She Stuck with the Violin, DSSO concertmaster began playing at age 2Erin Aldridge was hardly more than a baby when teachers at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music found that she had perfect rhythm and perfect pitch. Thus at age 2 ½ the future concertmaster of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra began playing what is still her favorite instrument, the violin. Her musical family – her grandmother was a gifted violinist – encouraged her interest and through her childhood in Milwaukee she sang and played piano, saxaphone and harp. But she stuck with the violin.
By: Jane Brissett, Living North, Living North
Erin Aldridge was hardly more than a baby when teachers at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music found that she had perfect rhythm and perfect pitch. Thus at age 2 ½ the future concertmaster of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra began playing what is still her favorite instrument, the violin.
Her musical family – her grandmother was a gifted violinist – encouraged her interest and through her childhood in Milwaukee she sang and played piano, saxaphone and harp. But she stuck with the violin.
“I don’t think I know what it’s like not to make music,” said Aldridge, who is now 34 and an associate professor of music at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
Aldridge had top-flight training and musical opportunities, said Beth Gilbert, principal keyboardist for the DSSO and chair of the UWS music department.
“She is also blessed with a lot of innate talent and a strong work ethic which has helped her to attain a very high level of accomplishment,” Gilbert said.
When Aldridge was growing up her parents, she said, struck the right note between being taskmasters and being hands-off. “The only way they pushed me is if I made a commitment, I had to follow through,” she said.
After receiving a doctorate in violin performance at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison in 2003, she joined the UWS faculty at age of 27 and recently was granted tenure. In addition to performing and teaching, she is
director of orchestras on the Superior campus.
The year she arrived in Superior she joined the DSSO as fourth chair violin and two years later she won the concertmaster position through auditions. She succeeded Diane Balko, who retired after 37 years in that
chair. Aldridge is likely to keep the concertmaster position as long as she likes since she is now tenured in that position as well.
“Erin is an exceptional violinist and a first-rate musician,” said DSSO Music Director Markand Thakar, explaining what qualities made her the choice for concertmaster. So good, in fact, that she has been featured as a soloist many times with the DSSO, which is “an unusual honor for a local
musician,” Gilbert said.
A major responsibility is the painstaking, time-consuming work of figuring out the bowing (the directions the bows of stringed instruments move and how they move) for the each piece played during the season. Because she has time away from her teaching duties during the summer, she usually does the work then, although sometimes the bowing requires revision in rehearsals.
Aldridge’s high-profile position involves appearances at special DSSO events. She also helps the conductor in any way she can and acts as a go-between with Thakar and the orchestra’s 90 or so musicians. “My job is to be sure everything runs smoothly and the performances are great,” she said.
The DSSO is “better than it should be” for a community the size of Duluth-Superior, she said. She credits the talent and hard work of the musicians and the strong community support for that, noting that visiting soloists are “happily surprised” by the quality of the orchestra.
“Like a great basketball point guard, a great concertmaster raises the level of all the other players,” Thakar said.
Aldridge also performs with a faculty chamber ensemble called Trillium, plays as part of a duo and often performs solos in orchestra concerts and recitals. She finds herself fitting in practice time whenever she can – sometimes, when her schedule is full, it’s at midnight. As a relatively young, accomplished musician, she has many years left in her career,
but she doesn’t speculate about what lies ahead.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in 10 years, but I love where I am and I’m enjoying myself,” she said.