Endangered Instrument Series – Viola
Isabella Evangelista is 14 years old. When she was six years old she began playing the violin until her teacher at the time introduced her to a viola. Her orchestra did not have one, so Isabella's teacher decided it would be suitable for her to play the viola as that would add another instrument to the string ensemble and she has been playing the viola ever since. Isabella has been a musician with Sydney Youth Orchestras since she was 10 and is currently a musician with the Peter Seymour Orchestra, conducted by John Ockwell.
I have been playing the viola for the past 6 years but I started off on the violin and prior to that my first instrument was playing the drums at age 4.
When did you start playing viola and how long have you been playing?
I started playing the viola after a few years of playing the violin. My school orchestra needed a viola player and my teacher introduced me to the viola and I started playing the viola instead. I really loved the deeper sound and tone I could produce on it.
What clef do you play in? Is it hard to learn a different clef?
The viola plays in alto clef. It differs from the violin which plays in treble clef. I found adjusting to the new alto clef a little confusing at the start but enjoyed the challenge and now I can read both: alto and treble clef, which I think is a bonus.
Its quite difficult to choose my favourite piece since I have played so many pieces, however my favourite orchestral piece has to be Dvorak Symphony No.8 in G major first movement.
What are the top three reasons you would give to someone thinking about taking up viola?
1. It is unique.
2. It is a challenge
3. There is a high demand for viola players!
I don’t think this is really a myth or misconception, but some may not understand why musicians pick on violas, so here’s a quick educational lesson. There are many 'jokes' amongst musicians regarding the viola. I do believe from an outsider’s perspective it must seem there’s a reasonable point why violas are the butt of the joke in the orchestra, as if they’re a bad instrument, but in reality, musicians are just bad at making jokes and pick on violas because its been like that forever, seemingly. Almost like a tradition passed down between others. Ask any person who makes a viola joke why they make jokes specifically about violas and I can guarantee you they don’t have an actual viable reason.
What’s the difference between a viola and an onion?
People cry when an onion is chopped to pieces.
Why are viola jokes so simple?
So that violinists can understand them.
What are your favourite extended techniques?
What is it like playing viola in an orchestra?
Playing an instrument in an orchestra is a fantastic feeling. You feel privileged to play some amazing pieces where you feel like part of a family all striving for the same result…amazing music and you also get the chance to play in some fabulous venues both in Sydney and overseas. I’ve had the opportunity to play in front of hundreds of people at the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Conservatorium, City Recital Hall as well as various churches and cathedrals all over Eastern Europe over the school holidays with my school orchestra.
I would encourage any viola player to join SYO because of the different opportunities it offers. Playing in SYO has enabled me to gain a better understanding of music and history of the different eras. I have made some very good friendships and have really enjoyed performing for different charity fundraisers and opening people’s views to classical music. My conductors have been wonderful in ensuring the lessons are enjoyable and fun, which is important too.