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New talent on the Utah Symphony's horizon

Published September 5, 2013 4:17 pm

Utah Symphony • The orchestra welcomes seven young players.
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After a performance with James Taylor and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Utah Symphony gets back to business with a big Beethoven concerto and the beginning of its Carl Nielsen symphony cycle. Here are the seven newcomers to the orchestra's roster:

Mark Davidson

Instrument • Trombone

Age • 30

Education • University of North Texas, Juilliard School of Music

Davidson, who grew up in Dallas, said he looks forward to jumping into Utah's outdoor culture. The recreational opportunities and scenic beauty, in addition to the Utah Symphony's good reputation and status as a 52-week orchestra, drew him to audition here after playing with the orchestras of Cincinnati, Baltimore and San Antonio.

"I really like to ski, I'm getting into hiking and I want to learn to fly fish — and I have a road bike," he said. "I've always regarded this part of the country as some of the most beautiful terrain."

Eric Hopkins

Position • Percussion section player, associate principal timpani

Age • 24

Education • Manhattan School of Music

At 24, Hopkins is the youngest member of the Utah Symphony. He joked that he was relieved to land an orchestra job on his second audition because the alternatives were more freelancing and more school. He recently earned a master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music, where he taught in the pre-college division. Hopkins has been interested in percussion instruments since he was a young boy in Florida, fashioning timpani sticks out of wild bamboo from his mother's backyard, toy car wheels, green billiard felt and dental floss.

Hopkins' other interests include racquetball, ultimate Frisbee, sushi making, writing poetry and painting. An avid cyclist, he says he's been known to play the didgeridoo while riding his unicycle, though he doesn't recommend making a habit of it.

Elina Lev

Instrument • Violin

Age • 27

Education • Roosevelt University in Chicago

As associate concertmaster with the Charlotte Symphony in North Carolina, the gregarious Lev served on the board of CSO Pulse, an outreach organization similar to the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera's Vivace. She has played in the New World Symphony, Michael Tilson-Thomas' prestigious Miami-based orchestra for fledgling professionals. Lev said she's been drawn to the Intermountain region since playing at the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder. "I've always loved the mountains," she said. "I visited Boulder last summer and thought, 'Gosh, wouldn't it be great to live in the mountains?' " She is delighted to be in Salt Lake City with her new pets, a cat and a greyhound-Chihuahua mix.

Erin Svoboda

Position • Associate principal clarinet

Age • 30

Education • New England Conservatory of Music, Temple University, Manhattan School of Music

As a freelance musician in New York, Svoboda performed with the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera. She also gave the premiere of Michael Gandolfi's Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon with a Boston-area orchestra along with her father, Boston Symphony principal bassoonist Richard Svoboda.

Svoboda was disappointed when she couldn't travel to audition for the Utah job when it was first posted, but the orchestra didn't fill the position at that time — not an uncommon occurrence in the orchestra world. She was delighted to get a second chance. Utah's low humidity and high altitude present special challenges for woodwind musicians, but Svoboda looks forward to building lung capacity by hiking, biking and skiing.

Whittney Thomas

Instrument • Viola

Age • 26

Education • University of Southern California, New England Conservatory of Music

Thomas grew up in a musical home, where her father played clarinet in his own funk band and her mother "dabbled in everything." She started studying violin when she was 8, playing in a string trio with her sisters at nursing homes and weddings in their hometown of San Diego. She switched to viola when she was 16. Thomas has been playing with the orchestra of the Hyogo Performing Arts Center in Japan, which focuses on professional development, for two years and looks forward to returning to the United States. Her interests include cooking, hiking and crocheting, and she said she would love to take up snow sports.

Matthew Tutsky

Position • Acting principal harp

Age • 28

Education • Juilliard Pre-College Division, Manhattan School of Music

Tutsky will be sitting in for the Utah Symphony's popular principal harpist, Louise Vickerman, this season while she is on sabbatical. He and Vickerman played together on a couple of Utah Symphony concerts last season, including a performance of "Symphonie fantasique" with Tutsky playing principal. She vouches for him as a great harpist and "just a delightful person." Tutsky is principal harpist with the Boise Philharmonic and a permanent substitute with the Anchorage Symphony in Alaska, and will serve on the adjunct faculty at Weber State University this season in addition to his duties at Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho. The Connecticut native has been playing the harp since the idea came to him in a dream when he was 8. In his free time, he likes to travel, ride his bike and see independent films.

Karen Wyatt

Instrument • Violin

Age • 31

Education • Indiana University

Wyatt has performed with the Baltimore Symphony and Virginia Symphony in addition to a three-year fellowship at the New World Symphony. She has played with the Pittsburgh Symphony for the past four seasons and is in the midst of a three-week European tour with that orchestra.

In an email, Wyatt noted that she enjoys performing chamber music, baroque music and teaching. She also enjoys gardening and baking.