Q&A with Geneva Lewis

We speak to kiwi-born violinist Geneva Lewis ahead of her Australasian debut with the APO. She talks about how she prepares for a concerto, what she's looking forward to doing while in Aotearoa and why her performance with the APO means so much.


Tell us about your process for learning a major solo work with orchestra.

I usually find that I feel best prepared leading up to a concert if I’ve begun preparing well in advance. Usually I’ll begin working on a concerto at least six months before the concert. Some concertos I’ve learned previously, and it can be easier to revisit something than learn it from scratch (although sometimes more complicated - if you learned something young, there may be old habits that come back from that time too!). Aside from the instrumental practise, I’ll also do study of the score, and listen to recordings to gain a deeper understanding of the music. I also try to go through the piece with a pianist beforehand, if possible.

What draws you to Barber’s music?

Most simply, his music is utterly beautiful and sincere. He has the ability to capture specific emotions that go straight to the heart - nostalgia, gratitude, ecstatic joy, vulnerability, etc. He can create feelings that are larger than life, or beautifully intimate. This concerto in particular really just feels like home as well - maybe it feels that way to me because it has such an “American” sound.

Is there a composer or work you haven’t performed that you would like to?

I really love playing and discovering all kinds of different music. There are many pieces and projects I’d like to do - Beethoven's complete violin sonatas for example, and complete string quartets. Bach Sonatas and Partitas. Britten Violin Concerto is something I’ve been wanting to play for some time that I’ve never learned. I also very much enjoy working with living composers - it’s such an inspiring and unique experience to be able to work on a piece with the person who created it. Really, there are too many things I’d love to do to be able to name them so specifically in this context - it’s just a matter of trying to find the time and opportunity to play certain things!


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Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

I feel I’ve been influenced by countless people - all kinds of musicians, those I’ve heard on recordings, in concert, or have been lucky enough to work with. I’ve also been so fortunate to have worked with many people who have been so supportive of me and my career throughout my life, ranging from my family, friends, and partner, to my incredible management teams - Arts Management Group and Victoria Rowsell Artist Management. And of course, my most direct and significant influences have been my primary teachers - Miriam Fried, Aimée Kreston, and Mihaela Martin. These three incredible women have taught me so much about music, art, and life.

What is your favorite venue in the world?

There are always new places that become favourites - I suspect Auckland Town Hall will become one after this experience! Some standouts for me so far have been Wigmore Hall (London, UK), the recital hall at the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam, Netherlands), Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory (Boston, USA), and Alexander Hall at Princeton (USA).

What is the greatest challenge you have faced during a concert?

For me, the biggest challenge is always just the nerves. Dealing with both the physical and psychological effects of nerves often feels like a big obstacle to overcome.

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What has been the high point of your career so far?

The opportunity to perform is always exciting, and it’s an incredible gift to be able to share music that I love so deeply. In that sense, it’s difficult to pinpoint something (although of course there have been some particularly memorable and meaningful collaborations and occasions). That being said, this performance in Auckland is incredibly special to me, and something I’ve been dreaming about for just about my whole life. I remember seeing my first classical music concerts at Auckland Town Hall when I was very young, and coming here to perform with the APO is absolutely surreal.

What are you looking forward to exploring while you are in New Zealand?

I wish that I was able to stay longer so that I’d be able to do a little more exploring! I am excited to revisit some places that I remember from my childhood, since I haven’t been back to New Zealand since I left when I was 7. Mostly, I’m really excited to have the chance to spend some time with family, some of whom I haven’t had the chance to see in a very long time.

What is your favorite thing you do for yourself?

Really just having time to spend with my loved ones is what’s most precious to me. This lifestyle involves a lot of time on the road, away from friends and family. I really try to cherish every opportunity I get to be with them.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Very difficult to pinpoint just one piece of advice! Something that comes to mind is a conversation I had with a dear mentor, who reminded me how important it is to truly live in the present, and create the life you want right now. I think it’s very easy to look constantly to the future, and convince ourselves we’ll be happy and fulfilled if ___ happens, or convince ourselves we have to wait for something to happen first, before we’re able to take control of our lives. Having a mindset of being able to enjoy what you’re doing, as things are right now, is so important to try and create. And if that’s not how you feel, figure out how you can change things to create that happiness and fulfilment. Of course, everyone’s circumstances are different, and it’s not always possible to have the freedom to change things. Even so, feeling encouraged to find gratitude and positivity within my life has been a really wonderful gift.

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