NCVS Viola Pandemonium Sessions continue in 2021:


May 2, 2021 - hear practice tips from our YVC violists:

These five excellent young players from Northern California who performed in our Young Violist Competition finals share strategies for learning repertoire and building technique. We are excited to showcase our 2021 Young Violist Competition finalists in a new way: as teachers! Learn from five of the most talented and wonderful young violists in our region.

April 2021, Molly Carr on Dounis Daily Dozen for Violists 

In a conversation with viola in hand, Molly walked us through and generously shared her years of experience with this extensive and interesting warmup routine. Around 10 years ago, Molly's viola teacher Steven Tenenbom of the Orion Quartet, along with his quartet colleague violinist Daniel Phillips, each gave presentations to her studio class at Juilliard on the fascinating ways that the Dounis philosophy can change the brain/body connection and ultimately improve one's ease and facility on the instrument. Molly says, "With so many respected musicians around me suddenly raving about the benefits of this philosophy of playing, I decided it was high time I looked into this 'Dounis'. And wow. I'm so glad I did!"

 Molly had been transposing the violin exercises down a fifth in daily practicing and having her viola students do the same. But now, with the gift of time during the pandemic, she was able to finally transpose these exercises officially into the world of the viola.


Feb 2021,  NCVS's 2021 winning composer Andrew Wilson on composing life in lockdown and beyond. Escape to the English countryside with us!

Join Daria, Patty and Katie for a conversation with NCVS Composition Contest 2020-21 winner, Andrew Wilson, checking in from Devon, UK. He totally charmed us, and you’ll love him, too. Want to know where to find an open pub during lockdown? Or how bicycling can be as good for composing as it is for cardio?

Naturally we discussed his work and the winning composition, a fantasia for solo viola, VIOLA & CESARIO. Andrew talked about the Shakespearian inspiration and the intricacies of the Twelfth Night references in the music. Don't forget that you can hear it premiered by our NCVS Young Violists Competition finalists on March 7th. We are thrilled to introduce it to you.

During the conversation, we were also transported by a recording of Andrew's piece, TROS AN TREYS, which means dancing in Cornish, or literally "The sound of the feet". Written for string orchestra, which instantly evokes the beautiful English countryside in the vein of Elgar, Stanford, Vaughn Williams and Holst. 

Jan 2021 - Nuts & Bolts, Strings, Bridges and Frogs: what it takes to keep instruments responding smoothly and what the player can do to help with Joan Balter  Watch here

What kind of strings should I use? Can I mix and match? When do I need a rehair? What is the best rosin to use? Why is my bridge tilting and what can I do about it? Local luthier Joan Balter, the proprietor of Balter Violins in Berkeley, California will talk to us about the nuts, bolts, bridges and frogs of our treasured instruments. We will get insights into looking for an instrument and bow, basic maintenance that you can keep an eye on at home, and maybe even hear a viola joke or two! Joan is our official viola joke teller at ViolaMania, our viola gathering held every couple of years in Berkeley.

Clifton Harrison talks about the Viola d'amore & more Jan 2021

Clifton Harrison joined us from London in a lively conversation about the violas in his life - d'amore, baroque  & modern - and his musical life in lockdown.

Violist Clifton Harrison, a Midwesterner by birth, has been in the UK for more than 10 years leading a multi-faceted musical career. In this wide-ranging conversation, he discusses his instruments and bows, the musical journey that led him to London, and how he has adapted during lockdown.  He will introduce the viola d'amore and discuss some of the intricacies of developing facility on the instrument. Repertoire for the d'amore, some listening suggestions and some fascinating stories are along the way.  Join us for this discussion with this  wonderfully engaging and unique performer and learn something about the characteristics of the viola d’amore!

Watch Clifton's Session here:

November 2020, celebrating Kató Havas at 100

Northern California Viola society invites you into November with 3 more online sessions on Sundays@5pm pacific time.   It is Kató Havas and the New Approach all month to honor her - November 5th would have been her 100th birthday. Five wonderful teachers will lead us in specific exercises and also help you understand her approach. Those of us who worked with her know that all during her lifetime she adamantly resisted the idea that New Approach be called a "method" or "system".  There are often misconceptions about what it actually is! Katò Havas’ New Approach gives us a comprehensive system using movement and balance which leads to ease in playing. With the guidance of musicians who studied with Havas in Oxford, participants will learn strategies unique to the New Approach, including the concepts of “no violin,” "the giving left hand," “no bow hold" and bow distribution through the right arm "hinges." Katò Havas’ teachings have guided generations of musicians in their quest to play with physical freedom and wellness. Register via eventbrite links below.  You must register to participate. The sessions are free and open to violists from anywhere and we encourage a variety of ages and skill levels. Please attend any or all three this month and spread the word. If you would like to support our efforts with a membership, renewal or gift, we would welcome your support. All donations will benefit the Young Violists Competition and Composer Competition. We are a 501(c)3 and your donations may be tax deductible.


November 15th with Bettina Mussumeli and Jodi Levitz, 5pm Pacific:

Stellar teaching artists Jodi Levitz, viola, and Bettina Mussumeli, violin, made enormous contributions to Northern California in their years here performing and teaching at the San Francisco Conservatory. With the magic of Zoom, we are able to whisk them back from their current environs in Miami to lead us in an exploration of Kato Havas' New Approach. We'll be focusing on integrating the basic principals of the New Approach with so-called “mainstream” string technique.  



November 22nd with Patty Heller, 5pm Pacific: 

Katò Havas’ New Approach is a string training pathway that focuses on connecting physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of music making. Join Patty Heller to learn the practice of miming, in which we first isolate movement, then combine  into harmonious and effective performance. Miming involves finding the pulse, directing movement with the voice, working out the mechanics of bow distribution and interval shapes.



November 29th with David Daniel Bowes, Jeananne Weber and Patricia Heller, 5pm Pacific:

A common misconception holds that beginning to learn any instrument requires an initial period of struggle where the sound is unpleasant to the player and anyone listening. This session will demonstrate that by applying the principles of the New Approach from the very start, we can structure our movements in order to nurture resonance of the instrument. Ease in the body leads to releasing beautiful tone from the instrument. David, Jeananne and Patty created this session for an ASTA conference - we are the lucky recipients of their extensive knowledge and experience teaching and performing using the New Approach.


OCTOBER: Eleanor Angel's Primrose Practice Tips, October 18, 5pm PDT:

Northern California violist, educator and Bay Area treasure takes us on a journey of discovery, how to turn tricky passagework flawless using William Primrose's techniques. Using familiar repertoire, Eleanor will walk us through an exercise for learning 16th note and triplet passages in rhythms and in all parts of the bow. We'll leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of agile fingers and clean string crossings! Along the way she will share stories of her time with Primrose from her first lesson onwards. In addition to having a full studio of violin and viola students, Eleanor is the past Assistant Director of the de Veritch Institute for Viola, and the Founder/Past President of the Northern California Viola Society.To watch this session: YouTube  link for NCVS Eleanor video

 Jeremy Cohen Tango Techniques, October 11, 5pm PDT

Jeremy Cohen has dazzled the string world for decades with his violin and he is certainly no stranger to the viola!! With his extensive background in tango, jazz, classical, country, blues, rock and funk, Jeremy will share his knowledge with us we try out tango techniques from the Arrastre to the Tambour. Don't miss out on Jeremy's Viola Duets - purchase the sheet music here and listen: Jeremy's Viola Duets on YouTube,




This is going to be BIG fun, do.not.miss! With lively music and a great spirit, Cookie brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from her years of performing and teaching. We are lucky to snag her- she is usually off playing worldwide with her trio, Veretski Pass! She is an expert in Jewish violin style and has transcribed countless folk tunes from the tradition.



Get your mind-body-spirit mojo going in this hour-long workshop. David's workshop will have as the centerpiece an experience of one of Moshe Feldenkrais' many lessons called ATM, or "Awareness Through Movement".  David is celebrating his 50th anniversary of teaching music this year, having given his first violin and piano lessons when he was 16. Studying the Feldenkrais® Method seemed a natural extension of immersion in the New Approach, which constitute the teaching principles of Kato Havas, OBE.

David teaches a Feldenkrais® class every Monday at 11 AM Pacific time online. To register: David Daniel Bowes' Monday Weekly Class


Experienced music educator and clinician Dr Thomas Tatton leads us through a series of games that are challenging but accessible to many levels of players. No exercise book is needed as we try out the "games" that Tom demonstrates for finding a deeper tone, developing sautillé, shifting with a relaxed arm and building accuracy in higher positions. With a wealth of experience in educational settings, Tom will explain how to do the exercises and what technique is being developed. We try it out and learn something new - pedagogy without tears! Watch here

2020 Pandemic Sessions: NCVS Viola Pandemonium

This month, August 2020, we are starting the Viola Pandemonium Sessions, join us to stir it up in lockdown! Aug 16, 23 & 30, Sundays at 5pm. These sessions are free to members and we suggest a donation for non-members, no one turned away for lack of funds. Please keep in mind that we are a volunteer-run non-profit and if you value this type of event, show us by donating so we can keep this and future programs going. Join NCVS for member dues of only $20.
August 16th, Katrina Wreede starts us off with Brazil to Bollywood. You will have a chance to learn a traditional Brazilian Choro and a tune from a Bollywood film. 5pm PST via Zoom. To register:

On August 23rd, Keith Lawrence teaches us some improvisation skills, fun style techniques and encourages violists in finding their individual creative voice. Keith is violist, composer, vocalist, and arranger, currently with Cosa Nostra Strings, a group in the Jazz Mafia Collective based in the SF Bay Area. He is also a colleague in many classical orchestra and chamber groups in the area.

Ethan Filner, beloved past President of NCVS will lead us on August 30th in "Kreutzer Club" - a chance to break through the isolation of the practice room lately! We'll be playing etudes together to tackle rewarding, challenging, fun and/or beautiful ones. Submit one of your faves in pdf format in advance, prepare to play it in a super mini-masterclass setting for individual feedback or follow along at home. Can be Kreutzer or any composer that you have been working on.

Questions? email us at


The NCVS 2020 

Young Violists Competition 


First Prize: Emily Hwang
    Second Prize: Pearl de la Motte
    Third Prize: Vincenzo Calcagno       
   Best Bach Performance: Emily Hwang
  Best New Piece: Pearl de la Motte

Judges’ Award: Skyler Li


The judging panel, Cassandra Lynne Richburg, Clio Tilton, and Matthew Young are to be commended for their thoughtful deliberative process and the valuable advice given to each competitor. Pianists Lori Lack and Young Lee provided strong musical accompaniment for our young performers.

The five outstanding young finalists were Vincenzo Calcagno (Vallejo), Pearl de la Motte (Lemon Grove), Emily Hwang (Palo Alto), Skyler Li (Milpitas), and Sihyun Jeon (San Jose). The audience was treated to outstanding performances from all. 


We heard movements from the Walton and Forsyth Concertos as well as Bruch’s Romanze and Weber’s Andante and Hungarian Rondo. The young musicians also each performed a movement from a Bach Cello Suite and the work which received the 2019 NCVS Composition Prize, a solo viola piece by Denise Ondishko titled "Cogitatio".  We all went home energized about what the future holds for those who love string music in general, and viola playing in particular.


Many thanks to all the competitors, their families, and their teachers for joining us in forwarding our mission to promote the highest level of viola playing throughout Northern California. We are grateful to the Community Music Center and to Katie Wreede for arranging the use of the facilities. The event was made possible through the efforts of NCVS board members Daria D’Andrea, Katie Wreede, Ivo Bokulic, Patty Heller, Tom Tatton, and volunteers Polly Tatton and Kevin Jim. We were able to raise funds to meet a matching challenge grant from a generous Anonymous Donor which allowed us to fund the prizes and expenses. We are ever grateful for the continued financial support from our members and fans which ensures the future of this event. For next year, we are looking for a new venue for the finals concert since the CMC will be closed for extensive renovations. If you have an idea for a venue with a recital hall and several practice rooms, send us a note at:


ViolaMANIA! 4.0 The Post-Election Edition happened at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse 11-11-19
  Thanks to San Francisco Chamber Orchestra's Classical at the Freight, ViolaMANIA 4, The Post-Election Edition, was possibly our biggest and best violafest yet. The Northern California Viola Society invited you to bring a viola and join us in our latest attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the Most Violists Playing Together.  Hear the Bay Area’s top violists and learn a few new viola jokes.  Don’t miss the fun and great viola ensemble music next time. See the ViolaMANIA page for more info

Coach with a Pro!  Dust off your Telemann and join us for one or more of our new coaching evenings led by local viola luminaries to help participants with tricky spots, bowings, fingering tips and ensemble practice. We'll have good times with the Telemann! These will be informal events located around the area. See the Coach with a Pro page 


2019-20 Composer Competition  The NCVS is no longer accepting submissions of works for unaccompanied viola for our 2019-20 composition contest. For more information, click here. 


The 2019 YVC winners:  
1st Place - Sophia Ines Valenti (Santa Rosa)
2nd Place, Best Bach and Best New Piece -Sydney Whipple (Oakland)
3rd Place - Vincenzo Calcagno - (Vallejo)

The Northern California Viola Society was honored to host the talented young Finalists who performed with Collaborative Pianist Extraordinaire, Lori Lack, on the afternoon of March 10th, 2019 at the San Francisco Community Music Center for our Young Violists Competition.

The six finalists and hometowns (in alphabetical order):

Vincenzo Calcagno - (Vallejo)
Emily Hwang -  (Palo Alto)
Shinwho Kwun- (San Ramon)
Yannie - (Redwood City)
Sophia Ines Valenti (Santa Rosa)
Sydney Whipple - (Oakland)

Congratulations to our finalists, and thank you to all the talented young violists who applied and sent in recorded auditions. Northern California has a young violist population to be proud of! The NCVS panel were impressed with the quality of all the applicants.

2019 NCVS YVC Details
March 10th
Awards, reception-4:30
(12pm finalists warm-up)
Community Music Center
544 Capp St., San Francisco


Ruth Ellen Rose, Violist with Earplay, Professor at UC Davis and UC Berkeley
Dr. Tom Tatton, former president of the American Viola Society
Patricia Whaley, Principal Violist with Symphony Silicon Valley

Each Finalist performed selections of viola repertoire plus our 2019 composition competition winning piece, "Out of Mud" by Denise Ondishko.

Email with questions.