Violinist Stephanie Zyzak

Ye olde shredder

Musicians are modern-day itinerant minstrels. Stephanie, one of our festival artists this summer (violin) and I have been trying to find a time to record a conversation. Unfortunately, with all our different travels, we couldn’t coordinate a time. I emailed her some questions.

David Yang, Artistic Director

Photo of Stephanie as a 4 year old laying violin

DY: Where did you grow up?
SZ: I moved around quite a lot growing up. I was born in South Carolina, made my way up the East Coast (New York, Connecticut, etc.), moved to the Midwest (Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, etc.) and eventually moved back to the East Coast to study at New England Conservatory in Boston.

DY: Are there other musicians in your family?
SZ: I didn’t grow up in a musical family – my parents are both scientists and I was mostly musically influenced outside of my family, though I do have a brother who plays the cello.

DY: How did you wind up playing the violin?
SZ: When I was around 4 years old, I was living in New York and was introduced to music by a friend around my age who was starting the violin. It really was like love at first sight (or first hearing to be more accurate). I knew from then on that I needed music in my life, and I’ve been completely obsessed ever since.

Photo of Stephanie playing violin as adult

DY: If not violin, what do you think you would do? What are some of your other interests?
SZ: I don’t think I could imagine being anything other than a musician. For me, the world of music and my relationship with music is something I feel so strongly. It would be impossible for me to think of being anything other than a musician. When I’m not spending time on music however, I very much enjoy going to museums, especially when travelling!

DY: Who were some of your most influential teachers? Any of them non-musicians?
SZ: I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had many influential teachers in my life. Perhaps the most influential are Miriam Fried and Mark Steinberg. I studied with Miriam during my undergraduate and Masters degrees at New England Conservatory and I really feel that she gave me this solid foundation in terms of concept of sound and musical structure. From there I went to NY to study with Mark, who I found such creativity and inspiration from. There are also countless mentors, colleagues, and friends who I’ve met and worked with at various music festivals and institutions. The Marlboro Music Festival in particular has a special place in my heart – the people I’ve had the privilege of being in the presence of there have been incredibly influential and continue to have a huge impact on me and my musical voice. I feel immensely lucky and fortunate.

Stephanie with Mitsuko Uchida‍‍
Stephanie with Mitsuko Uchida
(Photo credit: Pete Checchia)

DY: What is a typical day like for you?
SZ: This definitely varies depending on travels and rehearsal schedules. Any day must start with coffee(!!) and an ideal day would include a free morning for practice. Afternoons and evenings are usually filled with rehearsals and/or concerts. If I have an entirely free day, I might take a while to wake up, enjoy a coffee and brunch, spend the afternoon score studying or practicing, go for a walk, and then spend the evening reading, listening to old recordings, or watching a film.

Do you have a favorite place in the world you have visited in your wide-ranging travels?
SZ: I can’t pick a favorite! There’s always something fascinating about each place. Anywhere in Europe for their art, culture, and history. And Korea and Japan especially for their food.

DY: Do you listen to any non-classical music? If so, what is it?
SZ: Jazz is something I love to listen to – mostly Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum. There’s this discussion with André Previn and Oscar Peterson on BBC Four that I’ve watched countless times and I find it so wonderful to listen to.

Link to Interview with André Previn & Oscar Peterson on Youtube
This is a great interview

DY: Do you have a favorite recording/piece you love listening to that you could recommend others to listen to? (I’ll include a youtube link to it in the post.)
SZ: Anything by the English contralto Kathleen Ferrier and the violinist Adolf Busch. They are both perhaps my biggest inspiration musically. There is so much soul and depth of meaning behind every note, and nothing moves me more than their musical voice.

Link to Schubert Fantasy by Busch/Serkin
They don't make them like they used to

DY: What is something about you that people might be surprised to hear?
SZ: My post-concert meal (and favorite meal at that) is a really good pub burger and a Sam Adams Boston Lager.

Link to Kathleen Ferrier singing Handel's  "Ombra mai fù"
If you are having a rough day, put this on:
everything will be fine
Link to Tickets page within NCMF site.
Samuel Adams, 4th governor of Massachusetts
(1722 – 1803)

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