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Q&A with violinist Petr Skopek

February 08, 2007|by KATE COLEMAN

Petr Skopek, 33, is a member of the first violin section of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. Born in Czechoslovakia, Skopek lives in Hagers-town, which he calls a "great place, a well-kept secret," with his wife, Tia, and their 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Dahlia, for whom he recently bought a one-sixteenth-size violin.

Q: How long have you been playing the violin? When did you start? Why?

A: I've been playing since I was 6. My mother started me on the violin. I didn't want to play the violin; I thought it was a really girly instrument.

Q: How long have you played with the MSO?

A: I have been with the MSO for four years.

Q: Do you play with other musical ensembles?

A: I play with the National Philharmonic based (in North Bethesda, Md., at The Music Center) at Strathmore and have done concerts with the Alexandria (Va.) Symphony, Concert Artists of Baltimore and Washington Concert Opera. I also perform with different chamber music ensembles, primarily Ensemble Elan, based in Alexandria.

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Q: How do you prepare for a concert?

A: If we're playing pieces I've played before, then I know where the spots are that I want to look at. When we're working on something less familiar, I like to listen to recordings, get an overall feel of the piece first, study scores, or at least parts. Then I've got to just work at it systematically from beginning to end and figure out where the tough spots are and work on those.

Q: Do you practice every day? How long?

A: To maintain technique, I try to practice at least an hour a day. When a performance is coming up, I definitely practice every day, anywhere from an hour to three, depending on the difficulty of the repertoire.

Q: Do you have a day job?

A: I teach orchestra (strings) for Frederick County (Md.) Public Schools. I find the job extremely rewarding and fun. The hours allow me to perform a lot. I love the diversity of both teaching and playing. I think one stimulates the other.

Q: Compare playing in the MSO and under Elizabeth Schulze's baton to playing with other orchestras and conductors.

A: I admire Elizabeth's passion and drive and dedication to take the orchestra to the next level. I also admire her hard work to educate our audience both young and old.

Q: Who's your favorite composer? Do you have a favorite composition?

A: There is just too much great music to have just one. I really enjoy Leos Jancek.

Q: What kinds of music do you listen to in your leisure time? What's the last CD you bought?

A: I pretty much stick to classical music. I love to listen to recordings of the great violinists of the past - Heifetz, Kreisler, Francescatti, Szeryng and others. I love the fact that if you listen to five different recordings of the Brahms violin concerto, you can hear tremendous differences in the interpretation because of the personalization each (soloist) gives the performance.

The last CD I purchased was one of Zino Francescatti performing the Paganini first violin concerto and the Saint-Sans third violin concerto.

Q: What's your favorite nonclassical piece of music?

A: When I was in high school, I listened to a lot of classic rock and blues, but eventually I came to like classical music more and more. I found that it was complex enough that upon every listening, you get something else out of it.

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