Brianna Berman

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your life. Not necessarily music-related!

I grew up in a small town in upstate New York with an American father and a Scottish-born mother. Aside from travelling back and forth between New York and Scotland, I spent my entire life in that small town before dropping out of high school at age 16 to attend university in Massachusetts.  After receiving my associates degree in liberal arts, I moved to New York City, where I studied part-time at New York University and worked as a campaign manager for the fundraising side of organizations like Planned Parenthood, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Doctors Without Borders.  I am currently halfway through my bachelor’s degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and hope to eventually combine my interests in activism, social engagement, and music as my career after I graduate.

How did you first get into music?

I began playing the violin when I was nine.  For years, my mother pestered me to learn the violin, but I was insistent that I would play flute or softball and absolutely nothing else.  About a year or so after she had finally given up her pro-violin campaign I was sitting alone watching a concert on TV.   At the very back of the stage a woman in a long, flowing violet dress danced back and forth while playing the violin.  I was completely mesmerized and, to my mother’s delight, begged my parents to sign me up for lessons when I woke up the next morning.

What made you decide that music would be an important part of your life?

Music has been an important part of my life from a young age.  Years before I began playing violin I went to Irish step dance classes three times a week.  By the time I started playing the violin I had already, somewhat childishly, decided that music, and the arts in general, would be my career.

What has been your musical highlight so far?

I had the opportunity to compete in the American String Teachers Association yearly orchestra competition.  High school orchestras from around the country came to compete and it was daunting to go up against so many other musicians.  Each group played twice, receiving two separate scores that would be averaged out to make the scoring as fair as possible. Both performances were open to the other contestants to watch. Generally, we were told, the audience for the second concert was quite a bit smaller than the first.  However, unbeknown to us at the time, news of our orchestra had spread throughout the other orchestras in between our two performances and when we walked on stage for our second performance the audience was about twice the size it had been for the first one.  It was amazing to realize that so many other students had come to listen to us, to check out the competition.   We ended up going on to win first prize, but in many ways realizing that we had earned the respect of our fellow musicians felt like more of a reward than the trophy itself.

Who are your favourite composers/artists/musicians?

Within the realm of classical music, I prefer Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich. Playing Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir du Florence deepened my love of music more than I thought possible of a single piece, and the Shostakovich string quartets are always a joy to behold. Outside of my profession, however, I am a big fan of hip hop music.  I love artists like Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Tyler the Creator, and Chance the Rapper.

What do you anticipate for the Nevis Ensemble?

I expect to be constantly exhausted, but in the best possible way!  I am very much looking forward to playing the wide array of repertoire and getting to meet so many different musicians in and around the Glasgow area.