Saturday, January 15, 2011

Nokuthula Ngwenyama, 1: Starts 3-year term as President of American Viola Society in June

[Violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama (Darla Furlani)]

Nokuthula Ngwenyama, is a violist and violinist of Japanese and Zimbabwean heritage who was born in California in 1976. She arrived on the classical music scene at age 17 when she won the Primrose Competition and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. She has made several recordings, has performed seemingly non-stop, has earned a Master's Degree in Theology at Harvard and has been a faculty member at two major universities while also involving herself deeply in the American Viola Society, of which she is President-Elect at the moment. She is now the mother of two small children. For the past 5 years, Nokuthula Ngwenyama has been featured at as a Musician of African Descent. As the result of a New Year's greeting from Nokuthula, an interview by phone was arranged for Jan. 13, 2011. Today we present Part 1 of the interview.

Hello, Nokuthula?
Yes, hello!
This is Bill. First of all, am I pronouncing your name correctly?
Yes, Nokuthula.
I'm happy to talk to you. I feel as though I've known you since the time your agent sent the first CD!
Wow! Well you know, it's so neat because I feel like I've known you because of all the support you've lent to me and also to so many other artists on the website! I cannot tell you how many times I've gone to different places and they said, “Look, I got so many of your materials from William Zick and from his blog and from”
Well, that's nice to hear!
Yes, and you know, I finally said you know what, I have to reach out and say hello!
It was very nice to hear from you! I definitely appreciated your New Year's greetings, and I'm happy we are able to follow up with the interview. Now, this is the year, I believe, that you actually take office as President of the American Viola Society?
Yes, it is.
You've been, for three years, the President-Elect?
For three years I've been the President-Elect, and I will take office in June of this year.
I see. Actually, Juliet White-Smith...
Is the current President.
I actually interviewed her once!
Well she's done a great job for the organization! She's going to be a hard act to follow, actually! She has really implemented great programs and kept people on the right path, so to speak!
So you like the general direction that things are going?
I really do, with the American Viola Society! But the American Viola Society does so many things, including the Primrose International Viola Competition. I've been the Director for that for the last six years.
Well, then you're pretty thoroughly involved in what they do!
Yes, I am! So it's going to be hard to kind of give up the reins of the Competition to run the entire Viola Society, but on the other hand, you can't do both! So this is my last year being Director of the Primrose International Viola Competition, which takes place this June, and from that I will just transition to being President of the entire Viola Society.
It sounds like quite a major transition.
It is!
Is it a full-time position?
No. Right now, being the Director of the Competition is a full-time position, because we're six months out from the Competition! So that is taking a lot of my time!
I see.
In addition to having to prepare for concerts and travel, and also be a mother to two young children, it's very, difficult!
How old are your children?
I have a four-year-old, and I have a 19-month-old.
Yes, I would see that as quite a challenge!
It really is!
The 19-month-old, is that a boy?
Yes. A girl and a boy!
They have a good chance of being musically inclined!
Well, they seem to enjoy it! My daughter is already taking piano...
Yes, she loves it! In fact every morning she races downstairs and says “Mommy, can I play the piano?”
So, “Sure you can! That's fine!” She loves it! In fact I have to kind of say “Sophia, no more piano. You have to go to school. You can play when you get home.” “Okay, okay!” She wants to stay and play.
Well, I guess that's a pretty strong indication!
I think so! But as a musician, you know what it takes and I don't really want to push her unless she loves it! If she really wants to get serious, then we'll get serious! But she has her lessons every week, she practices every day. That's already pretty serious for a four-year-old!
But I'm not going to push her anymore than she's pushing herself at the moment, which is fine!
Well, she obviously has been favorably influenced by music!
Yes, she loves it a lot!
You have a very busy schedule coming up, not that that's anything new for you, but I see you have two different trios you're playing with, in 5 days!
Yes, I know! It's kind of interesting how that worked out, I mean we never know how the booking's going to actually happen!
I see!
At least in my case, people say “Would you be interested in doing this?” and I say “Oh sure! That sounds like a lot of fun! And then, the dates fall into place and then you look at your calendar and go “Oh, wow, how did that happen!”
But, you know, I play chamber music so much and I love it so much I'm familiar with a lot of the repertoire. To play Dvorak one week and then the Brahms G Minor the next is really not that big of a deal! So, it'll be fun!
The Dvorak Piano Quartet I think is with the Claremont...
The Brahms is with the KLR, Kalichstein-Laredo...
Robinson, yes.
Then February 19 you will be in New York for the Young Concert Artists 50th Anniversary!
Yes, and in fact I just got an email from them, asking if I could play the Schumann Piano Quintet, in addition to the Mendelssohn Octet on that program!
Oh wow!
I said that that would be no problem, since I'll be there, and obviously I know the repertoire, so that's the way with the chamber music especially, people assume that I know all the repertoire, and say “We need you, so can you come do it?” So yes, I'll be doing two pieces on that program now.

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