The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical Music News: Madison Symphony Orchestra officially names Naha Greenholtz as its new concertmaster | June 6, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s been a busy time for classical music, with lots of news — and postings — despite the sudden hot summer.

Last week, The Ear heard from sources that the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) had named Naha Greenholtz as its new concertmaster, beating out current co-concertmaster Suzanne Beia and Isabella Lippi.  But an MSO official called to say that it was premature to announce that.

But no longer – at least as of an hour ago.

Here is the official MSO press release, received Monday afternoon:

Music Director John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) are happy to announce that violinist Naha Greenholtz (below) has been chosen as the MSO’s new concertmaster.

The Japanese born, Canadian native emerged successful from the year-long audition process that began when Tyrone Greive (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), who had held the position for 25 years, announced his retirement at the end of the 2009-2010 Symphony season.

“I’m thrilled that Ms. Greenholtz has accepted a position to be our new concert master,” said DeMain. “Her solo playing impressed our committee and me greatly.  Her leadership of the orchestra in her two performances was exemplary.  Naha will bring the Madison Symphony Orchestra to a still higher level of excellence, building on our already strong reputation,” said DeMain.


Canadian violinist Naha Greenholtz was born in Kyoto, Japan. She made her solo debut at 14 playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and was quickly reengaged for performances of concerti by Tchaikovsky and Mozart.

In addition, she has been a featured soloist with the Burnaby Symphony and the Kelowna Symphony Orchestra in works by Sarasate, Bruch, and Bach. Naha has also had an active career as an orchestral musician, appointed Associate Concertmaster of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in New Orleans at age 21.

One year later, she joined the first violin section of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (below). Most recently she has performed with the Cleveland Orchestra both at Severance Hall and on tour in Tokyo and Seoul. She has also performed as guest Concertmaster of the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra.

Naha received her BM from the Juilliard School in 2007, where she studied with Joel Smirnoff and Donald Weilerstein. Currently, she is the sole participant in the prestigious Concertmaster Academy at the Cleveland Institute of Music, a mentoring fellowship with William Preucil.

JOHN DEMAIN (below in a photo by Katrin Talbot) ON SELECTING A NEW CONCERTMASTER

“As our concertmaster for the past 20 years, Tyrone Greive presided over a period of unprecedented artistic growth for the Symphony. He fully participated with me in creating the incredible string section we have today, and he can leave with great satisfaction, knowing that he leaves it at its all-time pinnacle of virtuosity.

“As we enter this new era, our choice of a new concertmaster is a vital one. We want to choose someone who will build on Tyrone’s tradition and help the MSO continue to blossom artistically.

“Of all the principal players, the concertmaster is possibly the most crucial. This person must be a master musician, a superb soloist, an exceptional ensemble player and a leader who understands how to engender a cohesive performance. An enormous amount of unseen work goes into this position. For example, the concertmaster makes initial bowing decisions that will inform the way that all the string sections play their parts.

“We have completed a comprehensive search for eligible candidates. Each candidate auditioned for a committee made up of the other principal players and myself. They each took the role of Concertmaster at two of our subscription concerts last season, giving everyone a chance to experience them in action. The orchestra and the committee were full participants in the decision.” — By John DeMain

What do you think?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music


  1. This is very exciting news. Ms. Greenholtz appears to be a major steal for the MSO, and her youth is a big bonus in my book. My concerns: Is Madison just a stopover for her on the way to bigger and better things (i.e. does anyone know how long her contract is for)? And will she be relocating to Madison, or just coming in for rehearsals/concerts? For the MSO’s sake, I hope she becomes a presence in the community in her own right and expresses a strong commitment to Madison. My personal wish is that she is also a vocal advocate for new music.

    Comment by Brian H — June 7, 2011 @ 9:58 am

    • Hi Brian,
      Your concerns and points are all certainly valid.
      But I would argue that the same concerns come with any outstanding talent.
      Who knows how long even John DeMain will stay here?
      In this market, you take what you can get when you can get it.
      It is competitive out there, for sure, with more and more well qualified musicians and fewer and
      fewer positions available.
      Hope that reassures you — just a bit . It IS the reality, after all.
      Thanks for reading and replying.

      Comment by welltemperedear — June 7, 2011 @ 11:19 am

  2. […] posted here: Classical Music News: Madison Symphony Orchestra officially names … Posted in All Posts Tags: a-busy-time, and-postings, busy-time, despite-the, […]

    Pingback by Classical Music News: Madison Symphony Orchestra officially names … | Music — June 7, 2011 @ 12:10 am

  3. I cannot disagree that her playing impressed me, and from a paradigm and objective view, I agree that she was selected. But I had a hope that it would go to Beia.

    Comment by Kenneth Kusiak — June 6, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

    • Hi Kenneth,
      I think Beia was the sentimental favorite of many. She is talented and a hard worker.
      But one must assume that the other musicians and administration also knew what they were doing.

      Comment by welltemperedear — June 6, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

      • I really thought that it would go to Beia, but I’m also very happy that Naha is the new concertmaster. I obvious don’t know Naha, but just think of outside people and the audience. Aren’t she a bit too young to be name concertmaster?

        Beia have played with the MSO a long time and served as Co-concertmaster. She have worked very hard and a very talented violinist. I wonder what she will feel?

        Comment by s — June 12, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

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