Musicians discuss performing, future plans

Strings: Ryan Masotto and Samantha Silver perform with the other members of the Fetter String Quartet in their November recital. Alongside their work in the Quartet, the two also play in solo recitals and teach viola and violin lessons to any wanting to learn.

Mark Feuerborn

Ryan Masotto and Samantha Silver, junior violist and senior violinist respectively, hold much in common in their upbringing with music, but now have chosen much different paths for their musical careers.

The two are ambidextrous artists, performing solo works, pieces for Washburn University’s Fetter String Quartet and even participating in performances with entire symphonies. The two were quick to compliment each other’s performances in their most recent recitals.

Masotto tried to explain what it was like for him to prepare and perform at his recital.

“It’s a lot of work, [but] went better than expected though. I wouldn’t know how to measure [the work required],” Masotto said. “I’m actually really bad with stage fright, especially when playing. I’m fine talking in front of people, but as soon as I pick up my instrument because I’m so critical of myself, it’s a little terrifying for me.”

Silver added the two go through similar mental preparation to conquer their anxiety on stage.

“This time around, it was different. I was able to stay focused and not really on what was happening in the audience,” said Masotto.

Masotto said there are certain things that normally distract him while on stage, but he was able to avoid them at his most recent recital.

“You can’t see them, you just see shadows [and] movement, and you can hear stuff. That’s probably the most distracting, when people are whispering. Even the quietest whisper travels the whole length of the hall,” Masotto said, thanking the acoustics in the university’s performance hall.

Silver said she relies on finding the groove within a musical piece to keep from being distracted on stage.

“I think that once you get to the point where you’re finally into the piece you’re playing, you kind of zone all of that out, and just focus on what you’re doing. At least that’s what happens to me,” Silver said.

Though the two explained ways to eliminate distractions and useless thinking during the piece, they both were quick to say self-criticism was important, labeling themselves proud perfectionists.

“I think as a musician you have to be critical of yourself. It’s one of the most self-criticizing jobs out there. I’d say Ryan’s more of a perfectionist than I am,” Silver said.

“It’s really hard to see improvement in yourself when you’re with yourself 24 hours a day,” Masotto said. “It’s one thing being told ‘Oh wow, you’ve improved so much this semester,’ but it’s another thing to actually feel like you’ve improved. I would say that actually happened to me this time around. I feel like I made a giant leap forward. Not necessarily in my playing, but more in my ability to perform.”

The two have come a long way from when they first picked up an instrument. Silver started playing violin at the age of 6, and learned to balance playing both string and percussion instruments throughout middle school and high school.

“Coming from a smaller town, my teacher taught me for 12 years, since I was 6, all the way up through high school. If I didn’t have her as a teacher I wouldn’t be at the point where I am now as a musician. That first teacher that you have on your solo instrument is very important to how far you’re going to go,” Silver said.

Silver still serves in drumline alongside her violin performances.

“Both my parents say that they’re really glad I chose to do percussion, because it builds my confidence level, and also it’s an extremely rhythmic section,” Silver said.

Masotto first began his interest in music in third grade, and also began on the violin. In seventh grade, his teacher requested he assist in showing other students how to play viola, an instrument he had never played himself. Three years later, he made the decision to make viola his preference.

“Back home for me, I grew up with Jen Davis. She’s very renowned in the St. Louis area for her ability to teach young children. She was the one that taught us correctly. I’ve said before that I’m a performer, but she is my inspiration as a teacher. The way I looked up to her when I was 10 years old is the way I want my students to look up to me now,” Masotto said.

Fast forward to today, and the two have fully immersed themselves in a musical lifestyle. Both serve as teachers for beginners on their respective instruments, ranging from children to adults.

“Some of my favorite students actually are adult learners, just because they want to be there. Their comprehensive ability occurs more quickly, but motor skills they actually lag behind the children,” Masotto said.

Today, music has become a lifestyle for the two instrumentalists. Masotto recounted numerous performances throughout the past and upcoming weeks, and how much he practices for each one.

“A lot of people view music as ‘Oh, it’s just music,’ but it’s very tiring and demanding in all respects. I think I went all of Saturday without practicing, and it felt weird. It didn’t feel right,” Masotto said.

Silver went on to say that after she graduates, she intends to study music therapy in graduate school and said she probably won’t play violin much after.

“We’re performing constantly, which is good, but we’re also playing constantly as well. This is the most I’ll ever play in my entire life” Silver said.

Masotto, on the other hand, has different plans.

“We’re doing completely different routes,” Masotto said. “I plan on this being step one for me. I’m more excited for my master’s and my doctorate study. If you do choose a performance route, it is constant playing and performing. That’s what I like, and what’s fun for me.”