Mukilteo-born violinist finishes prestigious summer fellowship program

19-year-old Lara Lewison spent 8 weeks at the Tanglewood Music Center
By Marie Haaland | Beacon reporter | Aug 30, 2017
Courtesy of: Lara Lewison Lara Lewison, at far left, and three other fellows play their instruments at the Tanglewood Music Center earlier this summer.

When she was younger, Lara Lewison of Mukilteo needed to be bribed with Beanie Babies to play her violin; now, she is an accomplished musician.

Her musical abilities were passed down from her father, who began to play piano when he was 13. He wanted Lewison to start learning violin as early as possible, to allow her time to dedicate to studying the instrument.

“He asked around, seeing how young teachers would take a student,” Lewison said. “The teacher they decided on said I had to be out of diapers to start.”

At first, she didn’t enjoy practicing, and would receive stuffed animals from her parents as a reward if she didn’t cry while playing.

“I have three tubs of Beanie Babies,” Lewison said, laughing.

Now, at 19 years old, music is ingrained in Lewison’s life. Not only is she an experienced violinist, but she is also a gifted pianist and vocalist.

Lewison finished her first year of college at Columbia University in May. Lewison has a wide variety of interests besides music. For example, she is not sure what she wants to study, but is considering English and math.

“I do some flamingo dancing,” she said. “I love painting and visual art, I love doing things in Photoshop.”

Lewison spent part of her summer as a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center (TMC), the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer academy for advanced musical study.

The TMC Fellowship Program receives applications from around the world, and accepts the top 100 or so instrumentalists, singers, composers and conductors. The fellowship program takes place over the summer, between June and August.

“It’s an eight-week, pre-professional program sponsored by groups and individuals,” Lewison said. “I sent in a written application first, then was assigned an audition time. We were given excerpts to play.”

There were weekly orchestra concerts, and famous orchestra conductors came to the TMC. For one of the concerts, the fellows played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Lewison played in string quartets and participated in the Festival of Contemporary Music (FCM). She was the concertmaster – the leader of the first violin section – for Marcos Balter’s “Chambers.”

There were a variety of guest artists who performed over the summer at TMC, including the famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

“He has a very interesting, vibrant personality,” Lewison said.

Before going to New York for college, Lewison had lived in Mukilteo her entire life and grew up playing music around the area.

She played in the Academy Chamber Orchestra in Seattle, as well as in the Seattle Youth Symphony for a year.

Lewison’s father has been learning the double bass and joined the Mukilteo Community Orchestra. Recently, Lewison was able to play in the orchestra with him when she came home from college.

Even though she hasn’t committed to studying violin as a major or a minor in college, she plans to continue to pursue music and to continue playing with other people.

“I’ll always play music,” she said. “It’s such an integral part of my life, it’s hard to see myself not doing that.”

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