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January 26, 2023

MSM Faculty Focus: Shmuel Katz (BM ’98, MM ’00) performs with MSM Orchestral Performance Program students on February 1

MSM viola faculty member Shmuel Katz is an MSM alumnus who is currently Associate Principal Viola in the Grammy-winning Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, with whom he’s been playing for more than a decade.

Shmuel and other MSM Orchestral Performance (OP) Program faculty will be playing alongside their students in the upcoming MSM Orchestral Performance Faculty–Student concert on February 1, conducted by David Chan, Head of Orchestral Performance Program and Concertmaster of the MET Orchestra.

Shmuel speaks with us about the concert, his time as a MSM student, and gives auditioning advice.

VIDEO PREVIEW of the OP Concert on Feb 1

Tell us about the upcoming Orchestral Performance Program concert? Why are you looking forward to it?

Shmuel: The upcoming concert on February first will include works by Debussy, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Revueltas. Several faculty members of the OP program will be joining their students, playing side-by-side with them. I am very excited about several aspects of this concert. First of all, I love playing with students, there is always such a level of energy and enthusiasm that makes these type of concerts so much fun. Secondly, our conductor for this program, David Chan, is the concertmaster of my orchestra Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. I always love hearing his playing and in this concert I get to work with him as the maestro. I am also excited that Sheryl Staples, Associate Concertmaster at the New York Philharmonic will play the famous solos in Scheherezade.

What is it that you think makes the OP Program an important one?

Shmuel: There are many ways for a music student to make a career in music when they’re out in the “real world”. They can teach, find a chamber group, or play solos. Most of us though, find a career in orchestra. It can be a great way to make music part of your life for many many years and make a living doing that. In the OP Program, we concentrate on that potential life in music: from learning how to prepare and perform auditions in order to win a job, to learning about playing in a professional orchestra from top players in the MET orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.

Shmuel Katz is Associate Principal Viola with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra shown here

What did you study at MSM, and what are your strongest memories of studying here?

Shmuel: I studied violin with Pinchas Zukerman and Patinka Kopec for my undergrad and finished my master’s degree on violin and viola with Guarneri Quartet‘s legendary violist Michael Tree. I feel very lucky that I got to learn with some amazing musicians at MSM. Besides my private teachers I learned so much from Isidore Cohen and Mitchel Stern in chamber music and orchestral repertoire with Enrico DiCecco.

What projects or special performances do you have coming up this year? Tell us about your work with the MET orchestra!

Shmuel: This is my first official season as Associate Principal Viola at the MET. I have been a member of the orchestra since 2018 and won an audition last May for the Associate Principal position. I am excited about a couple of programs coming up soon with guest conductor Daniele Rustioni. He will be conducting Bartok Concerto for Orchestra for our upcoming Carnegie Hall concert and after that we will begin rehearsals on Verdi’s Falstaff which is always a real fun opera to play. I am also excited about playing Lohengrin for the first time with our music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Audition season is coming up: what audition tips would you give students who hope to attend MSM?

Shmuel: Be yourselves. Don’t try to play in a way you think “we” would want you to play. One of the best parts of sitting in on an audition is hearing students’ musicality, personality, tone, imagination. Every student sounds different and brings a different approach to the music and to their instrument.

“One of the best parts of sitting in on an audition is hearing students’ musicality, personality, tone, imagination. Every student sounds different and brings a different approach to the music and to their instrument.”

Read our interview with JT Kane, MSM’s Dean of Instrumental Studies and Orchestral Performance, who speaks about the upcoming Orchestral Performance program concert, and what makes the program so important:

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