, UT’s School of Music, Furman and Appalachian State. We are hoping to have quite a lot of college students. We don’t want it to be just an Academy of Strings event.
“We are so looking forward to this Brian Lewis project. Thank the Lord for the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts for making his visit possible.”
The Brian Lewis event combines several mission objectives for Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, DeAngelis says. “Not only does Brian Lewis’ visit provide learning opportunities for ETSU students and enhance the efforts of our music department to bolster its strings program,” she says, “but we also are thrilled when we have a chance to respond to a request and partner with a community organization, such as Academy of Strings and Tim and Kim Barrett and their students …
“Plus, it’s good for us to have a concert like this — a more intimate performance with just Lewis and Chih-Long, a little different from bringing in a full-fledged ensemble.”
Lewis is from a family of violinists. His mother, Alice Joy Lewis, was herself an accomplished violinist and teacher. “Everyone in my family plays the violin,” he told the Midland Reporter-Telegram with his trademark sense of humor. “My mom [Alice Joy Lewis] plays the violin, my sister [Beth] plays the violin, my grandmother [Rebecca] played the violin and my great grandmother, Rebecca Mackish … My dad [Tom B. Lewis. Ph.D.] is an organic chemistry professor. He plays an instrument, too. He plays the CD player … Well, somebody had to drive everybody to all those rehearsals.”
Despite his list of accomplishments and awards — for teaching and technical skill — the violinist never fails to bring enjoyment as well as entertainment and education, Barrett says. “He’s a fun, young guy. You don’t have to be somebody who really just loves classical music to love his concerts,” he says. “He’ll pull out the Copland Rodeo from the beef commercials and have a lot of fun with it. He plays things like that. There’s no telling what he has planned.