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The Path to the Most Coveted Seat on Stage

The Path to the Most Coveted Seat on Stage

Julie Fischer grew up in a home where music was a way of life. Her mother, Paula Fischer, is a longtime violinist (currently with the Evanston Symphony) and a teacher, leaving Julie with fond memories of sitting on her mother’s lap during lessons or in the audience for Chicago String Ensemble rehearsals and concerts. Julie started her own musical journey at the tender age of two, on a plastic toy violin, and then began in earnest when she was four. Though she progressed rapidly, it wasn’t until around age 11 that Julie decided music was her calling. She was in a touring violin ensemble when she encountered another young violinist whose playing so impressed Julie that, from then on, everything was about the violin, right down to the pictures she put up on her bedroom walls.

A dedication to practicing emerged, sometimes demanding that Julie devote an entire lesson to a single section of music, and she learned to really listen and perfect her craft. The hard work paid off with three wins in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music, and solo engagements with the Kishwaukee and Pacific Palisades Symphonies, as well as an appearance with the Evanston Symphony Orchestra when she won first place in the Young Artists Competition her senior year of high school. In addition to her stellar performance of the first movement of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47, it was a notable event in that it was her first time playing her current violin.

Other memorable performances have included playing all the Beethoven symphonies and piano concertos with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; performing with her teacher, Donald Weilerstein; and sharing the stage with Roger Tapping of the Juilliard Quartet. Concerts brought her to Prague, Philadelphia, England, New York, Paris, and Spillville, Iowa, where Antonín Dvořák was inspired to write his “American Quartet” and, rumor has it, refine his “New World Symphony.” Though it was winter and the church where they played had no heat, Julie and her colleagues were somehow able to muster enough energy to deliver a performance befitting the historical setting.

Teaching was also an early musical interest for Julie; she began when she was just 10 years old! Through it she learned to establish trust and ascertain how her students learn best in order to tailor her instruction to them. Julie also learned the importance of communication, which has become one of her favorite things about teaching and performing, be it the interplay of the different orchestral parts, explaining a technique, providing visual cues to fellow musicians, or listening to her students. Though the pivot to virtual lessons has presented some challenges, like dealing with video delays, she has also discovered a host of benefits; this new format has allowed Julie to use her creativity to find more inventive ways of doing things and encouraged her students to feel more comfortable and take more responsibility. Through it all, Julie makes a point to notice when a student is having a tough time in life outside the studio, and she works hard to ensure that the lesson is a highlight of the student’s day. She can also count being the Teaching Assistant to Donald Weilerstein at the New England Conservatory and having former students secure orchestra positions with opportunities to record as sources of pride.

While Julie has forged an impressive path and maintains a very active teaching studio, she somehow finds time for her other interests, including walking, learning Italian, meditation, taking art history courses online, volunteering, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, and composing her own chorale-inspired works on the piano. Had her journey taken a different turn, Julie suspects she would have become a social worker or therapist, which really isn’t a dramatic departure from her current career. Alternatively, her love of color, a frequent artistic companion to music, might have sent her in the direction of interior design.

Julie Fischer

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