Q&A with Maryland Symphony's Alice Tung

November 13, 2008|By KATE COLEMAN

Alice Tung's older sister took piano lessons before she did. Although young Alice was "desperate to play," her mother thought it wise to wait until she was 7.

When Alice did get started, she loved it.

"I wanted to go into music from the beginning," she said.

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra violist still loves it, and she's certainly into music.

She started playing accordion five years ago - for fun. "You can play polkas," she said.

Tung had started on piano and began to play violin when she was 11. Her mom had taken up the instrument and there were violins "sitting around." Instruction was offered in the Frederick County (Md.) public school system, and she also took private lessons.

"I thought it'd be fun," Tung said. And violin seems to be more of a social instrument, she added, explaining that with piano, you play a lot by yourself. "(But) you have orchestra and quartets with the violin."


A few years later, while attending a music camp in Pennsylvania where there were no viola players, she joked to the teacher, "Get me a viola, and I'll learn."

He had one for her the next day, and her viola journey began. "I loved it. It just felt more comfortable," she said. She got her own instrument and "pretty much switched."

"There was more of a need for viola in the school orchestras and the youth orchestras," Tung said.

The 31-year-old grew up in Ijamsville, Md., and now lives there with her violinist husband James Tung. She had played with the Fairfax (Va.) Symphony, and a few times with Annapolis Symphony and is happy to be a member of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

How long have you been playing the viola? When did you start? Why?
I actually started on piano when I was 7.Then when I was 11, I started violin and I switched to viola in high school.

How long have you played with the MSO?
Five years.

Do you play with other musical ensembles?
I'm principal second violin with the Frederick Symphony, a community group. My husband, James, and I are in a quartet.

How do you prepare for a concert? How much time do you spend preparing for each performance?
It depends on how difficult the music is. I'll try to get in a half hour to an hour every day the week before the concert.

Do you practice every day? How long?
I try to.

Do you have a day job?
I teach. I have about 45 students. I teach at Frederick Community College, I teach at McDaniel College, and I teach at a little community center in Lovettsville, Va.

I have students as young as 5. I had an 87-year-old lady I was teaching. She plays with the Loudoun Symphony. She was a little rusty, I guess.

Compare playing in the MSO and under Elizabeth Schulze's baton to playing with other orchestras and conductors.
I enjoy her a lot. I think she's fantastic. She's clear with her conducting, but very expressive, very emotional. She helps us express ourselves in the music.

Who's your favorite composer?
My favorite composer would have to be Beethoven, I think. It would be between Brahms and Beethoven.

Do you have a favorite composition?
Gosh, there's so many! My favorite classical work probably is Bark's Concerto for Orchestra.

What kinds of music do you listen to in your leisure time?
I listen to a lot of classical - whatever I'm playing. If there's a concert coming up, I like to listen to that repertoire so I'm more familiar with it.

I actually enjoy pop music on the radio - just kind of driving music. I like alternative music. I like accordion music, because I play accordion.

What's the last CD you bought?
Keane. Alternative rock. I like Coldplay; they're good, too.

What's your favorite "nonclassical" piece of music?
Maybe "The Sound of Music," the musical.

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