An Interview with Priscilla Hunt, violinist with the MSO for 44 years
Submitted by Cathleen Schaad, MSO Board Member
When did you start playing the violin?
I first picked up the violin at age 9 at the Lincoln School in Melrose. I remember my first trip to the MSO where I saw my violin teacher, Barbara Steg, up on stage. My father said to me, “if you practice... you might be up there someday.”
Are you from a musical family?
My grandfather was a pianist/organist for silent movies and vaudeville shows. He played more popular than classical-based music. I also had an aunt who lived with us who played piano and was a trained singer.
Did you study music in school?
I attended the Lincoln School and Melrose High where I played in the orchestra. I received a Bachelor of Music Degree in Music History from the University of Connecticut, as well as a Master Degree in Violin Performance from U Lowell (now UMass Lowell.) My first teaching job was at Masconomet Regional High School in Boxford. I then taught string instruments and orchestra for grades 4-12 in the Wakefield Public Schools for 30 years.
There are students of mine playing in the MSO today. Some, like myself, for over 20 years now.
I did my student teaching with Alan Hawryluk, former Director of Orchestras in the Salem Public Schools and current MSO Concertmaster.
Do you get nervous before a performance?
More like anxious than nervous, I suppose.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
I just keep playing; that mistaken moment is already gone.
Why do you volunteer with the MSO?
I just love to play violin. Also, I grew up in this community and was provided with opportunities and an education. It’s a way to give back to the community.
Why the violin? Do you play other instruments?
I was surrounded by pianos at home - and I didn’t want any part of them! My 4th grade teacher, Barbara Steg, who was sweet and engaging, demonstrated the string instruments to my class. That, in combination with later seeing her play with the MSO, is why I chose the violin. My mom said, “but we have two pianos!” My parents relented and got in touch with the family of my great-aunt Mabel in Nebraska. They graciously agreed to send her violin to me. Soon a box filled with hay and two violins arrived. I’m only the second owner of my violin. I’ve used this same instrument ever since. I also play viola.
What was your favorite music growing up?
The Beatles. I saw them at Suffolk Downs. I subscribe to Sirius XM’s "Beatles Only" Channel.
Who’s your favorite Beatle?
What is your favorite orchestral piece and why?
I don't have one favorite piece, but I am very happy playing Brahms and Beethoven Symphonies. My favorite violin solo is Bach's Chaconne in D minor for unaccompanied violin.
If you could have a seat in any other orchestra in the world which one would it be?
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Outside of music what are your other passions?
Zumba. I love to dance and attend the Ballet. I enjoy reading/watching mysteries. I also collect dolls from the 1950’s and 60’s.
What lessons learned and inspiration would you offer child musicians?
Find a good private lesson teacher, try to practice every day—even a little bit. Attend concerts. Have fun playing with your friends who you make through music.
Disclaimer...I didn’t practice much as a kid, unfortunately. I was dragged to my first private lesson, and came out liking it! My beloved teacher, Sarah Scriven, taught on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. She was very strict, but very kind, and I soon began to practice a lot.
Advice for adult musicians?
“Come play!” Find a place to play. Join a group. Playing alone is not as rewarding.
Fond memories of playing with the MSO?
I enjoyed serving as Concertmaster for 11 seasons. I actually played a solo with the MSO in March 1984. It was nerve-wracking, but fun. In addition to the musical part, I served as Secretary on the Board of Directors for several seasons. I continue to make lots of good memories with my MSO friends.
There’s a good confluence now right now with Yoichi. We have more Orchestra members, sponsors, and larger audiences today compared to my first years. And the Orchestra sounds great