Fourth grade Molly Gasperi signed up for Brookwood Elementary School orchestra because everyone else did. She didn’t think she would enjoy it and she definitely didn’t think she would play for too long. By sixth grade, all of her friends had quit orchestra and Molly was ready to give up playing the viola as well. But something kept her from quitting, she had a feeling she needed to stick with it. And it ended up being the best decision she ever made.
At the end of seventh grade, Molly’s school orchestra teacher suggested that she begin taking private lessons with Vicki Olsen. About a year later, she got into a chamber music program at the Heartland Music Academy called Stringendo. Stringendo is an orchestra of about 30 players aged eight to 20.
As a sophomore, Molly currently plays viola in the East orchestra. After the auditions, Molly was second chair. However, at East, everyone rotates chairs throughout the year. Coming into high school, Molly was nervous. East has a high standard of musical excellence. But playing viola is what she does for fun, and that’s what made it such an easy transition for her.
“Here at school everybody [in orchestra] is friends,” Molly said. “My orchestra friends are separated from my non-musical friends, so it’s nice to have two groups. And it’s definitely nice to have people that share such a big interest with you.”
Molly’s mom, Kelley Gasperi, loves that she has made new friends through playing the viola.
“Molly has made a lot of good friends through strings,” Kelley said. “I’ve found that the stereotypes that follow classical musicians (ultra smart, boring, lack of a sense of humor) are really inaccurate. Most of the people we’ve met have been fun and amazing.”
Between practicing at home, rehearsals and concerts, viola takes up a good amount of Molly’s time. School comes as a priority, so her practice schedule depends each night on the amount of homework she has. One night she can practice for multiple hours, and the next she’ll only be able to squeeze in half an hour before bed. She spends more time practicing on the weekends, along with her Stringendo rehearsal each Saturday morning.
“I am impressed with the consistency of her dedication,” Kelley said. “She never has an ‘off week’ where she fails to practice. I think she is so dedicated because playing the viola is her
favorite thing to do.”
Molly recently began to learn to play the piano as well. She has always wanted to. After freeing up her schedule from other things, she decided she had enough time. She says she mainly plays piano for fun, but it also helps her ability to read sheet music.
Playing two instruments, Molly sometimes has to choose music over her social life. When she needs help with a song or a teacher wants to meet with her, she has to cancel her plans.
“It’s not to the point where it’s like ‘oh I’m so serious I need to do this,’” Molly said. “It’s just better in the long run because I can always hang out with my friends.”
Molly’s friends understand that she is devoted to her music and she has to cancel plans on them every once in awhile. However, they still love to tease her about it.
“My friends joke with me, but I know they’re kidding. They never make fun of me about it,” Molly said. “It’s just something different, not as many people do it. I’m the only one out of our friend group that really is serious about something like that.”
Molly’s parents are also supportive. They appreciate her love and devotion to her music. Molly says she is lucky to have such understanding parents, because playing the viola takes up a lot of time. According to Kelley, it can also be costly.
“A nice instrument and bow are expensive, but worth the investment if you can make it happen,” Kelley said.
“Private lessons and participation in her Stringendo group are a big expense.”
Molly’s first concert was in fourth grade. She remembers everyone was nervous. The kids sat in folding chairs in a school gym. Their music wasn’t so great. She says it was mostly for the parents, who enjoyed it more than the young performers.
However, Molly’s first concert with Stringendo was a completely different atmosphere. They played at Grace Covenant Church, which was much larger than the school. The performers she played with were more experienced.
“[It was] in eighth grade, and that was a pretty big deal,” Molly said. “I had always played in school gyms. Plus, we got to play with college kids who go to camps at Juilliard and they’re really good, so that really motivates you.”
Kelley says that watching Molly play makes her proud, and Molly’s ability to play so beautifully always surprises her.
“It is so tough to master a stringed instrument,” Kelley said. “She plays with a great deal of feeling because of her love of the music.”
Molly plans to play viola in college. She wants to go to a school with a good orchestra and hopefully get a scholarship. However, she doesn’t plan on making a career out of it. Molly says it’s not the kind of lifestyle she wants to have.
Molly’s younger brother, Joey, plays viola as well.
“I started to play the viola because my sister did,” Joey said. “I like it a lot, and try to find time to practice as much as possible. I know I will stick with it through high school, but I’m not sure if I want to play in college. Molly helps me with almost everything. She plays pieces and coaches me through new material.”
Molly says she also tries to encourage Joey not to quit playing when all his friends do, like she almost did. Who knows, someday he may become just as devoted and dedicated as she is.