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Q&A with MSO violinist Teresa Gordon

October 16, 2008|By KATE COLEMAN

If Teresa Gordon had the money for medical school, she probably would have pursued a career as a surgeon.

Instead, the 36-year-old Winchester, Va., resident won scholarships and studied violin at Shenandoah Conservatory. She has made a life in music.

She began playing in the Maryland Symphony Orchestra's second violin section in 1994, moved away for a while and returned to become a full-time member again seven years ago.

"I love music. I love people. It really doesn't matter what I do. I just enjoy whatever I do," Gordon said.


Much of her busy life is spent making music of one kind or another. She drives 100 miles a day for her various musical enterprises, which include singing.

"I'm kind of like a karaoke goddess," she said with a laugh.

Gordon and a friend have started a concert series at Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, Va. The first half of "Strings and Serenades" is chamber music; the second half is vocal selections. She made a guest appearance at the first performance last August singing "Midnight Train to Georgia" and Etta James' "At Last."

"I just do that for fun on the side," she said.

How long have you been playing the violin? When did you start? Why?
Thirty years. I started in the third grade. The reason I played the violin was because the teachers in the school program looked at my hands and said they were small and that I should play the violin.

How long have you played with the MSO?
I started playing with the Maryland Symphony in January of '94. Barry Tuckwell was the conductor. I was a graduate student at Shenandoah.
I left in the summer of '96 because I started teaching inner-city middle school in Portsmouth, Va. I couldn't come back for every concert, but stayed on as a sub for a while.
When I moved back to this region in 2001, I re-auditioned (for Elizabeth Schulze) and became a full-time member again.

Do you play with other musical ensembles?
I have been concertmaster with the Loudoun (Va.) Symphony since 2001. Everywhere else I play, I sub, whenever I have time. I sub for the Roanoke (Va.) Symphony. I've subbed a couple times with the Fairfax (Va.) Symphony. I have played with the Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre for about a dozen years. I also play with the Two Rivers Orchestra at Shepherd University.

How do you prepare for a concert? How much time do you spend preparing for each performance?
It depends on the literature. How many times I've played it before. If it's something that's rather difficult, I can spend anywhere from two to six hours preparing for it.
At the MSO, we get the music about four weeks ahead of time, and it really depends on what I have going on at the same time. I might need 10 hours of preparation. You might need a month, going over a little each week.

Do you practice every day? How long?
Pretty much every day. Every once in awhile, if I strain myself, I'll take a day off. I'd say my average practice is about three hours a day. It depends on what else I've got going on.

Do you have a day job?
I'm personnel manager for the Loudoun Symphony Orchestra. I teach for Loudoun County Public Schools - part time, after school. I teach classes Monday through Thursday. Since I'm experienced, I take up to 20 students, but I prefer not to have classes that big. It's mixed: violin and cello. I teach elementary, but I have a few middle school students. I hope one day they'll get that in the school day so they'll be graded.

Compare playing in the MSO and under Elizabeth Schulze's baton to playing with other orchestras and conductors.
I really enjoy working with Elizabeth Schulze. She's funny. She's knowledgeable. I've been there many years myself, and I've seen the amount of growth. There have always been talented people in the MSO, but the level of professionalism that she's brought to the ensemble is just really amazing. Elizabeth is good about picking literature that is challenging for everybody. And I really do like working with her. It's fun.

Who's your favorite composer? Do you have a favorite composition?
People ask me that all the time, and I can't answer that. I am a big fan of Romantic music - particularly that time period (about 1815 to 1910). I also love other stuff. I love Brahms. I love Tchaikovsky. I love Beethoven. I love Mozart. I just love music. Period.
I'm kind of different from other musicians. I kind of cross over. I grew up listening to Motown. Mozart's great, but there's this other stuff, too, that I really love.

What kinds of music do you listen to in your leisure time? What's the last CD you bought?
Because I'm in the car so much, that's when I practice my singing. It runs the gamut. I listen to jazz. When I'm practicing for karaoke, I do a lot of Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle. I love Simon and Garfunkel. My least favorite music is country music, but I do love the fiddle, and I do love a lot of old-school country music - Patsy Cline - when people really sang.
The last CD I bought was by the Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra.

What's your favorite nonclassical piece of music?
I can't answer that, either. I love Broadway. I love pretty much everything.

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