Where are you from? I was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and grew up in Hickory, NC.
Can you tell us a little about your family? I was the baby of the family and the only girl. I am the daughter of two school teachers. I had two older brothers- Eric and Craig.
How and when did you pick the viola? I actually started on the violin and made the switch to viola in the middle of my senior year of college at North Carolina School of the Arts.
Can you tell us a little about your instrument? "Jerome" is an Italian viola made almost 400 years ago!! (Editor's note: you can learn more about Laura's viola, "Jerome", by watching this video.)
What sorts of musical endeavors do you enjoy outside of the Symphony? I love playing in Duo Penumbra with my daughter Grace on piano. We play concerts and parties and weddings. Our favorite concerts take place in retirement and nursing homes. I also have a few private students on viola and violin. It is a great joy to "give back" this way and nurture the next generation of musicians.
You are such a creative person. What are your favorite creative outlets aside from music? I love making crafty (sewing, painting, cutting, etc.) projects and gifts for friends and family members. I have lots of fun with Photoshop too!
If you were not a musician what would you be? I would probably be some kind of visual artist if I wasn't a musician.
Anything else you'd like to add? I joined FWSO in 1985. I have made my career and life here for over 30 years now. Please support the arts and especially live music in our DFW area. This is important for humanity, especially right now.
Pictured above from left to right: Joni Baczewski, violist; Laura Bruton; and Dan Sigale, violist.
Going the Distance Running: from 5K Races to Marathons
The musicians of the FWSO have some very athletic individuals in our midst. This month, violinist Tanya Dyer Smith interviewed two of our long distance runners, violist Ola Holowka and principal hornist Molly Norcross, to find out what got them started and how they keep up with it all! Molly has a half-marathon coming up in April to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (you can support her here), and Ola most recently ran the Cowtown Marathon in less than 3 hours and 50 minutes (pictured below, center).
We have some group runs coming up and would love for you to join our team. Please sign up below and we'll see you there!
Molly: I have been running on and off for a few years - my first experience was doing a "Couch to 5k" program, because I really was starting from nothing. The idea of running for more than a couple minutes at a time was very daunting! I had some friends who were preparing to run a 5k and, with their encouragement, I decided to join them. I did find it pretty difficult, which is why I didn't leap to make it a regular habit for a few years.
Ola: I started running 9 years ago in order to get fit and healthier. I've run 4 marathons since I started on this adventure and I've made a lot of friends in the process.
Can you describe your training pattern? Do you feel like there are parallels with your running regime and musical practice and do you think one helps the other?
Ola: In training for my recent marathon, I used a training plan which consisted of running 6 days a week. The training included speed training, marathon pace runs, long runs and easy (slower pace) runs each week averaging between 40 and 60 miles a week for 18 weeks. Similarly to playing my instrument, there are no short cuts in training for a marathon. The preparation needs to be there in order to achieve the goal. Each day of training counts. There is no making up missed training as in playing the instrument though I have to say that it's harder to lose fitness in running by skipping a few days of training. Missed days of playing the instrument are felt negatively immediately. I have been playing violin/viola for 31 years and I feel like it taught me good discipline. Having discipline is important to get through different days of training for a marathon. A lot of days I had to wake up close to 5 am in order to make it home to my 3-year-old daughter before my husband had to leave for work. There were some very cold or rainy days and some days when I was just very tired but I got up anyway and put in the miles. The process and finishing the event felt very rewarding and I know I'll be back for more.
Molly: I am currently training for a half-marathon in April (!) and I am following a training schedule that was generated for me by a Team in Training coach. I run three times a week: the peak of the week is the long run, which extends by a mile every week or so, and I do a recovery run a few days later, followed by a shorter distance where I push myself to spend some time moving at a quicker pace than is comfortable. One major difference is that I practice every day, while I run every other day. I guess my lips are just much stronger than my legs after so many years of practicing! But there are many parallels also - dedication and accepting the time commitment (there are no short cuts!), being aware of how the body is functioning and making necessary adjustments, and always striving to get better and better. I'm also discovering the running community now, after being very immersed in the musical community - running with others can be inspiring, educating, and exhausting - not dissimilar to making music with others! There is one way that running directly affects my ability to make music, physically. As a brass player, air control is the most important part of my job, so getting my lungs pumping more often translates into better quality breaths, longer phrases, and more overall control. Running is also a great way to de-stress the body and declutter the mind, which means I'm able to focus even better while practicing and rehearsing.
Molly, you mentioned Team in Training. What is this? Can we help support you?
Molly: Team in Training is the fundraising program for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. People from all over the country, and the world, train for athletic events and raise money for the LLS, which funds research and provides support to blood cancer patients and their families. I am running in memory of my best friend, Moriah, who lost her battle with lymphoma in 2010. If you are interested in supporting me, please check out my individual Team in Training page here.
Aesop's Fables: A FWSO Premiere Kinderconcerts at the Symphony
February's Kinderconcerts — concerts geared toward preschool-aged children — saw something new this year. The FWSO performed "Three Fables"— a world premiere composition by TCU professor Dr. Till Meyn. His musical depiction of three fables — "The Lion and the Mouse", "The Boy Who Cried Wolf", and "The Tortoise and the Hare" — was assisted by child actors/actresses from Kids Who Care. He had the following to say about his new work:
How did this collaborative project with the FWSO come about?
I had recently arranged a new version of the Star Spangled Banner for the FWSO, which I donated to the Symphony in order to help with fundraising (the plan is to have it performed at the start of each concert, and to have a donor come forward and sponsor the arrangement). Shortly thereafter, I was approached by the Symphony’s General Manager and Director of Education; they asked me if I would consider composing a work involving three of Aesop’s Fables. The concept for the piece was laid out for me; I was very happy to be asked to write for an ensemble that I have had so much respect for ever since coming to Fort Worth. I actually put aside other projects so I could make time to complete ‘Three Fables.’
Had you ever written for young audiences before?
Before writing Three Fables, I had never really written anything that was specifically designed for young audiences, aside from a piano piece I had written for my own kids.
How did you choose to set Aesop’s fables to music?
I have always had profound respect for the music and story of Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev, which, along with Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, entertained me so often as a child. I decided that I would choose instruments and instrument groups to depict different characters and situations in the three stories I was setting. For example, in the first fable, the sweeping savanna is depicted by lush string chords, with woodwind solos representing little creatures; the mouse is represented by the strings playing fast, running passages; the lion is depicted by majestic chords in the horn section; the hunters are played by timpani and brass. I wanted to give every type of instrument a chance to be a character, emotion, or scene in the three stories.
What do you hope children took away from hearing these pieces performed?
My sincere hope, on a big picture level, is that the kids will learn to appreciate classical music, its ability to stir emotions and to enrich our lives. I also hope that, as the kids mature into adults, they will continue to attend concerts and appreciate how wonderful it is to have a professional symphony in their town. But at the same time, I just want the kids to be entertained by something other than their electronic devices. As they were leaving the venue, the kids were high-fiving and fist-bumping me, and telling me how much they enjoyed the music, and what instruments they play as well. That was a rewarding experience, and made me feel that we all made a difference in their lives, even if for just one morning.
This interview was conducted by Cara Owens, bassoon.
Pictured above are Dr. Till Meyn with Kids Who Care and FWSO Associate Conductor Daniel Black.
We loved performing with the Fort Worth Youth Orchestra at the Side-by-Side concert. The extended horn section is pictured above.
The Symphony League hosted a wonderful lunch for us on Valentine's Day. Thank you, Symphony League, for your unwavering support and generosity! Pictured above are music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya with one of our hosts, Dotty Hall, and violist Dan Sigale.
Save Our Symphony Fort Worth Get to know SOS President Carol Spencer
Violinist and Mistletoe Heights resident Kathryn Perry recently interviewed Carol Spencer, who is President of Save Our Symphony and also lives in Mistletoe Heights. Carol has been a generous supporter and steadfast friend to the Musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony, and we are excited for all of you to get to know her with this interview!
How did you get interested in classical music?
I started studying piano four days before my sixth birthday, and my love of classical music grew from there. Fortunately, in the Houston ISD, we went to symphonic concerts in Jones Hall every year in elementary school. Of course, I attended every year and loved every minute of the concerts. (The ride in a big yellow school bus to Jones Hall was lots of fun, too!) In high school and college, I spent many hours playing classical music, and the challenges and the joys of the music kept me motivated.
I fell in love with classical music early in life and that love continues to grow.
What do you like about Fort Worth Symphony concerts?
I love the variety of classical music that this orchestra plays: the old favorites, lots of 20th century music, and plenty of 21st century music. Maestro Harth-Bedoya's commitment to new music, his collaborations with composers, and his and the composer's introductions of the music only increase my love for the "new." And what fun to get to hear Fort Worth's amazing musicians premiere new music from time to time.
We are so fortunate to have the old and lots of the new in the FWSO concerts. We are even more fortunate to have stellar musicians who have given their lives to classical music who perform at such a high level, under the direction of Maestro Harth-Bedoya. Thank you, musicians, for your commitment to sharing your music with the community, no matter what!
Do you have a favorite FWSO performance in the past few years?
My favorite FWSO performance was December 31, 2016, the first Bass Hall performance after the work stoppage ended. The community was so excited to ring out the old and ring in a new future for 2017 and beyond. We are very grateful that the musicians were willing to do what needed to be done, stand firm, and not lose ground - for the sake of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. It was such a joy to get to celebrate the FWSO's return to the stage that evening. Although I'm not a big pops fan, I am a huge fan of the Musicians of the FWSO!
Why did you decide to get involved with Save Our Symphony?
I used to walk my dogs regularly, and I met many neighbors, including Paul and Valerie Unger and their two Italian Greyhounds. (As you may know, Paul plays bass in the FWSO.) After visiting with Paul and Valerie for several years, walking around Triangle Park or strolling leisurely with our dogs, a light bulb went off: The community, regular citizens who love and value music, needed to be more involved. The community benefits enormously from the music that the FWSOA and the musicians give us, for sure. So, now, the community needed to become more active.
In late August 2016, shortly after my light bulb moment, I attended a meeting with concerned community members and musicians. There, I learned more about the long-term situation and the stalled contract negotiations. At the end of the meeting, community members shared emails and left, hopeful but very concerned.
After the meeting, I was very hopeful that good things would happen -- for the musicians, for the orchestra, and for our city. I waited for an email from another community member, inviting us to a meeting. It never arrived. Finally, I realized that my background, leading religious non-profits in turnaround situations, might be helpful in this situation. So, I emailed folks and invited them to our second meeting.
Many of those who attended those first two meetings are still actively involved in Save Our Symphony Fort Worth. We are grateful for board members and many others in the community who gave over 1,500 hours during the last four months of 2016. Since the strike, we have continued our work to strengthen the community's connection and commitment to the musicians and the orchestra. The community's financial generosity has provided opportunities for SOSFW to keep building the audience, strengthening this community's love of orchestral music in creative ways.
Yes, Kathryn. There is one more thing. I want to invite folks to stay involved with the musicians, the FWSO, and SOSFW. I'm staying very involved in Save Our Symphony Fort Worth for the long-haul. If people would like to know more, they may visit our website and sign up for our newsletter at www.SOSFW.org. Or join us on Facebook here. I look forward to meeting lots of people at a FWSO concert or a future SOSFW event. Let's stay connected for the sake of orchestral music, the Musicians of the FWSO, and this beautiful city that we call home.
Pictured above is Carol Spencer (far right) with Melinda Massie (middle) and Dotty Hall (left) at the Waterside Grove of Giving in December.
Although the strike is over, we would still appreciate your help as we move forward. "Support the Musician" T-shirts were beautifully designed by our principal violist Laura Bruton. They are $20 each, adult sizes S-3X, and can be purchased online by emailing orders to us at email@example.com.
Pictured left are Seth McConnell, timpani, and Keira Fullerton, cello. Right, violist Aleksandra Holowka stands behind a yard sign with her daughter, Ela, and neighbors, violist Dan Sigale and Samson.
Harmony in the Kitchen Recipes
Below are two recipes shared by double bassist Jeff Hall for protein pancakes and potato salad. A couple of notes from the chef:
"For the pancakes, substitute rolled oats ground in a blender or processor for the oat bran. I put the sunflower seeds in the blender with the oats to make the pieces smaller. I love this recipe because the pancakes or waffles rise beautifully, are light, and make a substantial meal. I triple the dry ingredients and store in the refrigerator.
The potato salad has a nice bite if you use spicy mustard, and add freshly minced garlic. It's easy to make, and people love it."
High protein pancakes
Courtesy of "The High Road to Health" by Lindsay Wagner
(The Bionic Woman)
Serve them with a natural syrup, honey, all fruit jam for breakfast or with vegetables and mushroom gravy for dinner.
1 C whole wheat pastry flour
1 C corn meal
1 C oat bran
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 T sunflower seeds
3 T sesame seeds ground in a blender to the consistency of corn meal
2 T nutritional yeast (optional)
4 T cold pressed vegetable oil
2 T honey
1 1/4 C mild soy milk or water
Liquid lecithin or butter for the skillet
1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well.
2. Combine the oil, honey and soy milk and let stand for 5 minutes, or until the honey is dissolved. Whisk well.
3. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Coat the bottom of a stainless steel, enamel or cast iron skillet or griddle with a very thin film of liquid lecithin. Heat the skillet or griddle until a drop of water skips (it will be hot). Pour out 4-inch pancakes and cook until the top begins to bubble. Turn over and brown the other side.
Makes about 24 4" pancakes.
Courtesy of "The Kripalu Cookbook"
6 C chopped potatoes (4-5 medium potatoes)
3/4 C sliced celery
1/4 C chopped scallions
2 T chopped fresh chives
1/2 C mayonnaise
1 1/2 T brown mustard
1 T red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp celery seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground paprika
2-3 cloves garlic
In a large, covered saucepan with a steamer basket, steam the potatoes for about 20 minutes or until soft (do not overcook).
In a large bowl, combine the cooked potatoes, celery, scallions, and chives. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients and pour over the potato mixture. Gently mix together and serve immediately.
Preparation and cooking time 30 minutes. Serves 4-6.
One of the tricks to a good potato salad is to blend the vegetables and seasonings while the potatoes are still hot. If you can serve the salad warm, so much the better. If not, the flavors blend well chilling overnight in the refrigerator.
Thank you to the many additional musicians who
performed with us this month!