CAPA grad auditions for PSO's concertmaster post
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Long before violinist Aaron Boyd set people on the edge of their seats with his playing, he led people to them.
The Brighton Heights native spent a year as an usher in Heinz Hall in 1995, an experience that fanned the flames of passion he had for classical music, and for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
"I saw this as a chance to hear the concerts," says Mr. Boyd, 31. "It was amazing. I just loved that job."
He loves his current job even more. Mr. Boyd is into his second year as the Tucson Symphony concertmaster.
"Of all the things I have done musically, being a concertmaster is the most challenging, and that is why I like it," he says. "It has made me a better violinist in one year. It calls upon diplomatic skills. And in theory the concertmaster should be the best violinist in the orchestra, so if you are asked to demonstrate, you better know your part, and that alone is great incentive to practice.."
Mr. Boyd has impressed enough in his first year to be asked to audition for the empty PSO concertmaster chair created by the departing Andres Cardenes. He did so in May in front of music director Manfred Honeck and the search committee. Mr. Boyd is one of many candidates who have appeared with the PSO or auditioned for the position.
"It is going very well," said Mr. Honeck, who could not discuss individual candidates. "We have very good candidates. I am sure that the process will not be finished tomorrow. We will take probably another year, or two years. The biggest wish is that we have the right candidate."
"It was an honor to be there," said Mr. Boyd.
Mr. Boyd attended the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts for two years, graduating in 1996, but his musical development came in large part from outside the school with local-based teachers Samuel LaRocca and Eugene Phillips.
"I knew from as early as I can remember that I wanted to be a violinist," Mr. Boyd says. "The trigger was my brother taking lessons. I would watch his lessons with LaRocca and after they left, I would go to his case and stare at his instrument." He'd surreptitiously pluck it, too, if he mustered the courage. At 7, he started his own lessons with Mr. LaRocca. "He told my father that from the first moment he put the violin in my hand it was a natural fit."
Mr. Larocca, an Avalon resident, died April 23.
In high school Mr. Boyd studied with Mr. Phillips, renowned teacher in Squirrel Hill and father of Daniel and Todd Phillips of the Orion String Quartet. That training and his talent led the Juilliard School to accept him, but not offer a scholarship. For a father who was a parole officer and a mother who was working as a teacher in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the cost of sending their child to New York City was too much. Mr. Boyd was heartbroken -- until a most extraordinary thing happened.
"The word got around social circles in Pittsburgh and eventually Estelle Campbell heard about me," says Mr. Boyd. "She was an unbelievable person -- brilliant, funny, feisty and extremely generous. She invited my father and me to her apartment on Fifth Avenue and she said she would give me the money to go to Juilliard. I am forever indebted to her. She made my life and my career."
Estelle Smith Campbell of Shadyside died Sept. 25, 1999.
Mr. Boyd attended Juilliard from 1996 to 2000. For several years after he graduated, Mr. Boyd freelanced in New York City, taking any gig he could get -- "Broadway, jingles, orchestra, recordings, pop, chamber music, contemporary, you name it," he says. But after he and his wife had a baby, he knew things had to change. "I could no longer tolerate not knowing what I would make with a beautiful baby girl."
What he has known he can make easily is music, and lots of it. Mr. Boyd has played the Marlboro, Tanglewood and La Jolla festivals, performed with the Beaux Arts Trio, the Juilliard, Guarneri and Orion string quartets, and collaborated with renowned artists such as Phillippe Entremont, Mitsuko Uchida, Anner Bylsma and Dick Hyman. He also is on the violin faculty of the University of Arizona and tours Japan every summer.
But his hometown is never far from his mind.
"I am very proud of having come from Pittsburgh, and from the Pittsburgh Public Schools, and I have been extremely lucky having these teachers."
First Published July 14, 2010 12:00 am