Patrick Brennan, Viola
Hometown: River Forest, Illinois
Joined Lyric Orchestra in 1992
Education: BM in Music Performance on Violin from NIU and further graduate studies at SMU in Dallas
Why did you choose your instrument?
I now play viola but started off as a violinist. In fourth grade I took up violin because my best friend at the time took it up the year before. Of course Mom was a great inspiration throughout and um...kept me going, but I wasn't really inspired to go all in until I met and studied with late Pierre Menard of the Vermeer Quartet at NIU. He was a direct student of the great violin teacher Ivan Galamian/Juilliard school of playing. I owe much of my career to his musicianship. I later studied with Erick Friedman, a protege of Joshua Heifetz, at SMU. Moving back to the Chicago area after school, I took up viola to do more work, while practicing for violin auditions. Former Lyric Principal violist Rami Solomonov helped me with the transition and just like an out-of-control vine, it just sort of took over and dug in. It's been a natural fit.
Which other orchestras have you performed?
I currently play in two orchestras every year. Joining the Lyric in 1992 was my third professional job. The fourth being Grant Park Music Festival in 1995, later becoming Assistant Principal. My first job was in 1987 with the New American Chamber Orchestra. An 11-member, conductor-less group with a 13 week season in Detroit. (current colleague Walter Preucil, cello, and his wife Stephanie, violin, were also in the group at the same time) When we weren't in Detroit, we were on the road everywhere in Europe. Two years after that I took a position in Charlotte, NC as Assistant Principal for three years before coming home to Chicago and the Lyric. I've subbed with the Charleston, SC Symphony, The North Carolina Symphony, Columbus Ohio Symphony, Grant Park Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony.
What is your favorite audition story?
I do have a few that are memorable, but this one was from my audition here at Lyric. Previously I had auditioned twice for Lyric--on violin right out of school and quite green, then two years later on viola for the Assistant Principal position. It was my first viola audition and I could barely read the clef but played well. I would have been in serious trouble had I advanced and had to sight read something. Third time five years later was a charm--I was ready.
I made finals then collected as much advice from as many people as I could about Bruno Bartoletti and what he likes to hear. One of the things mentioned was to not worry if he gets up and moves around.
We were in a little theater--me on stage, Bruno and committee in the audience. So I'm playing through the list put together, things are going well, and out of the corner of my eye--sure enough--he gets up and starts strolling slowly up the aisle to the foot of the the stage. A little unnerving, one has enough to worry about at that point after getting this far. I get to the last piece, he paces back and forth then stops in front of me and asks for a difficult excerpt from Peter Grimes that was left off the list that round. Of course the music is out the door, down the hall, in my practice room, and in my case! I say this sheepishly and I can tell Bruno is surprised by his now arching eyebrows. After an awkward moment of silence, a deep voice (Rami Solomonov) from the seats slowly says, "Go get it!" So I put my viola down on a chair, walk quickly out the door, peel past the next auditionee waiting, fly down the hall, grab the music, sprint back at full speed, and stop ten feet from the door to calmly walk back through door and on stage. I pick up my viola, take a breath and play. This time Bruno is walking the other way back down the aisle, hands behind his back, head down. He nods when I am done and says, “Thank you.”
It wasn't until a week later when I was back in Charlotte that I received a call from Concertmaster/Personnel Manager Everett Zlatoff-Mirsky that I had won the seat.
My favorite quote?
I think this one is attributed to Confucius.
"Choose a job that you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life"
Couldn't agree more!