So You’re a Violist…Additional Musings on Music in BF:

Yes, my instrument burns longer, holds more Kool-Aid, and has a dead person on the outside (compared to a violin).

My musical journey started when I was almost 4, and I was taking Suzuki Violin Lessons…I continued with violin and attended Interlochen Arts Camp for 6 years and joined a weekly youth orchestra. During my 7th summer at Interlochen I had a new violin teacher, and she asked me how tall I was and if I had any interest playing viola. She said that if I could rent a viola, that she would give me free lessons.  That summer I was hooked on Alto Clef, and there was no turning back


Junior year of High School…

I played viola in my orchestra class, and started preparing repertoire for  music school auditions the next year. I wanted to be in music education, and I knew that auditions were going to be difficult. I went back to Interlochen the next year on Viola, and had a great time and even made it into the top orchestra, which  would have never happened if I continued playing violin.


Senior Year of High School…

I applied to 7 schools. 6 were music schools, one was an Ivy League school and my father’s alma mater. Long story short, I was invited to audition at all 6 music schools. I took the auditions at 5 institutions, when I found out that the 6th and my music education aspirations were incompatible. The audition process was not particularly fun or fulfilling and I got into one school for academics only, not music, and the University of Illinois for music education.  4 years later I graduated from U of I with my BME.


In Africa

My axe:

16.5” viola

Coda Bow SX – acquired pre-Africa

Purple Fiberglass Bow

BAM Contour case – acquired pre-Africa


I purchased a new 16.5” viola before I left from my local string shop, and I also picked up an extra fiberglass bow. My Burkina Viola is not as nice as my standard one, but t works. The strings stay relatively in tune and the soundpost has not yet fallen down, so all is good. I try and practice my viola at least once a week.  Stage runs from 8am-5pm, and the sun goes down pretty early here (around 6:30) so it’s hard to practice by flashlight. My host family likes my ukulele better, but they enjoy listening to me practice (I think).  I know that once I get to site I will be able to practice in the morning before it gets too hot.  I know that regulating humidity during the “cold” season (December-March, and no it’s not really that cold, I believe it gets down to the low 50s) and hot season (March-May).


I also have a Flea Ukulele, which I absolutely adore. It is so easy to play, and I can play a lot of pop songs on it. I know that I would never lose my musical ability, but certainly during stage, sometimes the last thing I want to do is to practice for an hour. I get home, take my bucket bath, eat, and go to bed.


Music education is not really part of the education curriculum here, so I would ideally want to start a music club or at least a group that can play together and have jam sessions. As we are agents of sustainable development, I would hate to create a youth orchestra/music group, and then have it dissolve as soon as I leave the country.  However, music is  a huge part of Burkinabe culture, as seen in the previous post. Every Buvette/Marquee/Night Spot has music, and for some reason here in Burkina they really like Celine Dion, and Akon (who is Senegalese). Also, many families have a boombox that they can hook up to their car battery and blast music that way. Burkinabe volume is like a 12…music everywhere here is super super loud.


One response to “So You’re a Violist…Additional Musings on Music in BF:

  1. I look forward to the hearing the songs you have learned from your visit. Be a student and bring us back some songs.

    I love your blog and am going to send it out to mue grads.


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