[ Alumni General Interviews Interviews: Alumni ]
Michiko Theurer: Attending Norfolk as an Individual Fellow
Michiko Theurer (Norfolk ’17) was one of eight individual string Fellows chosen to attend the Norfolk Festival’s Chamber Music Session. She discusses her experience.
It can seem daunting to attend a summer chamber music festival as an individual rather than as a member of an already established quartet. Violinist Michiko Theurer, who attended Norfolk Chamber Music Festival last summer, says it was the best option for her.
Theurer, who had just finished a DMA at University of Colorado Boulder and was about to start a PhD in musicology at Stanford, wanted to spend the summer between programs focusing on her playing. “I would like to weave performance and academics in some setting,” she says. “I wanted to get the PhD in musicology but didn’t want to do it until I felt comfortable enough with performance so I could continue to grow as a performer during the academic degree. Norfolk gave me a good jumping off point for continuing my performance experience in a different setting.”
Like many of the Norfolk Fellows, Theurer was drawn to working with the Brentano String Quartet. “I knew the Brentano and loved them,” she says. “My teacher Harumi Rhodes was teaching as well. I was interested in working with both of them.”
As one of eight individual string Fellows, Theurer rotated to play with different musicians over her six-week stay. “It was a fantastic way to get to know new people,” she says. “There are few situations in which you get to know a person so deeply and quickly as playing in a chamber ensemble. It’s a unique experience to have these three different ways of seeing yourself—in different settings in different conversations with different people.”
“It’s challenging to develop your own group language and get to know each other well enough so you can communicate on a deep level in a short time and then switch to another group and rebuild that language,” she adds. “And yet building new group languages is a skill one can get better at. It was a great experience in that sense.”
Theurer, who started playing violin when she was 3, enjoys the conversational nature of chamber music over, say, orchestral performance. “In general I love conversations between people. I love the empathetic exchange of individual ideas,” she says. “I think chamber music is one of the ways of having that sort of conversational connection between different people. People can see themselves within a group. In an orchestra it can be more difficult to be on that boundary between individual and group. In the chamber music setting, you get best of both worlds of solo and orchestra playing.”
By Janet Reynolds
Janet Reynolds is a writer, editor and content strategist living in Connecticut. She’s a lifelong cellist and viola da gamba player, and has played in the Farmington Valley Symphony Orchestra for 36 years.