Monday, March 11, 2024

Suni Norman in Conversation with Christian Baldini

On March 17, I will have the pleasure of conducting Sibelius' Violin Concerto with Suni Norman with the Camellia Symphony Orchestra in Sacramento, as part of our "Rising Stars" concert series. On the same program we will also feature Salomé Ospina playing the Grieg Piano Concerto. Below is an interview with Suni:

Christian Baldini: Welcome, Suni. I am delighted to feature you as our soloist with our orchestra. Tell me, what are some of the features of the Sibelius Concerto that you enjoy the most? What would you say to someone who does not know this piece, what should they listen for?

Suni Norman: Sibelius Violin Concerto is one of my favorite concerti — this concerto has the perfect amount of soaring melodies and virtuosic passages. Sibelius wanted to be a professional violinist, but due to starting at a late age he was never good enough to fulfill his dream of joining the Vienna Philharmonic. This piece encompasses Sibelius’s failed dream to become a professional violinist. He includes virtuosic techniques from Paganini and Wieniawski, and some Bach-like material can even be heard throughout.

CB: Besides the Sibelius Concerto, what are some of your other favorite pieces, and why?

SN: My favorite pieces are always changing, but right now I love listening to Mozart! I love listening to Mitsuko Uchida’s Mozart Piano Concertos. Mozart’s music is very bright and happy — at the end of the day it gives my brain a break from all the music I’m playing.

CB: You were born in Utah, and you have studied with wonderful teachers, and have been a laureate of important competitions including the Stradivarius one. How did it all start for you with music? Who have been your most important mentors?

SN: I had a computer game when I was 3 years old called JumpStart Toddlers. In the game there was an interactive orchestra and if you clicked on the instruments they would play a song. The violin played the beginning of “Spring” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and I thought it was the coolest thing (probably because it was one of the only tunes I recognized). I ended up starting years later, and decided it was what I ultimately wanted to have a career in. My most important mentors have been my violin teachers Soovin Kim and Chen Zhao.

CB: You are a supernumerary with both the San Francisco Symphony and the Utah Symphony. What can you tell us about playing with these two wonderful orchestras? Do you have some specific favorite projects with them and different conductors that you could share with us?

SN: One of my favorite performances was Mahler 6 with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. It was inspiring to play with a conductor and ensemble who know the Mahler symphonies like the back of their hand.

CB: What is your advice for young musicians? How do you best deal with challenges, frustration and adversity?

SN: My advice for young musicians is to take it slow and relax. Enjoy the process and know progress isn’t always a steady slope up. Sometimes we need bad days to appreciate when we sound good!

CB: Thank you for your time Suni, and I look forward to making music with you in Sacramento!

SN: Thanks Maestro, looking forward to a fun Sibelius Concerto!

Suni Norman is an accomplished violinist from Tooele, Utah. She is a laureate of multiple violin competitions including the Stradivarius Competition. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from New England Conservatory and an Artist Diploma from San Francisco Conservatory. Norman has participated in festivals such as New York String Orchestra, Music Academy of the West, Colorado College Festival, Heifetz and Kneisel Hall. 

Norman has appeared as a soloist and chamber musician across the United States. Notably, she has recently collaborated with eminent musicians including Ben Beilman, Robert Mcdonald, Marcy Rosen, Shai Wosner, as well as quartets such as Borromeo, Miro, Takács and Fry Street. 

Suni Norman is currently a supernumerary for San Francisco and Utah Symphony orchestras. She is also featured on an episode of PBS’s Now Hear This (Copland: Dean of American Music). 

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