Meet The Players: Roberto Diaz

And the GRAMMY goes to… a viola concerto! Last night’s GRAMMY awards for best contemporary classical composition went to Jennifer Higdon’s “Viola Concerto”, played by Roberto Diaz. You can learn more about Higdon’s wonderful new music here, but since this blog is about the viola, let’s talk more about the viola player who recorded Higdon’s viola concerto.

This is not Roberto Diaz’ first trip to the GRAMMYs. His 2006 recording of viola transcriptions by William Primrose previously earned him a nomination. In addition to performing and recording, he is the current dean of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he also teaches viola.

Born in Santiago, Chile, Diaz moved to the US with his family in 1966. In addition to teaching at Curtis, he has served as principal viola of the Philadelphia Orchestra, principal viola of National Symphony Orchestra, and section player of the Boston Symphony and Minnesota Orchestras.

 

Roberto_Diaz_-_3_-_PC_Alisa_Garin

Roberto Diaz, viola

Born: Santiago, Chile, 1966

Lives in: Philadelphia, PA, USA

Website

Recordings

Watch on YouTube

“As musicians, we never feel that we stop learning.” – Roberto Diaz

Watch Roberto Diaz perform the Walton Viola Concerto

Fun Fact: One of three siblings born to musical parents, Roberto Diaz often plays in the Diaz String Trio, alongside one of his brothers.

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ViOlympics: What Music Students Can Learn from Olympic Athletes

 

ViOlympics_ What Music Students Can Learn from Olympic Athletes

I love the Winter Olympic Games. The athletes and events are a fun diversion during the cold, dark months of winter and it’s inspiring to watch the drive, artistry and focus of the world’s best athletes. This semester, my students are participating in the “ViOlympics” (violin/viola olympics) as we look forward to the PyeongChang Olympic Games. Every week, each student must practice at least 6 days and complete other special challenges, such as bow exercises, listening, ear training, or music theory worksheets. I’ll be posting the challenge chart on my TpT page later this week for any teachers who might want to use it. As I created this new practice challenge, I started thinking about the parallels between excelling at a sport and excelling at a musical instrument. What follows are just a few observations.

In both sports and music, players must practice diligently every day in order to improve. While some sports have “rest days” when athletes don’t practice their sport, or do other exercises, instrumentalists must practice every day to develop their muscle memory so that the fingers will remember the correct notes, rhythms, and articulation. Both sports and music require a similar daily discipline. A feature article in Women’s Running magazine reveals one Olympic figure skater’s daily routine: “While her off-ice training varies day to day, she consistently trains for two to three hours on the ice every Monday through Friday. ”

Similarly, one of the all-time greatest violinists, Jascha Heifetz also knew the value of daily practice:

The discipline of practice every day is essential. When I skip a day, I notice a difference in my playing. After two days, the critics notice, and after three days, so does the audience.  – Jascha Heifetz

Athletes and musicians alike start playing at a young age, almost always during the elementary school years. Due in no small part to the prevalence of the Suzuki Method, many students now being music study around age 4. A cursory reading of Olympic athlete bios shows that an early start is also important in many sports, specifically choreographed sports such as gymnastics or ice skating, where it is not unusual to begin classes at age 3. That’s not to say that one can’t reach a high level of achievement when starting at a later age, but it seems that earlier study provides real advantages. Continue reading “ViOlympics: What Music Students Can Learn from Olympic Athletes”