Rose Wollman on music and the significance of lunch with friends

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The Larchmere String Quartet website describes Rose Wollman this way:

“Praised for her multifaceted interpretations of both classical and contemporary music, violist Rose Wollman is sought after as a soloist, chamber musician, pedagogue, and orchestral musician. Rose is the founding violist of the Larchmere String Quartet, which is currently on faculty as the Eykamp Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Evansville. As such, she is dedicated to mentoring university and pre-college music students, promoting classical chamber music in the surrounding communities, and serves as principal violist of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra.”

This is a Lewiston native who let music carry her off. And since we wanted to hear all about that journey, we tracked her down at her digs in Indiana and hit her with a barrage of question. Here’s what Rose had to say.

How early in your life did you become interested in music? Well, I guess I’ve always been interested in music. My parents enrolled me in violin lessons when I was 5, as part of a “well-rounded education.” I think you’ll get a slightly different story if you ask them, but I didn’t love the violin. I didn’t really want to practice, and it wasn’t a “cool kid” thing to do. I had a couple friends that played, but it wasn’t a social outlet. I think the only thing that kept me going was my teacher Greg Boardman, who was (and still is, I think) amazing.

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When I was in 6th grade my dad took a sabbatical and we lived in Albuquerque, N.M., for the school year. That middle school had three (three!!) orchestras, so I finally had a community of string players, except that all my friends were violists and cellists. The way that orchestra program worked was that rehearsal would be over the lunch period, which was divided into 3 sections. First the violins would have a sectional while the lower strings ate lunch, then full orchestra rehearsal, then the lower strings would have sectionals while the violins ate lunch. I switched to viola from violin that school year so I could eat lunch with my friends. It sounds like such a trivial thing, and in a way it is, but thinking back on it, I don’t think I would still be playing if I hadn’t switched to viola.

When we came back to Lewiston, I started studying with Julia Adams, violist of the Portland String Quartet. I started practicing more, and probably most importantly, I started going to the PSQ summer chamber music workshop every year. That, more than anything, made me really love music, and to this day chamber music, particularly string quartets, is my favorite genre.

What’s your fondest memory of Lewiston or of Maine? I loved growing up in Lewiston, so it’s hard to pick a single memory. Here is one that I think captures things pretty well. My parents still live in the house I grew up in, which is at the top of a big hill on a small side street. It runs parallel to a larger street, so when it snowed in the winter, the larger street would be plowed very quickly, but our street would not be. There was a snowstorm one year when I was probably 9 or 10 and my sister was 7. We had just gotten these awesome red sparkly cross-country skis, and because our street was covered in several inches of snow, we thought it would be fun to ski down the road. Lila and I took off from our driveway going full tilt, and because I was older and bigger I could go faster. Every 20 feet or so, I would turn around and say “Lila! Don’t fall!” and every time, she would keel over into the snowbank. I, of course, thought this was hilarious, but I don’t think she was so amused. It was pretty great to live in a place where, as a kid, I could just ski off down the road on a snow day!

What did you do after graduating high school? After graduating high school I went to the University of Illinois to do my undergrad in viola performance. I was really embarrassed for a while, because I had applied to a bunch of big conservatories and didn’t get in. I really wanted to go to Oberlin, but I’d also applied to Indiana University, New England Conservatory and a few others, and didn’t get in anywhere. Luckily, my teacher, Julia, knew the professor at University of Illinois. I sent a tape and he accepted me extremely late, I think it was in May. I can laugh about it now because U of I ended up being a great place for me. I did my master’s at New England and I’m finishing up my doctorate at Indiana. Actually, Indiana is the funniest. I applied for undergrad and didn’t get in, applied for master’s and got in but with basically no scholarship, and finally ended up going for my doctorate with a full scholarship plus a living stipend! So kids, if at first you don’t succeed . . .! But actually, I think it’s a really good lesson. In music, and probably other fields as well, there is this notion that if you are not a superstar by the time you’re 18 (or 16, or 12), you’re not going to make it. I’m living proof that this is not the case! I worked my butt off all through school, and watched people with talent oozing out of their pores squander it by not working hard enough. People talk about this wonderful gift that musicians have, but I think if you ask any successful musician, that “gift” is nothing more than the willingness to put in the hours in the practice room.

What are you doing now? Right now I’m working with my quartet, the Larchmere String Quartet. We’re extremely lucky to have a job as the quartet in residence at the University of Evansville, in Evansville, Ind. We work with the students at the university, perform with the other faculty there, and tour, teach and perform as a quartet. We’re actually releasing our first CD this winter, “Stephan Krehl (1864-1924): Complete Chamber Music for String Quartet” for the Naxos label!

Your musical resume is impressive. Is there anything you’re NOT good at? There’s plenty of things I’m terrible at! Organic chemistry, water polo, carpentry, dressage, yoga . . . do you want more, because I can keep going!

Where can we find more information about your work? Information about the quartet can be found at www.larchmerestringquartet.com. I also have a personal website, www.rosewollman.com, and maybe this will be the push I need to update that one.

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