Sophia Bernitz

Violin

Hometown: Lexington, MA

Alma maters: Oberlin Conservatory, B.M.; New England Conservatory, M.M.

Photos by Matt Dine

Profile

Appearances: National Repertory Orchestra, 2018; Spoleto Festival USA, 2017; Madeline Island Chamber Music, 2016; Kinhaven Music School, Weston VT, 2005–10, staff in 2015; Boston Philharmonic 2016–18; Substitute with Charleston Symphony, 2017–present

What is your earliest memory of classical music? Growing up, I was a Suzuki kid—starting from age 5 until I was about 12. At the end of each Suzuki book (well, the first few), I’d have a party at our local Chinese restaurant and play through the book for my friends and family and eat lots of yummy food. The pictures from this are still at my house.

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? Verklärte Nacht by Schoenberg. This piece never fails to make me feel better. It is based off a poem by Richard Dehmel, which is about a man and a woman walking through the forest at night. This is one of Schoenberg’s earliest works, and it is so unlike anything else he wrote—a must listen if you haven’t!

What has been your favorite experience as a musician? This past year, my NEC quartet was part of a fellowship through the Community Performances & Partnerships program where we’d go into the community and perform. One performance we did was at an adolescent psychiatric unit, and this one was really impactful for me. A lot of the kids were still in their pajamas and were really uninterested in being there at the beginning. By the end though, the kids were super engaged and were asking a ton of questions. It was so heartwarming, and I will never forget it.

Do you have any embarrassing performance stories?
 To be honest, I have way too many embarrassing performance stories. It’s hard to choose just one. Many of them were when I was a camper at Kinhaven. When I was 13 or so, we were doing our final performance of the summer, and I was playing second violin in Prokofiev’s Second Quartet. Mid-piece, I heard a really loud sound and freaked out and looked down and realized my bridge had popped off and flew across the room. I was in such shock that I tried to keep playing even though no sound was coming out at all. Eventually, the rest of my quartet noticed, and we stopped and the whole audience clapped for me while I went and got my bridge from across the room. One of the teachers gave me her instrument so I could finish, and even though I was still really rattled, I got through it . . . sort of . . .

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? Listen to your teacher and do etudes and scales! Also, don’t diss on Mozart and Haydn—they will change your life one day, and they are NOT boring.

Favorite non-classical musician or band: Lake Street Dive. I got really into them within the last year or so because they did a concert at NEC. I think the lead singer has the most mesmerizing voice.

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? 
Definitely the cello. I know everyone says that, but I’m sticking with it.

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why? Probably Estonia. When I was in high school, I went on a tour with the honors choirs from my school to Finland, Sweden, and Estonia. It was an absolutely unforgettable experience—the landscapes were unlike anything I had ever seen before, and the culture was so interesting.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why? Elizabeth Warren, Beyoncé, and Ilana Glazer from Broad City—lots of strong women.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: I was a nationally-ranked figure skater! Growing up, I was insanely serious about skating, and much less interested in violin. It wasn’t until middle of high school that I truly realized I wanted to pursue music!

Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Practice scales and technique, even if you don’t want to! It saves so much time later! Also, talk to people in the audience at concerts—you never know who you will meet!