Name: Alayne Wegner
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Major: Sociology and Music
How did you get started playing music?
I actually started playing violin when I was four, and then I didn’t like it so I stopped. But a little later on, I thought I’d better keep going mainly because my father and brother both played. My father played Celtic music and my brother started taking lessons, and he’s four years older than me, so naturally I though “Oh, this is something I should do” and I loved it. Sometimes I hated it, but you just have to power through.
So your family’s pretty musical?
Yeah, my father plays and my mother’s an artist, so there’s a lot of fine arts.
Has it always been just violin, or have you experimented with other instruments?
When I was in middle school, I tried learning the cello. I took a few lessons. I dabble in guitar, I try playing the piano. I kind of dink around on other instruments, but violin’s my primary one. I actually sang for fourteen years, but it didn’t really stick.
Who influenced you early on?
There’s this really interesting tradition in my family where we have what’s called the Back Meadow Party, and my grandmother and grandfather own a large plot of land in the middle of nowhere in Michigan, and every summer since before I was born my parents and family friends will get together and have a weekend where they would camp and play music around the fire and during the day, and so that was always really fun and would get me in a musical mode. It’s mainly folk music, so that was my folky side, but as I got more interested in classical music, the violinist Hilary Hahn was always my main influence.
How has your playing style changed over the years? What styles have you gravitated towards?
I’ve always been primarily a classical musician. When I was in middle school and high school I always did youth orchestra. That was like my sport. It was always kind of the way I learned to express myself, to be in an ensemble, so that’s been the foundation for the way I interact musically. It’s always been that classical music has been primarily at the forefront of what I do. When I got to college I started doing jazz, I did the Gypsy Jazz Band, I’ve dabbled in improvisation. But I think that one of my favorite ways to play music is in an ensemble. I’ve been in large ensembles, small ensembles, and specifically chamber music is my favorite.
What’s your practice regimen like?
I have two different scale systems that I work with. One’s the Galamian scale system, the other’s the Carl Flesch scale system. I always start with the Galamian, working on arpeggios and scales, basically all these techniques. Octaves, fingered octaves, double stops. And that usually takes somewhere between fifteen to thirty minutes, and I’m really tired by then. Next I work on whatever piece I’m working on at the time, and I tend to work more on sections than just playing through things. A practice sessions lasts from anywhere between an hour to and hour and a half. I try to do two hour blocks at a time, because that’s how long my attention span and my body can take it.
Hilary Hahn all the way. Hilary Hahn, Hilary Hahn, Hilary Hahn. Some people call her a robot because she’s just so technically perfect all the time. She always is consistent, and always plays everything so well, with fantastic technique. Her interpretations are fairly non-conventional sometimes, or kind of aggressive. She did a recording of Mozart five, and it’s aggressive in this really interesting way. She just has the most wonderful, convincing interpretations of things, with the technical capacity behind it.
What goal are you practicing towards now?
I have a recital this semester, April 17th at 2 PM, please come! I am playing Ysaye’s Sonata 3, and that’s extremely hard. Think like Debussy meets Paganini for violin. Whole tone, color tone, but like crazy fingerings and weird things. I’m also playing [Bach’s] Partita No. 2. Like, all of it. So we’ll see if I’ll make it out of this semester alive.
I understand you play in a symphony off-campus.
Yeah, I’m in the New Albany Symphony, which is directed by Luis Biava, the cellist instructor at Kenyon. He’s actually husband of my violin teacher. It’s interesting, they’re kind of like my music parents away from home. It’s really nice because it’s a semi-professional orchestra, so it requires a lot of work but also is really fun and keeps me on top of my game.
Favorite part of music at Kenyon?
That’s a really hard question. I think the variety of opportunities, because there are so many different types of ensembles, and you get supported to do basically anything you want. My freshman year I was in a quartet, and the music department was like “Do you need music?” and was right there to give support to students. There are just so many different things that you can do. And the concerts, the people the department brings in to perform, are so amazing.
Any words of wisdom to aspiring musicians?
Just keep going. Keep doing it. I’m sure there are much more inspirational words, but honestly there are may points where I’ve considered stopping, but music is one of those things where you don’t want to regret stopping because it’s hard. There are so many things you can learn from playing music. So don’t stop, because there’s so many things that you can learn. That’s why I love music so much, because I feel like I can be a student my whole life. I might be really good someday, but there’s always something new to discover. That’s why music has changed so much over the years.
Check out Alayne’s recital on April 17th at 2 PM in Brandi Hall, and see her in the Knox County Symphony at their concert February 13th.