The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s first violin Mona Coarda has seen a lot, having been with the orchestra since 1986.
Coarda, 50, is a longtime resident of North Kildonan, and recently chatted with Canstar Community News’ Jared Story about growing up in Romania, her experiences playing the violin, and her favourite non-classical music.
Jared Story: Did you come straight to Winnipeg from Romania?
Mona Coarda: No, I was born in Romania, then I immigrated to Chicago when I was about 17. I went to school there, after I finished university I came here. This was my first job. I didn’t think I was going to get it, so I thought I’ll stay for a while, and then, I guess, it grows on you. You get friends, you have a life here, so here I am 27 years later.
JS: Did your parents put you in music school at a young age?
MC: My mom was a music lover and she absolutely loved the violin. When I was little I did violin and I studied also French and I took ballet and I was so tired, actually the doctor said you have to choose one, and so she chose violin, which actually, I hated when I was little. You know, everybody is playing outside and you’re stuck inside having to practice. At the time it was very little, maybe an hour a day, but for a six-year-old (when Coarda started), that means life and death pretty much. But then you get better at it, and I started to really like it, practice quite a bit. I got to the point where I was practising probably eight hours a day.
JS: So what do you love about the violin now?
MC: I love everything about it. It’s like an old friend. Because I’ve been with it for so long, when I pick up the violin, it’s just like second nature. I can’t really see myself doing anything else... I can’t really explain it, but when you’re onstage and you’re performing, you’re engulfed in this other world, it’s just magic. And then when people applaud, I’m back to Earth kind of. It’s really nice when there’s lots of people and they appreciate what you do, they enjoy it and you can see in their faces that they loved it. It’s very satisfying.
JS: So do you have a favourite composer?
MC: I do, I love Brahms.
JS: What about non-classical music?
MC: My colleagues would probably laugh at me, but I like country music. I do. I just love the words to the songs. I do listen on my radio and in the car too.
JS: Do you have a favorite country music artist?
MC: Travis Tritt I like, I used to like Alan Jackson, not so much anymore for some reason.
JS: Do you key in on the violin in country music?
MC: No, I wish I could, for us classical musicians, I think it’s harder to get into them, we need music in front of us, I can’t speak for my colleagues but at least me I need to have something written down before I play it. I can’t do improv. If it’s a piece of music in front of me, I can play it, anything pretty much.
JS: So what have been your highlights with the WSO and what are you looking forward to?
MC: There have been lots of highlights, conductors and solos that we had. I remember when I first got here, maybe a year or so after that, Yo-Yo Ma came and being so young and never seeing a big-name person up close, it was amazing. He actually took the whole orchestra for dinner after the concert, like oh my goodness, I’m so happy I chose this.