Meet the Musicians

Meet the Musicians

Get to know the amazing musicians of the Memphis Symphony!

Michelle Pellay-Walker

Michelle Pellay-Walker

Assistant Principal

Colleges attended: Southwestern at Memphis (Bachelor of Music, 1980), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Master of Music, 1983)
Most influential musical teachers: There are three teachers who stand out above all the rest: John Wehlan (viola), Vincent de Frank (conductor), and Linda Jackson (piano). No, I didn’t take conducting lessons, but it was under Mr. de Frank (first in the Memphis Youth Symphony and later in the MSO) that I really learned how to be a good orchestral musician. In addition to piano, Mrs. Jackson saw that I was well grounded in basic music theory—and she also accompanied every audition I ever played as a violist! I had nine years of study with Mr. Wehlan (who, by the way, was Principal Violist of the MSO and Associate Professor of Music at Southwestern at Memphis) during my high school and undergraduate years. He was a phenomenal musician, a generous and giving instructor, and he wound up being a close and treasured friend once I returned home as a bona fide professional musician.
Other important teachers and coaches: Guillermo Perich (Professor of Viola at UofI); Anne Epperson, Ian Hobson, and Catherine Tait (all UofI chamber music coaches during my grad school years)
First Season with the MSO: 1977-1978. I took six years off (1981-1987) for graduate school and my first job, came back to Memphis at the end of September of 1987 to rejoin the MSO, and have been here ever since. The 2012-2013 season will be my 30th with the MSO.
Other orchestra positions held: Savannah Symphony Orchestra, Missouri Chamber Orchestra (Principal Viola); Tennessee Summer Symphony (Principal Viola). For two years (1993-1995) I also served as Acting Principal Violist of the MSO. Played as an Extra off and on with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra while in Savannah.
Teaching Positions: Adjunct Instructor (Music Appreciation, Basic Music Theory, College Survival Skills): Southwest Tennessee Community College; University of Memphis. I also taught viola at the University of Memphis during the summer of 1992 when the college was between full-time teachers. Have coached chamber music through both the Community Music School and Memphis Music Camp off and on since the mid-2000s.
As a Chamber Musician: Violist and founding member, Bluff City String Quartet (Memphis, TN); Violist, Empire String Quartet (Savannah, GA).
Appeared as a soloist with: Germantown Symphony Orchestra; Baroque & Classical Chamber Orchestra of Memphis; Camerata String Ensemble (Jackson, TN); Tennessee Summer Symphony; Dyersburg College Community Orchestra
Notable achievements: Performing as viola soloist with the Combined Choirs of Calvary Episcopal Church on Tennessee Day at the Washington National Cathedral in 2005—that’s the big one (and I gave up an entire MasterWorks week here in order to do it!!). I also received the Dr. Marian B. Ham Award for Outstanding Adjunct Faculty at State Technical Institute at Memphis in 2000, just before the college combined with Shelby State to form STCC.
MSO Community Involvement: Soulsville mentoring, CAPA Virtuosi mentoring, string quartet performances at facilities specializing in care for the elderly, music history presentations in connection with our concert programming.

 

FUN FACTS!


Favorite Memphis restaurant: Café Society (Paul and I refer to it as “Our Place”), and I have to include Bari as a close runner-up since we had our Rehearsal Dinner there—it’s far and away the best Italian restaurant in Memphis.
Describe your family and pets: I’ve been married for a little over a year to The Most Wonderful Man In The World. Paul (Pellay) is a composer and a freelance music editor in Canterbury, England—and his first commercial CD has just been released (shameless plug—I’m very proud of my husband). By the way, Paul received his DMA in Composition at the University of Memphis (1993)!! My younger sister Monica teaches Health & Physical Education at a middle school in Nashville, and she’s habitually the life of the party! I grew up with an adorable French Poodle named Chi-Chi, whom I have missed for a very long time now. I owe a great debt of thanks to my paternal grandparents (George and Florence Walker) for giving me all the opportunities and encouragement necessary to become a professional musician.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go: First on the list: An Alaska Inside Passage cruise! Next: Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and the South Pacific Islands in general. Third: St. Petersburg and the Hermitage Museum there!
Favorite hobby: My interests cover a wide range, and include (but are not limited to): architecture, ballroom dancing, geology, gourmet cooking, journaling, marine biology (which I seriously considered majoring in), needlework, photography, politics, puzzle and word games, reading, sports (I wanted to be a baseball player before I got serious about music), and traveling.
Age you started your instrument: About twelve-and-a-half; I was in the middle of my 7th grade year. My musical background is a lot earlier than that: I started playing piano at age three or four, and started guitar lessons when I was eight.
What inspired you to make music your career: The sound of the symphony orchestra—I wanted to be a part of that!
Favorite book, movie, or TV show: Book(s): David Weber’s “Honor Harrington” science-fiction series; Movie: The Sound of Music; TV show(s): A tossup between “The West Wing” and “Boston Legal.” And yes, and I’ll watch almost ANYTHING that has Gordon Ramsay in it—a true guilty pleasure!
Most embarrassing moment on stage: My first concert with the MSO—my very first one!—a string broke right before the beginning of the overture. I had to leave the stage and change it before the second number. Not a particularly auspicious beginning to my professional career!
Favorite composer or piece of music: That’s a really tough call, but at the end of the day, Brahms and Bach lead the way. One sentimental favourite of mine is the second movement of the Brahms 1st Piano Concerto. Another is the first movement of Bach’s Cantata 29. The latter has inspired many composers over the years, and it’s easy to hear why!
Interesting Fact about yourself: In many ways, I’m a woman of two worlds: Memphis, Tennessee, and Canterbury, England. Paul shares my love of travel (though both of us HATE flying these days!), so a “Transatlantic” marriage suits us quite well.