Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Alexandra Simpson in Conversation with Christian Baldini

On Sunday, March 19, 2023, I will have to pleasure of conducting a program featuring two wonderful Rising Stars on works for violin and orchestra (with Ani Bukujian), and viola and orchestra (with Alexandra Simpson), to crown the program with both of them together in Mozart's beloved Sinfonia Concertante. This will be with the Camellia Symphony Orchestra in Sacramento. I had the chance of asking Allie a few questions, and below are her answers:

Christian Baldini: Allie, what a pleasure it is to be making music with you again! And I am also excited about the wonderful work that you have chosen: the Rhapsody Concerto by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů. Please tell me, how did you choose this work? What are some of the things you like the most about it? There is an interesting connection between this work and the San Francisco Symphony, and our region. Please tell us, what will people love about this work?
Alexandra Simpson: Such a pleasure to be back!! I have always wanted to perform this piece- it has such soaring, gorgeous melodies but also a lot of emotional depth a virtuosity. There are also some really intense moments that are almost like heavy metal rock! It does have a very interesting connection to SFS- it was commissioned by the Principal Violist at the time, Jascha Veissi. He was from Ukraine originally and his beautiful deSalo viola inspired Martinu with its sound like a human voice!

CB: In addition, we will also get to perform the beautiful Sinfonia Concertante by Mozart with you and Ani as our soloists. What are some of the things you like the most about this piece?
AS: Mozart never wrote a concerto just for viola, so it’s such a thrill to play a Mozart concerto- and this one is just one of the most beautiful pieces ever written. I’ve always loved it- it has such playfulness and joy, like two puppies chasing each other. It shows off the virtuosity of both instruments without being too over- the-top, and the slow movement is just divine. 

CB: How is it to collaborate with another soloist on a concertante piece? What qualities do you look for in such a partner? What can you tell us about Ani and her role in this piece?
AS: As a violist, I’m often serving as a mediator of sound between violin and cello, so it’s so fun to be in a collaborative solo position. Ani is so incredibly inspiring to work with- just hearing her and trying to blend to her sound makes me a better player. She has that rare combination of world-class technical ability and soulful playing that I always love to hear and play with. 

CB: What would be your advice to young musicians who are starting off with a professional career in music? What are some of the challenges we face, and how do we deal with them?
AS: I would tell young musicians that everyone fails, but the people who achieve great things know how to recover from failure and keep trying! So many things can happen thanks to luck, so your odds are better if you’re willing to learn from mistakes and keep working. 

CB: Thank you very much for your time, I look forward to this new collaboration with you!
AS: so excited to work with you and this beautiful orchestra!


Alexandra Simpson has traveled the world as a performer and educator: from Bucaramanga, Colombia to Cornwall, England. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, freelancing as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral player- primarily as the Assistant Principal Violist of the California Symphony.

Alexandra has appeared as a soloist with Camellia Symphony Orchestra, Marin Symphony, SFCM New Music Ensemble, and Classical Music Institute Chamber Orchestra. As a chamber musician, Alexandra travels frequently to festivals to perform, learn, and teach. Alexandra has participated in the Prussia Cove International Musicians’ Seminar, Kneisel Hall, Glenn Douglas Memorial Chamber Festival, Bard Music Colombia, Musikiwest Chamberfest in Pebble Beach, and Classical Music Institute in San Antonio, Texas. As an orchestra musician, she has played with San Francisco Symphony and SFOpera, and served as Principal Violist for OPERA San Antonio Fresno Symphony, Stockton Symphony, One Found Sound, and Merced Symphony.

Alexandra performs regularly in the Bay Area, and has given chamber music concerts at Herbst Theater, Old North Church, Berkeley Piano Club, Piedmont Center for the Arts, and with Benicia Chamber Players. She accompanied international superstar DJ Kygo at the closing act of Outside Lands in 2019, and in 2022 at BottleRock in Napa. She has appeared in music videos for Chuck Prophet and Mercury Soul, and appeared in Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's keynote for the 2020 Build Conference, as well as advertisements for Microsoft Teams. Alexandra also joined the string sections for Michael Buble, Josh Groban and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and performed at The Queen's Ball: A Bridgerton Experience.

Alexandra earned her Bachelor of Music studying with renowned and Grammy-winning violist Kim Kashkashian at New England Conservatory, with the Donald Green and Lotta Crabtree Scholarships. She received both a Master of Music and Master of Musical Arts from Yale School of Music. While at Yale, Alexandra taught New Haven schoolchildren through the Yale Music in Schools initiative and developed a passion for teaching in underserved communities. Festivals such as Classical Music Institute and Bard Music Colombia have allowed her to develop this passion all over the world. In addition to teaching privately, she also teaches in underserved schools of Daly City through the Harmony Project.

While studying chamber music at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, she received coachings and lessons from world-class musicians, including Dimitri Murrath, Ian Swensen, Bonnie Hampton and the Telegraph Quartet. She had the opportunity to receive masterclasses from Kim Kashkashian, Hsin-Yun Huang, and Milena Pajaro-van-de-Stadt, and participate in residency performances with Tessa Lark, Owen Dalby, Norman Fisher, and Itamar Zorman.

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