“Your viola remains a source of great joy to me.”
Like many violists, I started out on the violin; I took up the viola the summer before high school, but at first only to play in orchestral and chamber groups. As high school progressed, I came to the conclusion that I was better suited for viola than the violin, and so decided to audition for conservatories on the former. My viola at the time actually belonged to my violin teacher; my Doug Cox viola was the first I actually purchased.
I entered Oberlin Conservatory, but midway through my second year I switched to the College and became a classics major, learning and reading Homer in ancient Greek. I kept playing the viola and taking private lessons, while also taking advantage of various world music classes on offer. I learned some of the rhythms of Arabic percussion, Brazilian samba, and Indian classical music, participated in one of two Javanese gamelan ensembles, and played viola for a semester in the college's Balkan Music Ensemble.
After finishing my degree, I immigrated to Israel and signed up for a year and a half of volunteer service, during which I learned Hebrew and went to work in COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), which is the military administration in charge of the West Bank and the border crossings into Gaza. My base was just outside the city of Jericho, near the Dead Sea and the spot on the Jordan River at which Jesus was baptized. I could only play viola on weekends at home on my kibbutz, but play I did, and somehow I managed to avoid going rusty during my service At the end of my service, I saw an opening for auditions at the Israel Chamber Orchestra based in Jaffa, took the chance, and got to play in some performances with them. I might try to make my living this way, but haven't come to a conclusion just yet.
While in college, I began searching for a viola of my own. My uncle suggested I go to Doug Cox to see if he had something I might like, and as it turned out, my future viola was there waiting for me. It was different from the other violas I had tried; it seemed that, in addition to a well-rounded, sweet and complex sound, it also had a sweet character, sort of like an old friend one can always strike up a conversation with. I've grown very attached to it, and it has remained a source of great joy to me throughout my acclimation to my new home.