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Nobody talks about the viola and how it relates to the vocal arts. Well, maybe it’s time to do that, right now.

People rarely see classical musicians stepping outside the lines, and I have to say, it is not entirely their fault. See, the world of classical music is restricting in more ways than one. Not only does it enforce an inside-the-box mentality, where a lot of its musicians just read exactly what is on the page in front of them, but only 3% of the entire population are avid classical music listeners and concert attenders. So what about the other 97%?

Alice Ping performs the William Walton Viola Concerto with the University of Texas at Austin Orchestra directed by Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann

Alice Ping performs the William Walton Viola Concerto with the University of Texas at Austin Orchestra directed by Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann

Now, don’t get me wrong, my passion for classical music is an earnest one; the soaring melodies of Mozart and the dense harmonic saturation of Beethoven are not wasted on me. But, I have been lucky enough to see outside this bubble; to collaborate with other musicians in different settings and different musical genres, forcing me to no longer rely on sheet music, but to trust my ears and my instincts.

In this way, singing and playing the viola are not at all different. Each presents its own challenges, of course, but both require attention to detail and, literally, open ears. I have been so fortunate to be able to combine these two worlds, maintaining my strong ties to classical music by applying to schools like Juilliard for graduate school, all the while stepping into the recording studio the next day to cut a track.

Some may wonder how it is I balance these two parts of my life. I often like to keep them separated, distant from one another, so I can pour all of my energy into whatever I am currently doing without worrying about the other side of things. I’ve developed a knack for this kind of compartmentalization. But, now I’m starting to think it’s time to blend the two together. This, I think, is how we can start to reach that other 97% of the population.

Classical music has never been an accessible form of entertainment. It has always targeted the “elite,” the higher classes, and many think it uppity and only for those willing to shell out the big bucks for a box seat at the MET. But this is entirely untrue! It is time we start appealing to the masses, adapting our mindset while broadening theirs.

The popular arts are so much more attainable and easy to comprehend, so why can’t we bridge the two? Combine a Bach Cello Suite with Taylor Swift, or Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with Beyonce. The possibilities are endless. I have every intention of pursuing the field of classical music and pop vocals in the future, separately if I have to. But, how cool would it be if I could do both at the same time??

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