UW-Eau Claire will host the Viola Jamboree

An event to highlight the history of the viola will take place next weekend

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Photo by Sadie Sedlmayr

Professor Molly Gebrian brings violists together for a day of celebration

A day of celebration and a night of string music appreciation – it’s going to be an event to remember.

The Viola Jamboree, held on Feb. 27, will showcase viola players from middle school, high school, graduate school and professionals.

Molly Gebrian, assistant professor of viola and music theory at UW-Eau Claire, will be coordinating this jamboree, playing a piece by Garth Knox.

“It is all plucking and not with a bow,” Gebrian said. “I use everything but my thumb to play.”

She said her former teacher, Peter Slowik, will be the guest performer. He will be performing a solo piece by a contemporary composer named Gardner.

Gebrian said she will be performing a duet with him – a piece by composer Alessandro Rolla.

Slowik will also lead the college viola ensemble, and will be teaching a masterclass at the concert.

“It’s kind of like a one-one-one lesson, but in public,” She said. “So, five different violists will be performing for him – two from here, two from the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, and one from Platteville.”

In the afternoon, Gebrian said, Slowik is also doing a class for college advanced violists called a technique tune-up. This piece is supposed to sound like an improvisation, she said.

The Viola Ensemble at Eau Claire will play a piece that is based on an Irish folk tune. All 80 participants will perform a big piece together called “ViolaPalooza” by a violist named Michael Kimber. A total of eight selected pieces will be performed.

“It’s a really fun, silly piece,” Gabrien said. “We shout in the middle of it and my students came up with choreography, which made it even sillier.“

Concert-goers will also hear a wide variety of music from “Star Wars” to the classical “Brandenburg Concerto No. 6” by Bach.

Gebrian said most people didn’t know what the viola was until around the 20th century. Still, it wasn’t an instrument of notoriety.

“Either someone who wanted to play other instruments but got told ‘no’ were put on the viola or musicians that got too old to play would be given a viola,” Gebrian said. “There is sort of that tradition in viola playing and violists typically feel kind of ignored by everybody and forgotten.”

Because of this, she wants to bring the awareness back to the viola players, being that the purpose of this event is to celebrate the viola and bring violists together.

She said she started preparing for the event over a year ago. She got a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board. All events will be on campus in the Haas Fine Arts Building.

“Hopefully we see people having a really good time,” Gabrien said.

The Viola Jamboree performances are from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Feb. 27 in Haas Fine Arts with a concert immediately following at 5 p.m. Anyone is welcome to attend.