Stephanie Zyzak is our violin soloist for the May 4 performance of the Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra by Brahms. The cello soloist will be Eunghee Cho. In the same program, we’ll also include Esteban Benzecry’s Rituales Amerindios, and Ann Cleare’s phôsphors (… of ether).
Christian Baldini: First of all, thank you for taking the time to respond to these questions. We very much look forward to featuring you as our soloist at UC Davis. Tell us about your childhood and early musical education. How did you start? You were obviously a prodigy, playing the violin since age 4 and performing as a soloist with an orchestra at 7. Did that have much of an impact in your daily life? Did you still attend school? Did you play with other children? Tell us anything you’d like about your childhood, routine, and things that you enjoyed the most.
Stephanie Zyzak: I’m not sure if I ever viewed myself as a prodigy of any sort – I was just fortunate to have had the right people at the right time in my life. My childhood was fairly normal and I was able to attend school through the 8th grade while traveling and playing concerts. Music was just something that I felt an affinity to and I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing the violin.
CB: Who are your favorite composers, and why?
SZ: Because there are so many incredible composers, my favorites are the ones whose works I’m playing at the time. In this case it’s Brahms, Debussy, Dvorak, and Beethoven. But I’m certain in a couple weeks I will have a different answer to this question.
At the same time, the great composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Brahms (to name a few) are favorites of everyone because their music speaks to our souls. In the end, I think we all strive for human connection and commonalities in one another and their music resonates and speaks emotionally to us because they (and their experiences) were after all, human. Humans with the extraordinary ability to translate these emotions and experiences into the incredible music that we are privileged to play.
CB: Are there any particular teachers or mentors, and/or inspirational figures in your life that you will always be grateful to? Why?
SZ: Miriam Fried who was my teacher at New England Conservatory where I completed my Bachelor and Masters degrees. She really opened my eyes to the meaning and message of the music and how to communicate this through sound. Without a doubt, she has had the most influence on the way I think about music. I’ve also been extremely fortunate to have had Miriam and her husband Paul Biss as a mentor and I will always be grateful to them for their patience and guidance.
CB: Are you curious about different kinds of repertoire? What are some pieces you haven’t played or explored yet, but that you’d like to discover in the next few years?
SZ: The Brahms Double was a work I had wanted to play for a couple years, so I’m absolutely thrilled to have gotten the chance to really study and learn this incredible piece! Other repertoire I would like to play are the Schumann piano trios, Strauss violin sonata, Brahms piano quartets, Stravinsky violin concerto… and many others!
CB: Have you played many world premieres? And do you consider this to be something important that we do as performers?
SZ: I have played some premieres, but I would love to play more. I think commissioned pieces are so important and it’s also such a great experience for us as performers to get to work with living composers!
CB: Once again, thank you for the time and for the beautiful answers. We look forward to this gorgeous Brahms with you and Eunghee!
SZ: Thank you! I’m looking forward and am excited to play with all of you very soon!
Born in 1994, Stephanie Zyzak began playing the violin at 4 years old. She studied with Miriam Fried at New England Conservatory where she received her Bachelors and Masters degrees, and is currently completing her doctorate degree at City University of New York, The Graduate Center with Mark Steinberg. At the age seven, Stephanie made her first solo appearance with the Starling Chamber Orchestra in the Aspen Music School and became the youngest recipient ever to be awarded the Aspen Music School New Horizon Fellowship. The following year, she performed in Germany as an invited guest of the Internationale Kunst – Akademie Liechtenstein (IKAL). Over the years, she has had the opportunity to solo and tour with orchestras and various groups in Germany, Russia, Austria, Sweden, Spain, Italy, and France. In 2004, Stephanie made her debut with the Louisville Orchestra, and has performed with orchestras such as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Dayton Philharmonic, and Southeast Missouri Symphony. Other notable performances include an appearance on Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor and an invitation to perform as an honored guest at the Lotus Festival for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
Stephanie has received top prizes in various competitions and was most recently named a finalist at the 2018 Naumburg International Violin Competition. She has been invited to participate in renowned international competitions including: the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis (2018), Joseph Joachim Hannover International Violin Competition (2018), Shanghai International Isaac Stern Competition (2016), International Ima Hogg Competition (2016 semifinalist), Seoul International Music Competition (2015), and Zhuhai International Mozart Competition (2015 semifinalist).
A passionate chamber musician, she has collaborated with Ralph Kirshbaum, Steven
Tenenbom, Hsin-Yun Huang, Colin Carr, Michael Kannen, and Robert McDonald. She has performed at festivals such as the Taos School of Music, Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival, and has also been invited to the Marlboro Music Festival this coming summer.
Stephanie performs on a 1778 Joseph and Antonio Gagliano violin, generously on loan from Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute.