Q&A with Concertmaster Suzanne Beia

This summer, this Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra became one of the only orchestras in the U.S. to perform live as a full ensemble during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s how Concertmaster Suzanne Beia described the experience in a recent Q&A:

What was the experience like to play with the full WCO again at Breese Stevens Field?

Playing with the WCO at Breese Stevens after months of almost no collaborative musical endeavors was a phenomenally delightful experience. I remain grateful to all whose hard work and planning made these two concerts possible. I had been a bit apprehensive about ensemble difficulties (due to the increased distance between musicians); however, any worries dissipated quickly as, within minutes, the orchestra adjusted to the challenges presented by the new geography.

Tell us what music you've been playing and listening to during the past few months? What does music mean to you during this crazy time?

When the pandemic abruptly closed concert halls in mid-March, my first reaction was one of stunned paralysis; for the first time in decades, I found myself with all the time in the world to practice, but, with no concerts in the foreseeable future, no clear idea of what to practice. After a few days, as I began to “get my bearings,” I resolved to treat my newly clear schedule as a blessing in disguise. In addition to practicing études to refine my technique, I began to explore works for solo violin by Bach, Geminiani, Campagnoli, and Ysaÿe. I revisited the Brahms Concerto and worked on the Bach C Major Fugue—a work I always wanted to learn, but never had time to study. Most importantly, I rediscovered the immense, soul-nurturing joy of playing music solely for the sheer enjoyment of doing so.

    I am deeply humbled, awed, and grateful to everyone who has believed in us and offered their support. To all of these benefactors, I offer my most sincere “Thank you!”
    – Suzanne Beia, Concertmaster

    What message of hope can you offer to everyone who is missing in-person WCO concerts?

    Throughout the anxiety and uncertainty of the pandemic, one inarguable truth stands as a beacon shining through the darkness: music is, and always will be, essential; and, what is essential will find a way to emerge. Challenging times provide opportunities for creative solutions. The “balcony concerts” during the lockdown in Europe, the digital “collage” concerts from ensembles around the world, the orchestras (like Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra) that performed with unprecedented safety parameters—are irrefutable evidence of both the necessity of music and the resilience of artists and arts organizations. When the day comes (hopefully soon!) that we can once again gather together safely, I can say with absolute confidence that we will be ready to offer the high-quality artistic experience our audiences have come to expect, with newly-acquired skills, approaches, and perspectives necessitated by the pandemic, and having emerged even stronger for having “weathered the storm.”

    Hundreds of donors have given donations to the WCO since the pandemic started. Do you have anything to say to those supporters?

    Honestly, when I think of the many supportive people whose generous donations to the Chamber Orchestra have sustained the organization, I find myself at a loss for words. I am deeply humbled, awed, and grateful to everyone who has believed in us and offered their support. To all of these benefactors, I offer my most sincere “Thank you!” I can hardly wait for the day when we will be able to gather and share music once again, allowing me the opportunity to express my appreciation in person! Until then, stay safe, healthy, and strong, everybody!

    From left to right, WCO Musicians: Hillary Hempel, Clayton Tillotson, Suzanne Beia, and Paran Amirinazari performing "For the Greater Groove" at Breese Stevens Field.

    Looking back at Concerts on the Square

    Thousands of music lovers enjoyed Concerts on the Square as it was broadcast live from Breese Stevens on August 25 and September 1 via online streaming, drive-in, and radio.

    2020 Photo Gallery

    The WCO became one of the only orchestras to play as a full ensemble in the country by following strict distancing, sanitation, and attendance procedures at Breese Stevens Field in Madison.

    Gavin Hope and David Blarimes of Jeans ‘n Classics sang favorites from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s with the WCO on August 25.

    WCO musicians performed together for the first time in months with every performer distanced and mic'd individually. Left to right: David Cooper, Robert Rohlfing, Linda Kimball, Michael Szczys.

    Frequent collaborator Tracy Silverman joined the Orchestra on September 1 for the premiere of his composition For the Greater Groove.

    Thousands of concertgoers enjoyed Concerts on the Square virtually through online streaming, drive-ins at the Madison Mallards Duck Pond, and over the radio on WORT 89.9 FM.

    After fending off rain earlier in the day, the September 1 Concerts on the Square performance saw beautiful sun.

    Thank you to all who made this fantastic series possible!


    Virtual Event: 11.13.20

    Enjoy Concerts on the Square from your couch with this one-time free rebroadcast of Come Together, our performance from August 25, 2020. Hear favorite hits from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, including The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, The Who, Prince, and more all performed by the WCO with special guests Jeans ‘n Classics.

    COME TOGETHER REBROADCAST, DETAILS HERE.

    Visit WCO Live on November 13 at 7 p.m. (CST) to get closer to music!


    More information about our 20/21 Season is coming soon, stay tuned.

    Thank you to our supporters!