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Beth Larson

Pursuing A New Path

by Beth Larson Thursday, February 1, 2018

Music has always been an integral part of my life. Even before I started playing violin at age four, music surrounded me in my childhood and family life. I remember going to concerts at a young age and being mesmerized by the musicians on stage. To me, they were superstars. My grandma, a piano teacher, would take me to Madison Symphony Orchestra concerts when I visited as a young child. She would tell me about the musicians she knew in the orchestra, about the composers of each piece, and warn me when her favorite parts were coming up. Having that personal connection to the music made me experience the concert in such a way that I felt a part of the performance. I wanted to be one of those admired musicians on stage.

After many years of violin lessons, practicing, and training, I found myself performing as a violinist in the Madison Symphony Orchestra. I loved being on stage, playing music in the city I loved with an orchestra I idolized as a child. And yet, it was not everything I thought it would be. Sitting on stage before concerts, I frequently forgot to warm up. Instead, I looked into the audience, squinting through the bright lights in attempt to make out the faces in the first few rows. I was looking for new, unfamiliar faces of people with whom I could exchange a glance and smile. These people, new to the concert hall or the symphony, were often startled by the eye contact from a violinist on stage but immediately appeared more relaxed and excited. Even having a small connection to the music being performed onstage can mean a completely different experience for an audience member.

As time went on, I found myself spending a significant portion of rehearsals and even concerts imagining ways to connect people to the music that I have adored my entire life. Music and the world of the arts is something that everyone should experience and I wanted to put myself in a place where I was creating, innovating, and moving the world of music into as many peoples’ lives as possible. Classical music is steeped in tradition, but has so much room and potential for modernization and transformation. My love of classical music performance is only exceeded by my passion for shared group experience and community.

My decision to transition into the world of arts administration and away from performance has already been rewarding and inspiring. My musician colleagues support and encourage my pursuit of a leadership position in the world of professional orchestras and arts education. Historically, these organizations have suffered from a disconnect between management and musicians – an issue that has led to poor moral, conflicts, and even strikes. My desire to be a leader in arts administration goes beyond unifying organizations. I hope to aid in the establishment of a global appreciation of the arts and help unite communities in the universal language of music.