Robert Hanford, Violin


Joined Lyric Orchestra in 2004

Education:  Northwestern University

  • Tell us a little about yourself:

When I was very young, music was always being played on my father’s “Hi-Fi” in our home in Washington, DC.  He was the only person I have known who used an oscilloscope to repair a clothes washer. At eight years old, my family relocated to Athens, Greece.  I studied violin there and in Switzerland.  I returned to the States permanently when I attended Northwestern University.  I experienced huge culture shock!

  • With which other orchestras have you performed, either as a member or as a soloist?

My career started as a freelance violinist in the Chicago area while I was still a student at Northwestern University.  In 1986, I joined the Grant Park Symphony and in 1988, the Lyric Opera Orchestra.  One year later I left Chicago to join the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, only a few days after marrying my wife, Sheila.  Five years later, now with a toddler and a newborn, we moved to Minnesota, where I joined the Minnesota Orchestra as Associate Principal Second Violin.  I was amazed by the richness and power of the string sound of this great orchestra.   The personal and professional experience I gained from working nine years with the strong personalities of these orchestral musicians and the many conductors was great preparation for my next position as Concertmaster of Lyric Opera.  I have been with Lyric since 2004. For many summers I have also been a concertmaster and violin instructor at the Aspen Music Festival.

I have been fortunate to solo many times with various orchestras, especially the Milwaukee Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra.  Most recently, I performed Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy with the Chicago Philharmonic. I have also performed as a soloist with Music of the Baroque, Northwest Indiana Symphony, the New Philharmonic, and the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra. I began my solo career while in college and returned for one of my most challenging yet most successful experiences – to learn the Kurt Weill Violin Concerto in five days after a colleague was unable to perform due to an injury.  I practiced non-stop, even while lying down!

  • Outside of the pit:

My hobbies and passions are always intense and have ranged from building Tesla coils to playing table tennis.  My father was a scientist.  After he passed away, my interest in science rekindled, and I started dabbling in electronics and high-voltage experiments.

In the past six years I have been taking classes in and practicing the art of blacksmithing.  It is a nice contrast to working in an orchestra. I meet a different community of people, acquire a new set of skills, and get some vigorous exercise!  A work in progress is to make a triangle in consultation with members of our percussion section at Lyric Opera.

  • My favorite travel destination:

Recently my wife and I and youngest son went travelling throughout Europe.  I finished my trip by hiking with my brother in the Austrian Alps. One summer soon I hope to return to my childhood home in Greece.  I would be thrilled to see my son experience riding a donkey on a mountain trail as I did as a boy!

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