Christian Hoschek '12 is a second year Viola Performance Major at The Boston Conservatory. The founder of Fenway Strings, a student-led Chamber Quartet for weddings and events in Boston, Christian currently lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. Kurt Schmidlein ‘09 in the Development Office interviewed him for this blog.
Hi Christian! You graduated from High Mowing in 2012—what have you been up to since?
After I graduated HMS I enrolled at the Boston Conservatory. I’m now a second year student under the guidance of my viola teacher, Lenny Matczynski. I’m extremely grateful to be surrounded by music in so many ways; I live with three composers in Brookline, Mass. In addition to playing with the BOCO Orchestra at venues like Sanders Theatre at Harvard University and at Boston Symphony Hall, I was invited to play with the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra led by Ben Zander. We will be performing at Carnegie Hall on December 9th. I can’t wait for that performance.
Ben believes in teaching and inspiring young people with the power of music. At every rehearsal he gives us an assignment for the week. For example, one week it could be to do something we have never thought about before: to be brave. Another one would be to speak with clarity and conviction—to be strong in our will. Each week is an opportunity to embark on a little journey of learning. He is such a positive person and his optimism radiates. Our playing becomes that much more alive because he is so passionate about it.
How did High Mowing support your passion for music?
HMS let me follow my own path. I took all the opportunities to play music that I could. I was part of the Sinfonietta, I played Jazz Ensemble, and the Music Director at the time, Elise Macdonald, was instrumental in coaching me for the NH All-State Music Festival. Under her guidance I got into the NH All-State all four years. Ultimately, HMS helped support my musical pursuits by allowing me the freedom and flexibility to design my own independent study program which helped me focus my practicing and prepare for conservatory auditions.
What was your Senior Project at High Mowing?
I learned how to build a viola. If I weren’t a musician, I think I would have probably turned out to be some sort of designer or engineer because I love to work with my hands. The Senior Project allowed me to express that side of my personality.
I knew about violas from the perspective of a musician but I wanted to understand them from the perspective of a craftsperson. I wanted to understand how all the elements combined to make music. I was very fortunate to be able to work with an excellent local luthier named Russ Gebhart on my project. I learned about the mathematics of proportion, about qualities of tone wood (wood that is used for instrument making) and about frequencies and vibrations.
Let me tell you, using the old hand-crafted method is an arduous and meticulous process. Everything must be done with hand tools—no power tools, no sandpaper even. But by being so slow, I really started to understand how the instrument actually works—how the bass bar transmits sound through the face of the instrument and how the sound post transmits the vibrations.
During the project, the viola became alive for me. I developed a totally different relationship to it; I knew every nook and cranny. In fact, the process really emboldened me to dedicate my life to music; It was then that I fully committed to my musical studies. I learned the physics of playing and how to create a beautiful sound and this in turn made me a better musician.
HMS gave me the opportunity to find myself in my art and helped me realize why I play music. The viola that I built is still a work in progress—just like my playing. Just like all of us I guess.
What advice would you give to music students at High Mowing today?
I would tell them to follow their musical passions and to say yes to all the opportunities that come their way. HMS is a really supportive and creative environment and there have been some amazing musicians that have passed through those halls. Put yourself out there, be confident, and shoot for the stars!
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