Heidi van der Swaagh

Heidi van der Swaagh

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

Born and raised in a small mountain town in Colorado, I was home-schooled, along with my five siblings, until the age of 16. After spending my last two years of high school at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, I moved to Baltimore, Maryland to complete my Bachelor’s in Cello Performance and Music Education. I then taught for two years in public schools in Maryland before deciding to return to school for my masters.

I grew up hiking and cross-country skiing with my family in the mountains of Colorado and taking long walks with my extended family in England. On top of this, I spent most weekends of my childhood building a log cabin and planting trees (300-600 each year!) on my family’s property. So, naturally, the outdoors is part of who I am (I’m also pretty handy with tools!) Although I have spent the last 8 years or so living in more urban environments, I still love hiking and exploring whenever I can.

I am also an avid baker. I love trying new recipes and perfecting old ones. It is also just a good excuse to have some tasty treats!

How did you first get into music?

My parents are both amateur musicians, so music was always a part of my childhood, even before I started learning an instrument. My Mum played cello as a young girl, before switching to double bass, so when I was seven and my older brother and sister started taking piano lessons with a new teacher whose wife taught cello, I started taking cello lessons.

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

I always enjoyed playing cello and making music (although not always practicing!), but it wasn’t until I was 15 that I decided I wanted music to be my future. The turning point was attending the summer chamber music program Credo, in Oberlin, Ohio. I’d never really played chamber music before that point, and I just completely fell in love with it! The thrill of playing Mendelssohn Octet with seven other musicians my own age who enjoyed it just as much as I did, was the start of my true passion for music. This was also when I discovered my passion for music outreach, so the two have gone hand-in-hand for me from the very beginning.

What has been your musical highlight so far?

Performing for the women at My Sister’s Place, which is a transitional housing program for homeless women in diagnosed with a disability. I particularly enjoyed building relationships with the women throughout the year and having the opportunity to discuss music and performance with them at each concert.

Who are your favourite composers/artists/musicians?

I never have an answer for this question! I’m bad with favourites for anything, but especially with music, it just depends so much on my mood, what I’m working on at the time, or where I am. I do have a particular fondness for Chopin (his nocturnes especially), as well as Britten’s cello works.

What do you anticipate for the Nevis Ensemble?

I think there is so much potential for the Nevis Ensemble in the future. Not only will the concerts and workshops that we do this summer inspire future performances, but the musicians themselves will carry the vision of the ensemble forward past the tour. I know from personal experience that doing this type of musical outreach is an incredibly satisfying and fulfilling endeavour, not only for the audiences who might not normally come into contact with live music like this, but for the performers themselves. The Nevis Ensemble is taking this type of work to a whole new level, and I believe it will only continue to grow from here!