March 6, 2017
Meet Rebecca Albers
Member since: 2010
Position: Principal Viola
Hometown: Longmont, CO
Education: The Juilliard School
Do you come from a musical family?
I do. My dad was a pianist and high school choir director, my mom is a recently-retired Suzuki violin teacher, one of my sisters is the associate concertmaster of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and my other sister is the principal cellist of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. My brother is a carpenter.
The Albers sisters: Rebecca (playing Julie's cello), Laura playing violin and Julie playing piano.
How did you choose the viola?
Like many violists, I started on the violin. When I was nine or ten, my mom asked me if I would be interested in learning to read alto clef because she needed a violist to play with her students in a string quartet. I said yes, and that was the beginning of the end for me and the violin. I started attending summer chamber music festivals as a violist and I couldn't get enough of the instrument. I fell in love with its voice and role, and was particularly thrilled to have a C string instead of an E string. I tried to switch over to viola officially when I was 14, but was convinced to stick it out with the violin for a few more years in order to build up my technique through learning violin repertoire. I finally made the change just before college and have happily not looked back.
Rebecca also learned to play the harp. She says, "I ultimately chose between viola and harp career-wise when I decided to audition for college on viola."
Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
Try not to get stuck doing just what's comfortable or familiar. In your own playing and thinking, challenge yourself to always be searching instead of settling. Go to as many concerts as you can, and listen to vocal music and music written for instruments you don't play.
If you could play a different instrument, which would you choose and why?
I would play horn or trombone. I'd like to play horn because composers often reserve the most powerful, meaningful moment in a piece for a horn solo. While it's satisfying to listen to that moment, I can only imagine how exhilarating it must be to soar above the orchestra and play it. I'm not sure why I have trombone envy, except that one of my best friends in high school played it and it always seemed like fun. Also, speaking as a violist, it would be particularly enjoyable to sit on the other side of that bell for once (notice our position on stage)!
What are your most memorable Minnesota Orchestra performances?
Three very different concerts come to mind immediately. The first was my first performance at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra. We went to New York right after my first tenure review meeting. I had been told in the meeting that I could play out more and not be so worried about fitting in. That concert was the first time I truly felt comfortable playing in the section, because I had finally realized that I could be myself while still matching my colleagues, and that was actually exactly what they wanted from me.
The second concert was the first musician-produced concert I played during the lockout. It was, of course, a huge relief to be playing with my colleagues again, but the atmosphere in the hall and the incredible power of the audience's support was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I'm happy to say I have felt it many times since, and in much happier circumstances.
The third was our concert in Cuba when we performed both the Cuban and American National Anthems. Feeling the audience gradually realize what we were doing, feeling their disbelief turn to joy and pride—I was in tears.
Do you have any advice for audience members?
If you feel moved to clap after an exciting movement, go for it—I’m with you! When you're listening to/watching a performance, trust your instincts, but try to keep an open mind. Chances are, you know more than you give yourself credit for, and when it comes to reactions to art, every different perspective is valid.
What are you listening to lately?
Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Schubert piano sonatas, Radiohead, whatever is on The Current and whatever I'm playing next week.
If I weren’t a professional musician I’d be:
Working with animals or trying to make it as a journalist.
"This is usually where I end up as soon as I put my viola down after work!" says Rebecca, here with one of her two dogs.
When you’re not performing or practicing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
My wife, Maiya, and I have two cats and two dogs, and our non-musical life pretty much revolves around them and their happiness. I love exploring the twin cities and surrounding area with the dogs, and try to find a new place to take them every week. I also enjoy knitting, partially because it means I can binge-watch TV without feeling guilty, and partially because the process of creating something tangible with my hands is so satisfying.
Rebecca with her wife, Maiya, in Iceland. Photo credit: Osmo Vänskä
To read more about Rebecca Albers, visit minnesotaorchestra.org/about.