Natalie Loughran ’16 is the principal violist in the PHS Orchestra. She will be performing Max Bruch’s Romanze for Viola and Orchestra at the Winter Concert on December 22. She also sings in PHS Choir, recently appearing as the Squirrel in L’enfant et les sortilèges, and is a member of Cloud Nine. She has performed internationally, including at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, and wants to follow a career in music.
When did you start playing viola and why?
I started violin at four years old. Both my parents are musicians, so they started me off, but I also wanted to. When I had a violin in my hand I would never put it down. And then, when I was about twelve, my teacher—who I had studied with for violin—was a violist. She had a viola for me to take home, and I started playing and immediately fell in love with it. I’ve always been a well-rounded person, so I didn’t want to play violin, which is an incredibly competitive instrument.
In general, how has music impacted your life?
Music has always been something that I love to do. When I was younger, I didn’t really think it was what I wanted to do as a career … I started running track and field in middle school, and that became a sort of passion for me. I continued that through my first two years of high school, and I was running pretty competitively in a lot of high-pressure events. This conflicted a lot with my music lessons. I went, and still go, to Philly three times a week for music: orchestra, private lessons, and chamber music. [However,] I also had track meets and practices. I hated it. I loved doing both, but I was just really stressed out, and it was hard to find time to do homework … I kind of had to choose between one or the other, and I didn’t know if I wanted to run track in college or play music. The summer of 2014, going into my junior year, I played with professionals at a high school program at a music festival in Switzerland. That really inspired me, just being in that location with such amazing musicians. It really impacted my life because it helped me figure out that I really wanted to do music. I quit track that year.
As a musician, what have your happiest moments been so far? Greatest achievements?
So, as I mentioned earlier, being at Verbier Festival Music Camp in Switzerland was definitely one of my happiest times as a musician. I collaborated with some of the most famous classical musicians in the world. I went back this summer, and we played Brahms’ 2nd Symphony, with myself as principal viola. That was one of the most memorable concerts I have ever played, especially because we were performing for some of the most famous classical musicians in the world.
How do practicing and rehearsals balance with homework and demanding classes?
In the past, it’s always been hard because I had very rigorous courses along with a lot of homework, practicing, and going to Philadelphia during the week. I would always have to do homework in the car and stuff like that, so I would always be a little stressed out. But, this year, it’s actually kind of nice because I know what I want to do and where I’m applying, and I know what those schools require in terms of academics. So, I’m taking a lighter course load this year, in terms of studying, so it’s better.
Do you have any advice to give other musicians or students pursuing their passions?
The music world is very competitive, as I know very well. Success and failure play equal parts in becoming a musician. I mean, even if music doesn’t become a career for you, I think [that] it’s something that’s so worthwhile to have on the side because it’s fulfilling on every level.
Outside of playing, do you listen to any classical music?
As I said, both my parents are musicians—my dad is a conductor at our school, and my mother is a professional cellist. My mom doesn’t really listen to classical music outside of her work, but my dad loves classical music. He’s always playing it in the car, and that’s just what he listens to. It gets to be a little bit too much sometimes! On my own, I listen to classical music occasionally, but mostly I listen to a mix of genres.
As a performer, do you prefer working with an orchestra or playing as a soloist?
I’ve done solo stuff, and I like that, but honestly I just love playing with other musicians. I get so much out of playing and communicating with them through that. I love chamber music and orchestral playing, and I think one of my career goals when I’m older is to play in a professional orchestra.