[ Artist Spotlight ]

Serena Canin

Violinist and member of the Brentano String Quartet, Serena Canin was born into a family of professional musicians in New York City. An accomplished chamber musician, Ms. Canin was twice invited to the Marlboro Music Festival and has toured the United States with Music From Marlboro, the Brandenburg Ensemble and Goliard Concerts. In New York, Ms. Canin performs regularly with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and the Sea Cliff Chamber Players. She has made frequent appearances on the Continuum Series at Alice Tully Hall, the Summergarden Series at the Museum of Modern Art, at the Garden City Chamber Music Society, and at Chamber Music Quad Cities in Davenport, Iowa. Ms. Canin holds teaching positions at Princeton University, New York University, Yale School of Music and has taught chamber music to young musicians at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Her teachers have included Burton Kaplan and Robert Mann. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, pianist Thomas Sauer.

When you are away touring, do you bring anything special with you to remind you of home?

I carry some family pictures where I am sure to see them often—inside my violin case! Whenever I take out the violin, I can look at my husband, Tom, and my two boys, Eric and Niall, who are 12 and 8. This gives me extra incentive to practice.

When you fly what do you like to read? How do you pass the time?

Mostly I like to read fiction, but lately I’ve been getting more interested in memoirs by people who have done difficult and dangerous things. I am interested in people who, in doing something challenging, discover strengths and inner resources they didn’t know they had.

What is a favorite non-musical past time?

Square dancing.

What is your favorite concert hall (aside from the Music Shed of course) to play in and why? And it doesn’t have to be for a musical reason.

Like many other musicians, I love to play at Wigmore Hall in London. The acoustic is inspiring, it has a wonderful audience and a rich history, with many musicians’ photos hanging in the backstage (including one of the violinist Adolf Busch, who used to play the violin I am currently using.) Wigmore presents concerts almost every day of the year, and it feels like a spiritual home for music.

What does it feel like right before you walk onto the stage? What runs through your mind? 

The moments before a concert are always a little tense, but I often think of something my mother used to tell me before concerts when I was younger: GIVE. If I think about giving of myself, and giving myself over to the music, I am more likely to be able to express myself freely. It is a positive way of thinking at a time when negativity tends to intrude.

Is there a work that brings to mind a particularly happy memory? For instance, is there a piece that made you want to play your chosen instrument, or one that always reminds you of home or a favorite place? Would you share the work and the memory?

I have a really nice association with the slow movement of the Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata. When I was 8 or 9, my dad, a pianist, was practicing it for a performance, and he called me in to his studio to play me the opening theme. It brought tears to my eyes, and to his, and we both laughed because we were touched by the music in the same way. A couple of saps!

Everyone dislikes at least one thing about their profession. Aside from being away from loved ones and home, what is your least favorite part about being a musician? 

Easy: the intersection of the music world with the airline industry. Flying with four people, three instruments that don’t fit in the size-wise box, and a cello is not for the faint of heart.

What is one of your favorite pieces of music and why?

Beethoven Quartet Op. 130 because it is all-encompassing.