Not everyone gets the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play at the prestigious Carnegie Hall, but we have a Rowland Hall student among us who defied the odds. Rowland Hall senior and violist, Zach Benton, accomplished the unthinkable when he received the news that he and his partner would be performing at Carnegie Hall in December of 2021. Undoubtedly, there will be hours upon hours of preparation that will go into the performance, so I asked Zach some questions to get a deeper understanding of how he was able to get here, how he is feeling about the day, and what kind of work he is planning to do leading up to the day.

 

 

How long have you been playing the viola, and how did you know you were passionate about it?

I started playing the violin when I was 3 years old, and I played that for a really long time. But 3 years ago, when I was 14, I switched to the viola. The switch was really slow at first. Ms. Yoon needed more violists because no one plays it, so she asked me to switch to the viola. That started my switch, and I realized that I liked playing the viola so much more than the violin. Mainly, I like the sounds more; it’s a deeper, more rich sound, which I really like. I also like the size of the instrument more. It feels like there is more space to do what you want on the instrument.

 

What was your reaction to finding out you’d be playing at Carnegie Hall?

I got the email pretty late at night and I had just gotten back from Salt Lake. I was getting ready for bed, and it’s pretty funny because we were expecting to get the email around November 10th, but it came super early. I read through it and got really excited; then I went upstairs and told my parents. I woke them up and they were really happy.

 

Did you think you were going to get the opportunity to perform, or was it more of a long shot?

I definitely thought it was a long shot because Carnegie Hall seems so inaccessible and far away. But my friend who I’m performing with has done this before, and she thought we’d place, so she was definitely more optimistic. I wasn’t expecting it but it was a really nice surprise.

 

As of now, how are you feeling about playing there?

It’s kind of daunting, to be honest, but I’m definitely really excited. I know it’s going to take a lot of practice. Even though I have a ton of time to prepare, it’s really stressful because what if something happens to me, or what if I lose interest in the viola?

 

Will you be performing by yourself?

I’m performing with a friend who I perform with every now and then. It’s a double concerto, so there are two soloists. But we play it as a duet, and there can be an orchestra or piano accompaniment. I’m playing with a friend who’s really cool, so it’ll be exciting to go to New York together.

 

How are you preparing for the performance?

Right now I’m more focused on college, but my friend and I have a plan to start practicing again. We don’t want to practice it too much because we both experience this awful feeling where you practice a piece so much that you hit a slump and it’s harder to play. It’s more of a mental thing than an actual physical feeling, but that state of mind is something we both want to avoid, so we’re going to avoid it by not thinking about it for the next 4-5 months. Then, we’re going to start practicing together a little bit more. When the day comes closer, we’ll have weekly practice sessions, but we definitely don’t want to over-practice it.

 

What pieces will you be playing?

We’re playing one piece called “Duo Brillant” by Henri Vieuxtemps. It’s a French piece by a composer written about 150 years ago. It was originally written for the violin and cello, but it was transcribed for the viola. So it’s an uncommon piece and we’re excited to be playing it.

 

What did the process of picking the piece look like?

It was complicated because we had a lot of options that we both liked. We’re both kind of indecisive so it was hard to narrow it down, but we got there. We didn’t know how long we’d be playing the pieces, though, so we didn’t take that into account when we chose the piece. It was hard because there are so many amazing pieces out there that we both wanted to play.

 

How many hours did you practice while practicing for the Carnegie Hall audition?

It varies a lot, but with quarantine, I’ve had way more time and I started practicing 1-2 hours a day. Before that, I would practice every now and then for really long periods of time, and some days I wouldn’t practice at all. When quarantine happened, I started practicing more consistently and I practiced up to 2-3 hours over the summer when I was getting ready for my college portfolio.

 

Did you always think you were going to get this far in your music career?

Music has always been a really big part of my life for basically my entire life. But, I never really wanted to go into music as a profession. It just seems really stressful, and the community can be toxic because there’s a lot of politics involved. I guess I knew that since I had so much experience, I had potential, but I knew I also had a lot of work to do.

 

What are your favorite pieces/composers?

I really like Shostakovich; he’s a lot more of a modern composer. I also like Vivaldi, which is kind of funny because he’s super Baroque and I usually don’t like Baroque pieces, but somehow I like him. For pieces, I like “Danse Macabre.” It’s about Halloween where the skeletons in the graveyard are resurrected and they start dancing around the cemetery and then they go back to sleep. I also like pieces composed by Dvořák!

 

 

Playing at Carnegie Hall is an amazing opportunity for anyone, and we are lucky to have a student to give us insight into how the musical process works. Zach is a phenomenal violist and a friend to everyone. Sarah Yoon, Rowland Hall’s director of orchestra, describes Zach as “an incredible young man. He is a talented violist and musician. Everyone enjoys playing music with Zach. He brings out the best in others and elevates the quality and experience of chamber music. Zach has won many competitions over the years, but he is humble about his successes. I consider Zach more of a colleague than a student. I learn a great deal from working with him and I would play in a quartet with him anytime.” If you would like to see Zach perform a piece on the viola, it is linked below. Lastly, don’t forget to congratulate Zach on this great achievement!

  • Profiles
Profile on Zach Benton
Ruchi Agarwal

Not everyone gets the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play at the prestigious Carnegie Hall, but we have a Rowland Hall student among us who defied the odds. Rowland Hall senior and violist, Zach Benton, accomplished the unthinkable when he received the news that he and his partner would be performing at Carnegie Hall in December of 2021. Undoubtedly, there will be hours upon hours of preparation that will go into the performance, so I asked Zach some questions to get a deeper understanding of how he was able to get here, how he is feeling about the day, and what kind of work he is planning to do leading up to the day.

 

 

How long have you been playing the viola, and how did you know you were passionate about it?

I started playing the violin when I was 3 years old, and I played that for a really long time. But 3 years ago, when I was 14, I switched to the viola. The switch was really slow at first. Ms. Yoon needed more violists because no one plays it, so she asked me to switch to the viola. That started my switch, and I realized that I liked playing the viola so much more than the violin. Mainly, I like the sounds more; it’s a deeper, more rich sound, which I really like. I also like the size of the instrument more. It feels like there is more space to do what you want on the instrument.

 

What was your reaction to finding out you’d be playing at Carnegie Hall?

I got the email pretty late at night and I had just gotten back from Salt Lake. I was getting ready for bed, and it’s pretty funny because we were expecting to get the email around November 10th, but it came super early. I read through it and got really excited; then I went upstairs and told my parents. I woke them up and they were really happy.

 

Did you think you were going to get the opportunity to perform, or was it more of a long shot?

I definitely thought it was a long shot because Carnegie Hall seems so inaccessible and far away. But my friend who I’m performing with has done this before, and she thought we’d place, so she was definitely more optimistic. I wasn’t expecting it but it was a really nice surprise.

 

As of now, how are you feeling about playing there?

It’s kind of daunting, to be honest, but I’m definitely really excited. I know it’s going to take a lot of practice. Even though I have a ton of time to prepare, it’s really stressful because what if something happens to me, or what if I lose interest in the viola?

 

Will you be performing by yourself?

I’m performing with a friend who I perform with every now and then. It’s a double concerto, so there are two soloists. But we play it as a duet, and there can be an orchestra or piano accompaniment. I’m playing with a friend who’s really cool, so it’ll be exciting to go to New York together.

 

How are you preparing for the performance?

Right now I’m more focused on college, but my friend and I have a plan to start practicing again. We don’t want to practice it too much because we both experience this awful feeling where you practice a piece so much that you hit a slump and it’s harder to play. It’s more of a mental thing than an actual physical feeling, but that state of mind is something we both want to avoid, so we’re going to avoid it by not thinking about it for the next 4-5 months. Then, we’re going to start practicing together a little bit more. When the day comes closer, we’ll have weekly practice sessions, but we definitely don’t want to over-practice it.

 

What pieces will you be playing?

We’re playing one piece called “Duo Brillant” by Henri Vieuxtemps. It’s a French piece by a composer written about 150 years ago. It was originally written for the violin and cello, but it was transcribed for the viola. So it’s an uncommon piece and we’re excited to be playing it.

 

What did the process of picking the piece look like?

It was complicated because we had a lot of options that we both liked. We’re both kind of indecisive so it was hard to narrow it down, but we got there. We didn’t know how long we’d be playing the pieces, though, so we didn’t take that into account when we chose the piece. It was hard because there are so many amazing pieces out there that we both wanted to play.

 

How many hours did you practice while practicing for the Carnegie Hall audition?

It varies a lot, but with quarantine, I’ve had way more time and I started practicing 1-2 hours a day. Before that, I would practice every now and then for really long periods of time, and some days I wouldn’t practice at all. When quarantine happened, I started practicing more consistently and I practiced up to 2-3 hours over the summer when I was getting ready for my college portfolio.

 

Did you always think you were going to get this far in your music career?

Music has always been a really big part of my life for basically my entire life. But, I never really wanted to go into music as a profession. It just seems really stressful, and the community can be toxic because there’s a lot of politics involved. I guess I knew that since I had so much experience, I had potential, but I knew I also had a lot of work to do.

 

What are your favorite pieces/composers?

I really like Shostakovich; he’s a lot more of a modern composer. I also like Vivaldi, which is kind of funny because he’s super Baroque and I usually don’t like Baroque pieces, but somehow I like him. For pieces, I like “Danse Macabre.” It’s about Halloween where the skeletons in the graveyard are resurrected and they start dancing around the cemetery and then they go back to sleep. I also like pieces composed by Dvořák!

 

 

Playing at Carnegie Hall is an amazing opportunity for anyone, and we are lucky to have a student to give us insight into how the musical process works. Zach is a phenomenal violist and a friend to everyone. Sarah Yoon, Rowland Hall’s director of orchestra, describes Zach as “an incredible young man. He is a talented violist and musician. Everyone enjoys playing music with Zach. He brings out the best in others and elevates the quality and experience of chamber music. Zach has won many competitions over the years, but he is humble about his successes. I consider Zach more of a colleague than a student. I learn a great deal from working with him and I would play in a quartet with him anytime.” If you would like to see Zach perform a piece on the viola, it is linked below. Lastly, don’t forget to congratulate Zach on this great achievement!

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