This season, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra has a new concertmaster. She is 26-year-old Lauren Roth, a native of Seattle, Washington, and a very accomplished musician.
Roth says her family wasn’t particularly musical, though all four children played some instrument. Most didn’t continue with them into high school, having found other things that held more interest for them. However, there was something in Lauren that put music on a higher plane. As a two-year-old, she announced that she wanted lipstick, eye shadow and a violin for Christmas.
Cinderella makeup handled her first two requests. Her parents thought that a toy violin was perfectly acceptable for the last one, since she wasn’t even three yet. They thought she wanted it just for fun—perhaps to imitate the older children. When they presented her with an old, unplayable instrument, Lauren was not amused. “I want a REAL violin and I want my first lesson on my birthday,” she declared.
Her mother, Theresa Roth, remembers that even as a young child, “she was very single minded. She can be very focused and very intense. She does anything she puts her mind to doing.” So it was that the “real” violin and the lesson were presented one month later, on that third birthday.
Her first teacher used the Japanese Suzuki method. Lauren had lessons every week. In those early years, she admits that she was not a “huge practicer,” but she was taught how to practice well and efficiently, so she made the most of time spent.
She began studying with Professor Ron Patterson at the University of Washington while she was still in high school. When she reached college age, she decided to continue with the renowned concertmaster “just down the hill” from her home. This also gave her the freedom to study things other than music, which an education at a conservatory would not have afforded.
While still an undergraduate, Roth was chosen to be the concertmaster of the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra. She also taught violin during that time, and worked as a freelance artist, playing for Hollywood film scores.
The position of concertmaster is a revered spot in an orchestra, requiring a rigorous audition process. A concertmaster is always a violinist and has important responsibilities, including playing violin solos and leading the string section and violins in playing well. The concertmaster is the person who comes out ahead of the conductor to finalize the tuning of all the instruments. Finally, the concertmaster cues the rest of the orchestra when to stand and sit during a performance. He or she has a close relationship with the conductor, acting as liaison between the conductor and the musicians.
Roth notes that getting used to sitting in the concertmaster chair can be difficult. It requires a resilient personality, because there are challenges. And it is definitely a career track that must be diligently pursued. She is grateful that she was able to work with experienced concertmasters in both her undergraduate and graduate programs, the latter of which she undertook at Cleveland Institute of Music. There she worked one-on-one with William Preucil, Concertmaster of the world-famous Cleveland Orchestra, for two years to complete her postgraduate work.
“I finished my master’s degree in May, and for the last year of that degree, I started having my eyes and ears open for concertmaster auditions,” she explained. She saw a posting for the TSO, and she and her teacher agreed that it was an opportunity that she shouldn’t pass up.
She is excited about what lies ahead. “I am really looking forward to playing in an orchestra weekly with the same people, at high level, and playing great repertoire.”
In addition to being the new concertmaster of TSO, Lauren is also an assistant adjunct professor of violin at UA. She works in the School of Music under Director Rex Woods.
She does admit to a little environmental shock, living in a desert for the first time, but she already has connections established. An old friend lives here, and she is making new ones.
Lauren is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and attends one of the young single adult wards in the city. She feels that her knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ broadens her perspective of her role as a musician. “Understanding the gospel gives me a chance to recognize from where my talents come.” She notes that live performance touches people in ways that recorded music cannot. She feels lucky to have a job that blesses other’s lives so directly.
As her mother put it, “If you don’t have the heart, you don’t have music. And Lauren plays with her heart.” She is grateful that her daughter is able to be the catalyst to help the audience to tap into the light of Christ that surrounds them.
Lauren also finds personal fulfillment in what she does. “Faith in Jesus Christ brings peace into any life, no matter what the circumstances. As my life centers around music, I recognize that my true center is Jesus Christ. My faith in Jesus Christ helps me be a more centered musician, and I hope that my music can bring others peace.”
Click here to view the schedule of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra.