Meet the Musicians

Meet the Musicians

Get to know the amazing musicians of the Memphis Symphony!

Karen Casey

Karen Casey

MSO First Season: 1976-1977

One cooling fall day in 1959, Mrs. Reeves sent me home with a violin. It was the beginning of the Alachua County string program in Gainesville, Florida. I can't say I fell in love on that day, but my father, bless him, took the ball and ran with it. Private lessons came shortly after, as well as piano lessons, and by 7th grade, the alarm clock was set for 5 a.m. so that practice could be completed before school.

I transitioned to viola in college, and there the love began. I had found an instrument that was in my vocal range! Though my dad wanted me to take the sensible route (" Get a degree in education!"), I wanted only to play, so my first degree in Music Performance at University of Miami led me to a graduate assistantship at Memphis State, where I majored in performance, and minored in Suzuki Pedagogy (maybe Dad might be right!).

After being in Memphis a couple years, I was invited to audition for the MSO. Auditions were not nearly the rigorous affair they are today! I just stood on the stage in Harris Auditorium, behind a jerry-rigged screen, and played the requested excerpts, then waited a few minutes for the committee to confer. In a minute or two, Maestro DeFrank said, "welcome to the orchestra." I am not exaggerating when I say every subsequent decision I have made has been affected by my membership in this orchestra. To play is to live, and "making a living" must be worked around that core belief.

So I end again with my favorite viola joke - "What do you do with a dead viola player? Move her to the back of the section!" Thanks, Dad.