Musicians

Theresa Cleary

At what age did you start playing the viola? Did you learn another instrument first?

Before I played a string instrument, I sang in choir and played handbells at six years old. I began learning the violin at age 8, but discovered my love for viola in 9th grade and never turned back.

Why did you choose the viola?

My ear has always gravitated to the middle and lower voices, so when I discovered viola after playing violin, it felt like the perfect fit for me. Viola felt like home!

How long have you played with the PSO?

I joined the PSO as a permanent member in the 2019-2020 season.

Where do you live?

Andover, MA

Do you play with any other groups?

In addition to the PSO, I am principal violist of the New Hampshire Philharmonic. I freelance with various groups in MA and NH, and for many years performed in two rock bands, As the Sparrow and Arms & Ears.

What do you like about playing with a symphony orchestra?

I love being one small piece in the center of an astounding whole. Especially as a violist and an “inner voice”, being in an orchestra feels like being a single brushstroke within a masterful oil painting, and the painting is made beautiful by the balance and interplay of all the brushstrokes blending together. I love the endless textures and colors that can be created with the orchestral configuration of instruments. To me, it is unmatched. One of the greatest feelings in the world is when time fades away as you play and you find yourself part of a sacred energy of sorts-this “flow” doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does there is nothing like it. 

How do you spend your time outside of the PSO?

I work full time in the Westborough Public Schools teaching music and strings to 4th, 5th, and 6th graders and am adjunct professor of String Pedagogy at UMass Lowell. Outside of musical commitments, I love to spend time with my family and my fiance, Rob. I deeply appreciate visual art and wish I had more time to make it myself. I’m also a history buff and animal lover. Lately though, much of my time has been spent planning my wedding which is right around the corner in November 2022!

What is your favorite piece of music to play on the viola?

This is almost an impossible question to answer since there is just so much excellent repertoire out there, but a few favorites that are very close to my heart include: Suite Hébraïque by Ernest Bloch, String Quartet No. 8 in C minor by Dmitri Shostakovich, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor.

Tell us about your musical education.

My musical education started at home growing up in a musical family! My mother was a professional organist who introduced me and my siblings to music right from the start. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Viola Performance from UMass Lowell and a master’s in Music Education from Gordon College. I have studied privately with Elliott Markow, Loren Pearson, Scott Woolweaver and Mark Berger.

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