TCS: Tell us a little something fun about yourself that isn't in your bio?
VR: I am a huge bookworm! On my bookshelf next to Sevcik and Bach, you might find Chuck Pahlaniuk, Stephen King, and George R.R. Martin.
TCS: What has been your proudest moment or moments in music so far?
VR: As a performer, one of my proudest moments was while I attended school at the Boston Conservatory. I few friends and I formed a sextet and spent a year and a half collaborating around Schoenberg's famous piece, Verklarte Nacht. It was one of the deepest dives I ever took into a piece of music and the experience of playing it was deeply fulfilling; we as an ensemble experienced that phenomenon in chamber music where you feel that you can literally read your colleagues' minds. Magic!
TCS: What have been the biggest challenges of your career so far?
VR: It probably comes to no surprise when I say that the biggest challenge in my career so far has been the ongoing pandemic. The year 2020 was an especially tough one as I watched gigs dry up and collaboration essentially cease to exist. Having only been in New York for about a year and a half by March 2020, I had only just begun to break into the freelance scene and I was devastated to watch it all come to a halt. The road still feels long ahead of all of us, but with TCS back to rehearsals, music instruction making a cautious return to in-person, and the reopening of the great performance institutions of the city, I'd say things are looking upward.
TCS: What has been the funniest onstage moment you've seen or have experienced?
VR: In high school, I sat as assistant concertmaster for the symphony orchestra. One time during a concert, our orchestra director, who was oftentimes very impassioned while he conducted, accidentally threw his baton. The cork handle bounced perfectly off the top of my head and I spent the next five minutes of playing wondering what in the world had just hit me. I'm not sure anyone outside the concertmaster and the principal second knew what happened though…
TCS: When was your first TCS concert? What brought you to the group?
VR: My first concert was in October of 2018. I had just moved to the city from Boston and was feeling desperately lost in the hustle and bustle of it all! I joined TCS by recommendation from a friend and instantly loved it.
TCS: Do you have any favorite TCS memories?
VR: My favorite part of TCS is playing Sleigh Ride every holiday concert! It's just so joyful.
TCS: What keeps you coming back to play with TCS?
VR: The deep sense of service to the community is what really draws me in. Everyone here is exceedingly talented and they all donate their valuable time to form something really special. There is constant energy in the ensemble, a forward momentum to do bigger and better things and to reach bigger and more diverse audiences. It's a very special environment to be part of.
TCS: What sets TCS apart from other orchestras?
VR: Like I said above, the commitment to service and to each other is what makes the ensemble go round. Everyone shows up with curious minds and a commitment to excellence.
TCS: What do you carry with you in your instrument case?
VR: Nail clippers are an essential part of my daily travel. I check for keys, phone, wallet, and nail clippers before leaving the house! I used to carry with me a box of pink Nerds (the candies) as a memento. When I started learning vibrato, my teacher gave me a box of Nerds and told me to hold it between my thumb and one other finger at a time and just shake it back and forth. Then she said all I had to do was shake the Nerds on my violin and, voila! Vibrato. If only it was that easy!
TCS: What is your ideal day of practice?
VR: I am definitely a morning practicer! I see it as going for a jog first thing in the morning to wake up the mind and body. Ideally, my day of practice starts in the early morning with scales, etudes, and Bach (always Bach). In the evenings, I like to do some deeper dives into repertoire where I can really puzzle through phrasing, bowings, and fingerings. I feel the most satisfied with a day of practice not by the hours I've spent, but rather by the discoveries I've made. Sometimes I have a little epiphany and a phrase suddenly becomes clearer. Or sometimes I notice my fingers doing a weird thing while I do a down bow. Being suddenly hyper aware of myself and the music can oftentimes drastically improve my playing in just a single hour.
TCS: What do you do to set yourself up for success on the day of an important performance?
VR: I think the most important thing to do is to treat it like any other day of rehearsals and collaboration! I suffered (and still do!) from intense stage fright, but the more I remind myself that all I'm doing is collaborating with friends and colleagues, the more natural and fun it feels. I try to see performances as less of a culmination of my practice and more of a continuation of my lifelong musical journey in which I can share my discoveries with others.