Get to know the newest member of the Lydian String Quartet

Andrea Segar

The Lydian String Quartet opens its 2016-17 season with a concert on Saturday, Oct. 29 at Slosberg Music Center featuring performances of works by Mozart, Maurice Ravel, Béla Bartók and the world premiere of a piece by Associate Professor of Composition Yu-Hui Chang. Tickets are available online, by phone at 781-736-3400 or at the Brandeis ticket office in Shapiro Campus Center. 

This Q&A originally appeared in the fall issue of State of the Arts

After an international search, Andrea Segar has joined the Lydian String Quartet as first violinist and a member of the Brandeis music faculty, filling the chair held by Daniel Stepner, who has retired from the quartet. A soloist and chamber musician on the worldwide stage, Segar has performed at Yellow Barn, the Olympic Music Festival and Festival de San Miguel de Allende. She has played as soloist with orchestras that include the Portland Symphony and Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and collaborated in chamber music performances with members of the Juilliard String Quartet, Emerson Quartet and Peabody Trio.

“Andrea’s confidence, warmth, natural expression and wisdom made her our unanimous choice,” says Judith Eissenberg, the Lydians’ second violinist and a founding member of the quartet. Segar first performed with the Lydians in May, at a dinner honoring the 2016 Brandeis honorary degree recipients. “Her playing on the Ravel Quartet was like a living, fantastical, shape-shifting sea creature. The whole audience—as well as the three of us—leaned in to appreciate the lovely intimacy of that very special piece of music.”

A native of Davis, California, Segar studied at the New England Conservatory of Music and received her doctoral degree from SUNY Stony Brook. She is returning to the Boston area from Sarasota, Florida, with her husband, Michael Dobrinski, a trumpet player in the Sarasota Orchestra, and Sophie, a small, fluffy dog.

What are your first impressions of Brandeis?

When I was a student, I knew the Lydian Quartet’s reputation for going beyond the traditional concert repertoire, for finding different perspectives and contexts for music. I believe that is also the work of Brandeis: finding new ways of thought and exploring cross-disciplinary interaction. I’m excited to be at a place where I might explore the intersection of music with history, literature or linguistics, for example.

Did you know your predecessor, Dan Stepner, did stand-up comedy?

No! That’s awesome. I would love to see him perform.

Do you have any good violin jokes?

I mostly know viola jokes, but you can turn them around to make them about a violinist. How can you tell a violist from a violinist? The violinist’s head is bigger.

Who are your favorite composers?

It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but I’ve always loved Mozart and Brahms. I’ve come to appreciate early-20th-century composers through the Decade Project, a recital series of mine that explores early-20th-century violin and piano music. Last year, I performed works from 1910 to 1919 including Elgar, Ives, Satie, Debussy and Janáček. The composers of the 1920s are next: Bartók, Ravel, Bloch, Enescu, Stravinsky.

You have one chance to have a drink with a composer from the past. Who do you choose?

Georges Enescu. It was said that if Beethoven’s works were destroyed, they could all be reconstructed from memory by Georges Enescu.

How did you discover you were a teacher?

As a grad student at NEC, I was Donald Weilerstein’s teaching assistant, and that experience turned out to be a defining moment in my musical life. I was thrown into the deep end with these amazing young players and I had to ask myself, what can I give them? How can I help each student identify and build on their strengths? It’s wonderful to witness students’ “aha” moments. You bond with them when they realize their potential.

What have been some of the high points of your musical life?

One would be performing on the Guarneri violin that Jascha Heifetz owned during his career. Long before him, the violin was owned by Ferdinand David, who premiered the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. What a life that violin has had!

And the places that being a musician has taken me: St. Peter’s at the Vatican, with an orchestra from NEC and YOA Orchestra of the Americas. Prussia Cove in Cornwall, England, one of my favorite places on the planet. The Kennedy Center.

What lies ahead for the Lydians?

In addition to playing and coaching at Brandeis, we’re spending most of December in Taiwan, where we will coach students at Taipei National University of the Arts, and play two full concert programs. As for the long term, my new colleagues are wonderfully open to many ways of approaching the music. Clearly, the longer we play together, the more our interpretation of our repertoire will evolve, and that’s really exciting.

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