go back
May 14, 2024

Get to Know DCYOP Alumni Edition: Kathy Nierenz

In this edition of Get to Know DCYOP, we wanted to introduce you to one of very special alums, Kathy Nierenz, who served as concertmaster in a special alumni side-by-side performance with the Young Virtuosi for DCYOP’s first annual Community Day celebration at the Kennedy Center last month. An accomplished violinist, Kathy has taught violin, viola and orchestra at the Music School of the Hanseatic City of Lueneburg, Germany for the last 35 years. Read on to learn more about Kathy and how DCYOP deeply impacted her decision to pursue a flourishing career in music.

Where did you grow up?
In DC/ in the Brookland area in N.E.

How did you get started in music and what was your path to DCYOP?
I started playing the violin at John Burroughs Elementary School because my older sister, Nancy, did that a few years before. Soon after, I started to take private lessons with Margaret Wright in Rockville-because my sister, Nancy, did that too!  I heard about DCYOP through my sister, Nancy, who was enrolled in DCYOP. I owe it all to my sister, Nancy.

How did your DCYOP experience influence your decision to pursue a career in music?
I first started out in the junior orchestra. About 8 months before the senior orchestra participated in the Festival of Youth Orchestras in Scotland and London, I was picked to take part in the tour. Playing Mahler’s 5th Symphony was the eye-opener. I’d never played such powerful and emotional music before in my life and afterwards I just wanted to do that. Every time I hear or have  played this symphony it always brings me back to my experience with DCYO.

What is one of your favorite DCYOP memories as a student?
My most favorite memory is the performance in London, where I started to cry after the slow movement. I remember vividly how proud Lyn and we all were for pulling the whole symphony off- after all, it is long and not the easiest piece to play.

What are some of the most important lessons you learned at DCYOP?
Lesson 1: you have to practice Lesson 2: no practice-no fun  Lesson 3: (and this one is the most important to me) orchestra playing is all about the common goal of playing in a team; learning that the success of a performance depends on EVERYONE doing their very best. I learned all of this from Lyn McClain and have over the years tried to incorporate these very basic principles into my own orchestra teaching.

What was your educational/career path after high school?
Still in high school I had the privilege to be participate in the BUTI Program (Boston University Tanglewood Institute). It was there that I met the teacher I wanted to work with at Boston University, Roger Shermont, who was in the first violin section of the Boston Symphony. Because of him  I ultimately ended up going to the Boston University College of Fine Arts. At that time, the emphasis in the music department at Boston University was orchestra training. Joseph Silverstein, the former concertmaster of BSO was also on the staff there and conducted master classes. My chamber music coach was Eugene Lehner who was the violist in the legendary Kolisch Quartet, which premiered almost all quartets written in the early to mid 2000’s. My orchestra instructor was Viktor Yampolsky, also violinist with BSO and former conductor of the Omaha Symphony and National Symphony Orchester in South Africa. Wow, what a line up of great teachers and mentors I had! After my graduation I went to Germany, where I have lived now for over 40 years

Who is one of your favorite performers? Why?
I have quite a few, it usually depends on what kind of mood I’m in. I will start with my current ones: Cecile McClorin Slavant (jazz singer) and her accompanist Sullivan Fortner. Why? Cecile studied baroque singing in France and has an impeccable technique. She’s the only jazz vocalist that I know who can change the timbre so eloquently depending on which genre and what language she’s singing. Sullivan Fortner is simply a genius with Mozartian qualities. The way he can use the simplest musical motive and turn it into something bigger than us all is absolutely breathtaking. On the classical side, I am a great fan of the pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason from England. She, as well as her other 4 incredibly talented siblings, is especially keen on giving composers of color their rightful chance to be heard. Her interpretation of The Bamboula from Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is my all-time favorite. I hope that she is as reknowned in the States as she is in Europe. As for my violin heroines, I have to mention Isabella Faust and Hillary Hahn. Sorry, but it was impossible to name just one.

What is one of your favorite pieces of music? Why?
Will always be Mahler’s 5th Symphony for the above-named reasons

What are your interests outside of music?
Don’t really have any, because there’s no time for them. Ask me again when I retire in 2 years.

What do you love most about DC and/or what are you most excited about doing/seeing while you are here this weekend?
I grew up in DC, so it’s always a pleasure to be here. I especially love riding the metro. I can vividly remember when the system was inaugurated. I am most excited about playing again in the Kennedy Center. The last time I played there was in 1974 for the DCYOP’s farewell concert from  before we left for Europe. If it weren’t for DCYOP I would not have pursued a career in music. It is a great honor for me to give something back to the very institution that gave me so much.

#Uncategorized