The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music interview: Madison violinist Suzanne Beia speaks with The Ear, Part 1 of 2

September 20, 2010
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Though she doesn’t get a lot of publicity, Suzanne Beia – recognizable as the blond woman who sometimes uses magenta-dyed horsehair on her bow — really is a violinist for all seasons.

In Madison, the hard-working Beia (below) performs as a soloist, a chamber musician and orchestral player, all in addition to teaching. She is legendary for learning music quickly and playing chamber music from memory even when using music.

This Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, several colleagues will join Beia for her UW-Madison faculty recital. It features a program of 20th and 21st century music – some classics and some rarely heard. The works are Ravel’s Piano Trio, Stravinsky’s “Duo Concertante” for violin and piano, Roger Sessions’ “Duo for Violin and Cello” and Bright Sheng’s “Four Movements” for piano trio.”

Then on this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, Beia will perform with the Pro Arte Quartet in a program of Mozart (Quartet in E-Flat Major, K. 428), Dvorak’s Quartet in D Minor, Op. 34) and Schumann (Quartet No. 3 in A Major, Op. 41, No. 3).

Admission to both concerts is free and open to the public.

Her background, according to program notes for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, is as follows:

“A native of Reno, Nevada, she began her musical studies on the viola at the age of ten. Three years later, she shifted her attention to the violin and made her solo debut at the age of 14 with the North Lake Tahoe Symphony. Since that time, she has performed on numerous occasions as a soloist with orchestras throughout the United States and Germany. Before coming to Madison, Suzanne held the position of Principal Second Violin in the Wichita Symphonyand has held concertmaster positions with the Reno Chamber Orchestra, Bay Area Women’s Philharmonic, Spoleto Festival Orchestra and Chamber Symphony of San Francisco. She also held the Assistant Concertmaster position in theNew World Symphony. Her chamber music experience has been extensive, having been invited to perform in numerous festivals such as Chamber Music West, Telluride Chamber Music Festival, Token Creek, Festival de Prades, and Chamber Music at the Barn. Suzanne has served on the faculties of the Rocky Ridge Music Center and Florida International University.”

Today and tomorrow, The Ear will feature a two-part e-mail interview that Beia provided:

What are your various posts in Madison as professional violinist?

As a violinist in Madison, I perform as a member of the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), Concertmaster of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Co-concertmaster of the Madison Symphony, and I am a member of the Rhapsodie String Quartet, which is the string quartet of the Madison Symphony’s nationally acclaimed HeartStrings program. I also coach younger chamber ensembles at the University of Wisconsin, as well as through the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

What duties are special about each position? How about the Pro Arte?


In the Pro Arte Quartet, I play second violin, which requires slightly sharper skills in the areas of following and blending. The Pro Arte Quartet allots 15 hours per week for rehearsal and performs an average of 25 concerts per year.

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra?

As concertmaster of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, I am responsible for choosing bowings for the string section and checking the violin parts for errors and misprints, in addition to learning and performing any violin solos that might be found within the pieces. The Chamber Orchestra performs several subscription concerts each season, plus Madison’s very popular summer events, Concerts on the Square.

And the Madison Symphony Orchestra?

In the Madison Symphony, I see my job as playing my part to the best of my ability, and serving as a sort of liaison between the conductor/concertmaster and the rest of the violin section. Of course, part of my job as Co-concertmaster is also to be ready to “step in” at any moment, should there be any type of unforeseen emergency involving the concertmaster.

In addition to our regular subscription concerts and extraordinary educational programs, the musicians of the Madison Symphony comprise the orchestra that accompanies the Madison Opera.

The Symphony’s HeartStrings program is a truly innovative program of which I am very grateful to be a part.  Through the program, a string quartet (below, featuring myself, violinist Laura Burns, violist Christopher Dozoryst and cellist Karl Lavine) brings music of a variety of genres to Madison Area special needs communities such as adults with dementia or developmental disabilities, children with autism spectrum disorder, and the like.

In addition to performing approximately 95 programs per season for these audiences, I have been granted a great deal of authority to help in deciding the programming of these performances.

Tomorrow: Rewards from each post, advice to young violinists and Beia’s concert program


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