22 Jan 2011
Inside the Classics

I’ve been thinking about change a lot lately, which I suspect has been brought on by the rapid approach of my 35th birthday. As of next month, I will have been a member of the Minnesota Orchestra for 11 years, and I will have lived in Minneapolis for longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else. That’s a level of permanence that I never really sought or expected to achieve in my life, and yet even so, when I look back at the orchestra I joined in February 2000, I scarcely recognize it. 27 musicians on our current roster (nearly a third of the orchestra) joined up after me, and that’s not counting a handful of others who played here for a while and moved on to other jobs and other cities.

Our viola section, in particular, has undergone a lot of changes over the past decade. Two veteran players, David Ulfeng and Myrna Rian, have retired – Myrna is living the good life in Arizona, while David sadly passed away a couple of years back. Two other, younger, players have moved on to other orchestras – Kerri Ryan to Philadelphia, and Ben Ullery to Los Angeles. We added two new members to the section just this past fall, and will likely add another in the next couple of years. Every new hire is a precarious moment – our section is unusually close, and has a very distinct personality (just ask the non-violists who sit near us,) but you can’t exactly screen for personality at a blind audition.

What got me thinking about all this was stumbling upon an old profile of our section that I wrote for the Journal of the American Viola Society (yes, that is a real publication) several years back, when Dave had just retired, Myrna and Kerri were still with us, and Ben hadn’t yet arrived. The article was written mainly for laughs, which is what our section does best, but it was interesting to look at a snapshot of who we were at a very brief moment in time. (I say brief because I’m pretty sure that, by the time the article was published, we’d hired Matt Young, who doesn’t appear in the profile.) And as soon as I read it, I realized that I also have a visual representation of almost that same moment in our section’s history, and that you guys would probably enjoy it.

Yup. I made a full set of Minnesota Orchestra Viola Section trading cards back in 2005. (I used to have a lot more spare time before all of this Inside the Classics foolishness came along.) If memory serves, these were actually an elaborate invitation for the whole section to join me at a tailgate party at a St. Paul Saints game that summer. The little logos in the lower left corner were meant to represent each player’s home state – Michigan, in Tom’s case.

That might be my very favorite picture of Richard, taken at Carnegie Hall shortly before our performance there at the start of our first international tour with Osmo. (It’s also the only photo I’ve ever seen in which he’s not smiling or laughing – Richard is inarguably the friendliest musician in the universe.)

I could never have gotten away with this had Kerri (our assistant principal at the time) not been one of my closest friends. That was a Hallowe’en costume from the previous year, when she decided to be, well, Carrie.

Here’s the full set. (Well, almost – I can’t find Eiji Ikeda’s card, for some reason. Late update: found it! It looks different from the others because I had to scan it from the hard copy in my personal set.) I’m making them small, so as not to make this the longest blog post ever, but just click the thumbnails for the full-sized version.

Fearless Leader Everybody Loves Richard Our loss was Philly's gain. Wonder Dog I'm very literal. The Quiet Pro The Maestro Inspector Gadget Section Mom The Most Canadian Canadian in all of Canadia He actually has a very nice smile.

Good Lord, we all look young. (Okay, Matt still does. But I’m convinced there’s a portrait withering away up in his attic.) Now I’m thinking it might be time for a new set. But it’s definitely gonna have to wait until all of this season’s ItC scripts are in the can…

<January 2020>

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