Rebecca Weger has landed a dream job: she's in the most competitive section of the Regina Symphony Orchestra, performs to thousands and is well paid for what she does.
She’s also 14 years old.
In August 2012, Weger beat out competing professional musicians during the symphony’s annual audition, winning a violin spot that she started in fall 2012. But the jury choosing from the auditioning pool had no idea Weger was merely 13 at the time.
“It was behind a curtain, so no one could see who was auditioning,” Weger explains. In addition to not being seen, auditioning musicians are not allowed to speak.
Such blind auditions are now commonplace, mainly to prevent jurors from subconsciously favouring male players. It may no longer be a question of whether female musicians can make good orchestral players, though. In this case, the spotlight’s on whether or not children should be employed by a symphony. Is the Regina Symphony Orchestra worried that a teenager might not fit into a professional working environment?
“No,” says its executive director, Maxim Antoshin. “We provide everyone with equal opportunity. All we are interested in is the quality of playing.”
Teen's talent triumphs
Karen Constant, the symphony’s acting concertmaster, says she was struck by Weger’s audition.
“What impressed me most and set her apart was her sound quality — lush and expressive,” says Constant. “She displayed maturity beyond her age. The audition excerpts were played in tune, in the right tempos, with rhythmic steadiness and dynamical accuracy, as well as in the appropriate musical style.”
Weger, on the other hand, felt “pretty nervous” during the audition. She had been training for half a year for this moment with her violin teacher, Rudy Sternadel, who had originally encouraged the Grade 9 student to audition just for the experience. Together, they had perfected a concerto excerpt Weger had chosen (the exposition section of Mozart’s Concerto No. 3, first movement). In the end, Weger had fewer than 10 minutes to impress the judges. She was asked to play from her concerto, as well as the Bach–Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.
When she got home later that evening, Weger’s phone rang. It was the symphony’s personnel manager, calling to offer her the job. “Rebecca didn't say much,” says Weger’s mother, Sara Cryderman. “[The manager] had to tell her: ‘That's really good!’"
“I was really, really surprised,” Weger agrees. And, after reality sank in, “really, really happy.”
Weger, who started playing in kindergarten at a local parent-child string program led by Sternadel, had landed a de facto permanent orchestral violin position — a feat that many professional musicians work for decades to achieve.
Weger played her first concert with the Regina Symphony Orchestra a few short weeks later.
“It was a little scary at first, but everyone was really nice,” Weger says. “They made me feel welcome.”
Welcome to the big league
Also a member of the South Saskatchewan Youth Orchestra and University of Regina Chamber Orchestra, Weger thinks that playing with the Regina Symphony Orchestra “seems a lot more professional. No fooling around!” She has now played five concerts.
“I really enjoy playing with the orchestra,” she says. “I love the music and enjoy being in the middle of so much sound — more sound than I am used to from the youth orchestra. I also like how the orchestra sounds good right away and how things come together much faster.”
So is orchestral violinist Weger’s dream job?
“I’ve not really thought about it very much,” she answers with a laugh. “I have no idea.”
After all, Weger just started high school last year. In all other respects, she’s a typical teenager. She curls in the winter and plays soccer in the spring; she plays trumpet in the school orchestra and jazz band; her favourite subjects are phys ed and math. She only practises the violin for about an hour a day.
While she says most of her friends don’t have an interest in the symphony — or even know that she has such a coveted position in it — Weger, of course, is a classical music fan. Now, she is also a promising professional classical musician.
“Rebecca is a very talented artist with a great future,” says Victor Sawa, the Regina Symphony Orchestra’s music director. “She must stay the course and be very disciplined; but if she does, the sky’s the limit.”
Watch and listen: National Youth Orchestra of Canada at Koerner Hall
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on Jan 16, 2013