Chicago Philharmonic Violinist Paul Vanderwerf


Paul VanderwerfQ. What inspired you to pursue music as a career?

A. Some wonderful teachers who were very patient, and my parents, who thankfully were very persistent. Making the jump from a very small Iowa town to Interlochen Arts Academy for my last two years of high school marked the first time I actually thought that it could lead to a full-time profession. I’m still thinking it might.

Q. What do you like about the Chicago Philharmonic’s ensemble approach in creating music?
A. There’s an incredible diversity of musical experience that the members bring to each rehearsal and concert. Symphony and Opera performers, chamber musicians, music teachers, and those remarkable “all of the above” freelancers combine to create some truly breathtaking artistic events. I personally enjoy the flexible seating in the string sections; as a violin/viola “switch hitter” I’ve been lucky enough to share a stand with a couple dozen of my fine colleagues over the years.

Q. What new endeavors would you like to see the Chicago Philharmonic pursue in the future?
A. We’re on the right track; we’re expanding our artistic footprint into different realms, but at a deliberate enough pace so the quality doesn’t become diluted. There’s a vibrant but small fan base for music written in the last half-century, and if there are ways to further reach those audiences that are financially feasible, I’d love to see more concerts of recent music. For reference, “Rite of Spring” is 100 years old now, “Carmina Burana” is 75, and Shostakovitch’s 10th Symphony is 60.Tempus fugit!

Q. What are you reading at the moment?
A. I’m a terribly distracted reader. I have a lovely stack of really good books by my bedside, most of which I started and hope someday to complete. Ed Moore’s The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is currently on top of that stack. I hope there’s something to the whole osmosis theory.

Q. What favorite music are you listening to?
A. I study classical music, but for most casual listening while relaxing or driving, I rely on a fairly eclectic mix of streaming services and radio stations worldwide.  (Right now NRK Jazz [Norway] is spinning “Weaver of Dreams” with Freddie Hubbard and the McCoy Tyner Trio. Nice.) My Pandora feeds include old violin swing, Chicagoland blues, Mass Choir gospel, and in moderate doses, Cajun Zydeco and traditional Dixieland. If I listed every jazz singer and pianist I enjoy this paragraph would become burdensome, so I’ll settle for Shirley Horn, Jimmy Scott, Oscar Peterson, and Michel Petrucciani. I also have an inexplicable fondness for the sound of the Hammond B3 organ.

Q. What do you like to do as a hobby?
A. Nothing is as enjoyable and challenging as watching my two kids (13 & 9) grow. When they’re occupied, I dabble in computers, maintaining a few web sites. I’m fairly good with a Frisbee as well. I also do the New York Times crossword puzzles most Mondays through Wednesdays, and occasionally later in the week if I’ve had enough coffee.

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