Edit: I have to run for a bit, but I've loved getting to talk to everyone! I'll be back to answer more questions soon but - in the meantime - just wanted to let everyone know that I'll be performing October 17, 20, 22, 24 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego! Check them out if you're in town. Click here for tickets and click here to support live classical music with a donation. Thanks!


Hey Reddit! My name's Austin Huntington, I'm Principal Cello of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. I made my orchestral debut at ten years old. I'm also a huge Lakers fan and believe Lebron's a top two player of all-time👀

Between October 17-24, I'll be performing a series of five drive-in concerts with the Mainly Mozart All-Star Festival Orchestra in San Diego. On July 11, Mainly Mozart put on the first live classical concert in the U.S. in front of a live audience since quarantine began. Its Festival Orchestra is the largest annual gathering of concertmasters and principal players in the country to perform in front of live audiences. This year, I'll be performing alongside principal musicians from the LA Phil, New York Phil, San Francisco Symphony, Boston Symphony and many more. All socially distanced and all involved will be COVID tested.

Concerts begin at $45 per car. Check mainlymozart.org for details. Check mainlymozart.org/roster to view the Mainly Mozrt Festival Orchestra full roster.

You can follow me @austincello

You can follow Mainly Mozart on:




Proof: https://imgur.com/a/GrrKmKc

Comments: 397 • Responses: 78  • Date: 

DeadBothan242 karma

What's it like playing for Krzysztof Urbański? I saw him guest conduct the NSO and he was theatrical in a non-stereotypical kind of way. Very entertaining from the audience perspective.

MainlyMozartSD290 karma

Every week we play under him is very exciting! He is incredibly clear in his movements and beats, which I appreciate so much. His approach is incredibly elegant and focused on beautiful sound and phrasing most of the time, but I remember one concert from last year that showed me his true spectrum of leadership- Shostakovich 4th symphony. From the intense highs to the dark lows, he showed it all perfectly, so as to imagine that is how it is "supposed to be played" if that makes sense. There is a good deal of respect and trust with his working relationships as well- often he defers to musicians as to how to approach more specific details of the works which I appreciate.

jiiko139 karma

Hey! This is Noah from Aspen -- I remember you once told me that 5 days or so without practicing cello was the longest break you'd had in years. Did COVID break that record? How did that feel?

Related to that, what's your take on the notion that musicians need to have a broad understanding of culture (and themselves) in order to communicate meaningfully – and that sometimes developing that culture might mean more time away from the instrument?

MainlyMozartSD180 karma

Hi Noah! I hope you're doing well! Covid did break that record with me. I took over a month off just to give myself a (forced) break. Playing full time in an orchestra is incredibly stressful, and when you add in a global pandemic, that takes it to a whole new level, so a break was the best thing that could have come out of that terrible situation. I came out of that time energized and wanting to play, thinking about all the projects I could be a part of and ways we could start performing safely again. It was incredibly refreshing to step away from the instrument and let yourself have a breath out. And yes, I absolutely think that musicians need to have knowledge outside of music in order to best communicate the emotions and intent of the music they are playing. Music can also be a very strong medium for justice and action, traditionally and especially in modern days. And I also agree wholeheartedly that you need time away from the instrument to develop both as a person and a musician

parikuma56 karma

Do you have good recommendations in the vein of the first movement of Edgar's Cello Concerto? (beautifully shown in a masterclass by Benjamin Zander, who perhaps you have met?)

All the best for your performance! Break a leg!

MainlyMozartSD67 karma

I love Elgar's concerto! If you haven't already, check out Jacqueline du Pre's recording of it. It is inspiring and heart-wrentchingly beautiful. Elgar is unique in that is is an entirely lyrical first movement, which is very uncommon with cello concertos. In terms of general feelings when I listen, the other close piece I think of is Brahms Sonata No 1 in E minor, since it has many of the same emotions attached to it. My favorite cello concerto at the moment is Schumann, definitely worth a listen, especially after reading a little bit about the story behind it and his life.

Wicked_Attitude43 karma

Hey Austin! What made you decide to play an instrument?

MainlyMozartSD86 karma

Hi! My whole family is filled with music lovers and former musicians (non-professional) so I've always been around music in some form. My older brother began playing violin when he was 4, and like a good younger brother, I didn't want to feel left out so I convinced my parents to let me begin cello the next year when I was his age!

kbmcb488741 karma

What is your favorite part about playing with the Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego?

MainlyMozartSD59 karma

Good question! I love coming together to play with such incredible musicians day after day in the festival. Being an NBA fan, I heard someone once equate the festival with the NBA all star weekend, and I would absolutely agree. You have principals and concertmasters from all over the country, many of whom I have looked up to for my musical life, coming together and playing some of the greatest music ever written. What's not to love!

bellasuperstring28 karma

I'm also a classical musician and find a lot of inspiration by listening to other instruments, singers, genres, etc... what gives you soule fireworks/goosebumps to listen to? What inspires you?

MainlyMozartSD54 karma

Now that's an interesting question. Some of the non-classical music groups I like don't fit into the same categories: Mumford and Sons, Kendrick Lamar, musicals, Muse, etc. A few of the recent pieces that gave me that feeling inside you so aptly described as soul fireworks was Strauss' Death and Transfiguration, the Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, and Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht. Pieces like that build up over such a long time that when you finally have that giant grand moment, it makes everything around you blur out and everything seems right and normal for just a little bit. That's the beauty of music- there are so many of those pieces that it's hard to pick a few!

orangejulius24 karma

What's the most challenging part of performing in the COVID era?

MainlyMozartSD46 karma

There are a number, but the one that I am still learning to get used to is the distance in between performers. The concerts that I have played, especially indoors, have all up to socially distant standards, and you realize how much more difficult communication is when you add a couple more feet in distance. The quartet that I'm in was rehearsing for our concert yesterday and it was definitely a challenge to find new ways of communicating, especially with half our face covered! Another adaptation we've had to make is finding ways to achieve the same sound and blend when we're 1-2 feet apart vs 6 feet apart.

hyrule_pd16 karma

half our face covered

Are the wind instruments recorded for rehearsal and concerts?

MainlyMozartSD29 karma

It depends on the organization. I'm playing a concerto for winds and solo cello tonight indoors, and there are specialized coverings that go over parts of the instrument where aerosol droplets have a chance of spreading. When outdoors, things such as shields in between performers can be just as effective. Since there is no definitive authoritative research about that yet, most places will have testing for members of the orchestra with proper social distancing and any barriers when necessary.

Opus13219 karma

Do you have any tips for winning an orchestra audition?

MainlyMozartSD68 karma

Play in tune, in rhythm, with a beautiful sound and attention to dynamics. Might seem simple, but that is one of the main reasons why people don't make it to the next round. Further than that, find the excerpts that you are best at (whether it is rich lyrical playing, technical runs, rhythm, etc) and own it. Often when a candidate sticks out in a good way, the things you'll hear committee members say are about how beautiful this excerpt sounded, or how incredibly clean and compelling Don Juan was, if that makes sense. Don't try to change your playing based on the orchestra you are auditioning for. Find what makes your playing unique and feature that. We just had a cello audition last year where we had more than 70 candidates playing the same excerpts and concertos. Bringing your unique voice and approach is one of the ways to help yourself stand out. Additionally, someone once said that winning auditions is a marathon, not a sprint. A great way to think about the whole process of auditions!

PaganMastery14 karma

Actually I have always been very curious as to how symphonies get paid and how much. It is like per performance or salaried like an office job and, generally speaking, what is the annual pay??

MainlyMozartSD45 karma

It depends on the orchestra and the market that they serve culturally. The top number of orchestras with full seasons pay annually, with benefits and vacation weeks/time off. The smaller orchestras that aren't full-time or for only part of the year often pay per service. For pay, each orchestra works on a CBA (collective bargaining agreement) that is renegotiated every 2-5 years, depending on the term length. This dictates orchestral pay, benefits, insurance, etc, as well as union regulations such as overtime, seniority pay, overscale, and rehearsal/concert restrictions. Each orchestra figure out their pay individually through their union, musicians, and management, but it can range from per service of $100 a service (with no/minimal benefits), to mid-size orchestras such as St. Louis, Detroit, Indianapolis, etc paying betweeen $60-90k annually, to the top 5, who's salary is between $150-170k (for example, NY Phil, LA Phil, San Francisco). I hope that answers that!

Infamous-Table-66714 karma

Please tell me about the amount of practice it took to get you to where you are now?

MainlyMozartSD30 karma

More than I can count on both hands! But in all seriousness, I began playing when I was four years old, and daily practice has increased ever since. When I decided to become a musician, I began practicing 4 hours a day without exception. I am bad at math but 22 years of playing with the last half being more than 4 hours a day is a lot of hours!

Aethernum8 karma

Hi Austin - we met back in 2012 when you were part of a performance in Michigan! I'm curious about your stance on new music: What do you think the role of the orchestra should be/is in facilitating the creation of new music, as opposed to playing "the canon"? Do you think there is enough new music being played, and are there sufficient avenues for its development? And if you could have any living composer write a piece for you, who would it be and why?

MainlyMozartSD12 karma

One of the most compelling arguments I've heard is based in hyperbole and simplicity- every piece that we are playing now was once "new music." There are so many incredibly talented composers working right now that it would be a crime now to hear what they can write! I think the canon has its place, but I think that new music should be continually added to it. That said, I've also gotten tired of playing Beethoven 5, no matter how much of a masterpiece it is...If I could have a living composer write for me, I would either choose Jessie Montgomery or Guillaume Connesson. My quartet is playing one of JM's pieces next month and her style is so refreshing and unique. It is amazing to both play and listen to!

igosplatt8 karma

Why are orchestras mostly white and Asian?

MainlyMozartSD46 karma

This is an issue that many orchestras are trying to address right now, to varying levels of success. There are a number of reasons, such as being a very "traditional" art form coming from a euro-centric mentality. Steps are finally being taken to begin the process of increasing equity, such as blind auditions and diversity programs/fellowships, but these are beginning late compared to the history of the orchestra. It will be a process that is slow (especially because of tenure, if that makes sense) but it will hopefully begin to show as time goes on and orchestras keep taking this as seriously as it deserves to be taken. I will say that is is now the norm to have entirely blind auditions with the committee removed from the candidates, so that you don't know anything about who you hire until after you hire them. Another possible reason is the access and availability of instruments and private lessons being more common in primarily white and asian areas. In addition to addressing the issues at the audition level, we would need to address the accessibility issues at the beginning level as well. I hope that answers adequately!

Tallox8 karma

Hi Austin! I’m a current student of Richard Hirschl, just like you once were! I was wondering - What are your tips to others on college auditions? Also, who is your favorite cellist? Thanks!

MainlyMozartSD15 karma

Hello! Please tell Mr. Hirschl hello and give him my best! For college auditions, practice to become a bulletproof auditionee. Whatever happens that day, be prepared for. Be able to play your pieces in your sleep. Beyond that, have as many lessons as you can with the professors you are auditioning for, since that is the most important part of a musician's college life/development in many ways. And play for as many people as you can, friends, family, etc so you get used to what it feels like to perform under pressure. My favorite cellist of all time is Leonard Rose, living cellist is either Isserlis or Sol Gabetta. Best of luck!

Stanley_C8 karma

I'm currently a high school, in an extracurricular orchestra, and I was wondering, how can I avoid getting nervous when playing in front of others, both in small groups(quartet style) in orchestra, and when playing solo pieces? I remember playing debussy petite suites, and being asked to play the tenor celf section in the and freaking out. I didn't get a promotion too, despite all my section mates getting one, because I couldn't stop shaking when playing the Haydn in C concerto. Do you have any tips for avoiding nervousness?

Second, do you recommend any concertos after Haydn in C, Boccherini in B flat, and Lalo? I've been looking for a piece that challenges my skills, and I've always wanted to play Haydn in D, but I think that it might be too hard. I would appreciate any suggestions.

MainlyMozartSD14 karma

To be honest, I don't think there is any way to completely avoid nervousness when playing in front of others. For me, it is a matter of getting comfortable with it as well as you can (playing for others) as well as being as prepared as you can possibly be. The point that has helped me the most is to nail down the technique and notes in the practice room and only focus on saying something in the performance, whether in phrasing, sound, special dynamics, etc. Focus on gravity as well. Often times, people will tense up when nervous, which can lead to a number of negative results. Focus on the weight of your arms instead of pressure (especially the right arm). Breathe slowly and deeply a few times before you begin (belly breaths, not chest breaths) to center your focus and slow your heart rate. And finally, play for yourself when you perform. Don't worry about what others think or what they are doing. Be in the momement for yourself. I hope that helps! For concertos, I would look at Boccherini or Saint-Saens concerto. Both are wonderful pieces that challenge technically while being musically fulfilling.

demonmonkey897 karma

Actually a few questions, but shouldn't be too much.

What's your favorite piece to play or hear?

Why did you choose cello and have you ever thought about playing something else (no hate for cello though, they are amazing)?

How does it feel to not get to properly play Pachelbel's Cannon in D?

MainlyMozartSD9 karma

Favorite piece to play is any Mahler symphony. To hear? Also any Mahler symphony. I was drawn to the cello because it was the exact opposite of the instrument my brother picked a year earlier (the violin). I figured bigger has to be better right? I also loved the sound of it- very mellow and resonant. I've avoided that piece like the plague for the longest time until I showed up to a wedding gig in college and it was in folder. I had to have some fun with it, so let's just say there were some improvisatory ornamentations added that were of questionable nature...

Baci_dog6 karma

Was the Indianapolis audition the first one you took or did you take multiple before getting that job?

MainlyMozartSD14 karma

The ISO audition was the 4th audition I took. I had taken one principal audition previously as well as two section auditions (at 3 different orchestras) before winning this one.

MarkAttark6 karma

Are you good at karaoke?

MainlyMozartSD23 karma

I would be TERRIBLE at it. I have never done karaoke before, but judging to what I sound like when singing along to music in my car, I wouldn't want to subject anybody else to that torture as well...

trevorneuz6 karma

Hey man, I watched you perform with the ISO during the Harry Potter movie series. We were gifted front row tickets and watching your focus and emotion while performing really enhanced the experience.

Has performing become "just another day at the office" or do you still look forward to each performance as its own unique event?

MainlyMozartSD8 karma

That's awesome, thanks! Those Harry Potter performances were always super special for me because those movies were my childhood. I got goosebumps without fail every single time we got to the beginning and ending scenes. There are some times when it feels like another day at the office (like when we are playing backup to a Journey tribute band where are parts are just holding the same 4 notes until the end of the song), but there is almost always something that keeps things exciting and makes you realize how incredibly lucky you are to be able to do this for your living. It is something to be grateful for every single day, no matter how stressful or difficult it gets!

PesoOfCoal4 karma

In your earlier years did you ever deal with practice motivation, and if so how did you break through that?

MainlyMozartSD4 karma

The secret is that we're all still dealing with it! Once you realize that you are able to take your own success into your own hands, it becomes much easier to practice. It's like an investment in yourself by bettering your playing and work ethic. That said, there are absolutely days where I decide that it is time for a self-mandated break and I turn to netflix instead...

NemesiZ_014 karma

As a cellist what's your most favourite part about playing Pachelbel's Canon in D? Congrats on becoming principal cellist though at such a young age. What was the age range of the other cellists that auditioned??

MainlyMozartSD8 karma

The part where it ends...And thank you! The typical age range is most likely 20 to 35 or 40 for the audition I took at the ISO.

sealt00th4 karma

Do you practice 40 hours everyday?

MainlyMozartSD12 karma

Even if I did, it still wouldn't be as much as LingLing!

OppositeBid4 karma

Do you find most classical musicians you deal with are also really into other forms of more popular/modern music too? Are there any who aren't really into classical music just by virtue of there having to listen to it and play it all the time? What kind of music do you listen to?

MainlyMozartSD15 karma

Yes I absolutely do! When you're around/playing classical music most of your waking hours of the day, you appreciate and listen to other forms of music as well. For me, I am always looking for new music to listen to that I might not stumble across normally. I really like groups like Mumford and sons and Muse, as well as Kendrick Lamar and certain musical soundtracks. In my free time, I'll either be listening to the pieces I will be learning in the next month or so, or I'll put on a spotify playlist of top hits just to turn my mind of and have in the background!

sovimax353 karma

What are your favorite classical music albums and conductors? What's your favorite restaurant in Indy? Favorite cello repertoire?

MainlyMozartSD6 karma

So many great questions! For albums/conductors, I am always drawn to the "old school" sound and approach. As a cellist this means Leonard Rose, Janos Starker, Piatigorsky, etc. There is an innate elegance to their approach which seems to be rarer these days. It may be hyperbole, but the music seems to be truly authentic with that approach. For conductors, it really depends on the repertoire! I often listen to pieces based on the orchestra since I can notice bigger differences between them vs. conductors, but my favorites are Muti, Jansons, and Rattle. I have recently gotten into some fantastic baroque or "traditional" music, and I've gotten to know John Eliot Gardiner's conducting style well. Restaurant in indy is a tie between the Eagle and St. Elmo's. Both are fantastic but have to be enjoyed in moderation! My favorite cello repertoire right now is Poulenc Sonata and a beautiful quasi-concerto for cello and winds by David Maslanka, called "Remember Me." Often times, my favorite piece is the one I am working on though!

CleanAcorn773 karma

What is one thing a string player should work on besides the basic things like tone, technique and musicality?

MainlyMozartSD4 karma

Learning how to cue properly and effectively! Even if you're a cellist, this is so important since you should be cueing in chamber and orchestra with whoever is giving the cue as well, almost mimicking their movements. This is the one thing that very talented young string players often have not gotten comfortable with yet.

thegreatgazoo3 karma

Are you the police?

On a serious note, what are your thought on groups that use the cello in non-traditional ways, such as Apocalyptica?

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

I love them! I am a huge 2cellos fan, if nothing else than the fact that it brings cello to many people who wouldn't have seen it without them. I also love mashing genres together. Go check out Tom Help's remix of Tchaikovsky and Macklemore to get a sense of my kind of mashup...

1SoftOpportunity93 karma

What's Michael Francis like?

MainlyMozartSD7 karma

He is incredibly kind and thoughtful as a person, as well as super perceptive and quick-witted. Having conversations with him is always a highlight of the day. As a conductor, he is very gracious and respectful to the musicians and builds up a fantastic relationship with everyone in his orchestra, whether in Florida or San Diego. He is clear in what he wants out of the orchestra but never controlling, which is a fine line that conductors often tread, which he does perfectly. It's always a pleasure to work with him!

escrocs3 karma

What is your goto dish at Yats?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

I've only been there a handful of times a few years ago, so I'll have to go back and let you know!

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

I will check it out, thanks sending that!

fvillion3 karma

Wasn't Lynn Harrell around 20 when he became principal at Cleveland?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

He was! That man was a monster on the cello in all the best ways

courtney22223 karma

Hi Austin! Excited to see you play this weekend! Have you been to San Diego before? If not, what are you most excited for?

MainlyMozartSD6 karma

Hello! Thank you- I am so looking forward to it! I have been coming to SD for Mainly Mozart for the past 3 summers, and it is always a little slice of heaven. I woke up today and it was 40 degrees outside. Apart from the festival, I am looking forward to the gorgeous weather outdoors and spending time outside in the many beautiful areas around San Diego! (and continuing my quest to find the best fish taco in SD...)

shmalo3 karma

Hi Austin! I had a few questions:

  • What are some lesser-known cello pieces by famous composers that you love? I recently discovered Malinconia by Sibelius and I'm really excited to dive in (as soon as I find a pianist to tackle it with me!) and I'm curious if you as a professional cellist have any "deep cuts" you've found that casual cellists might not know about.

  • What's an outline of a typical practice session for you? Do you chunk up your practice into specific sections for specific kinds of repertoire? What have you noticed helped you get the most out of your practice time when you applied it?

  • I've started learning the Popper etudes and they are haaaard! I was wondering if you had any advice for staying motivated while working through them, and also how you use them and other etudes as a tool in your own practice.

  • What would be your dream, no-holds-barred, anything-goes program for a concert?

MainlyMozartSD4 karma

Hello! One of my favorites (not for the sake of beauty, but just because I love the piece in a chaotic sense) is Hindemith's Overture to the Flying Dutchman as Sight-read by a bad spa orchestra at 7 in the morning by the well. Read the story about it then listen to the piece and you'll be dying by the end! On a more serious note, I found out that Dvorak actually wrote a first cello concerto (in A major), but that first one is actually pretty terrible. There is also a fantastic Toccata Capricioso by Miklos Rosza for solo cello. Also, the cello version of Lasst Mich Allein by Dvorak isn't necessarily unknown, but often seldom played. Other than that, I try to discover as many new composers since they bring entirely new voices to the canon. I try to spend an hour on technique and warm up, then try to segment my practice into whatever needs the most amount of time in my mind when I sit down to practice. I try to focus on a few things that I can consciously work on for that piece, but also recognize when the maximum practice efficiency has been passed and move on to a different part or piece. I try to stay in one movement, so that when I leave that movement, I don't return to it for the rest of the day, to let it marinate before returning to it the next day or practice session. Yes! Try to learn one line at a time. With Popper etudes, the whole etude usually focuses on the same technique so once you are able to get comfortable with it in the first few lines, it will get better as you go on! I use them as a part of my warmup and whatever specific technique that I am trying to work out that day. The two I am currently working on are Popper 2 and 9. Gulda Cello Concerto, Mahler 10 (just the fragment, not the completion), the Game of Thrones theme, and the complete Bartok Bluebeard's Castle. Totally works, right??

scruffychef3 karma

How does one play a wind instrument in an orchestra without spewing potential covid air all over everyone? Are there filtered muffles or something ?

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

As of now, there isn't any definitive research as to how much winds/brass actually would spread infected droplets, but it is generally thought that it is less than the 6ft socially distant distance. Some studies even show most of the droplets congregating around the finger holes of wind instruments and the bell of brass instruments but not traveling all that far. We are all eagerly awaiting the authoritative word on the research that is being done right now!

mfdarri3 karma

Hi Austin! I’ve been a fan after stumbling onto some of your YouTube videos many years ago. You are an incredibly impressive cellist and I’m curious about your approach to practicing. How much time do you spend on rep vs. études/scales/double stops within a typical day of practice? How does this routine change with an approaching audition or concert? What’s your favorite way to approach intonation work? I could ask a million more questions but I’d love to hear your thoughts on one or all of these!

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

Thank you so much for your kind words and great questions! I try to spend at least a half hour on technique every day, shooting for a solid hour between all the technique. On a free day, the rest of my practice would take about 3 hours, depending on what I had to practice, for a total of ideally 4 hours. I feel any more than that needs to have a specific necessity of a reason. When approaching the concert/audition, the pacing of my practice changes. I don't begin with slow methodical practice of each piece, but rather attempt to play sections through before working slowly on the trouble spots, in order to get used to playthroughs. My favorite intonation approach is to us the lower string as a drone to tune the note you are playing. It is not the most academically correct method of tuning individual notes/passages, but I find it helps the resonance of intonation and leads to the purest sounded individual notes.

CarlCastlevania3 karma

What’s more important, playing an excerpt in a style suited to yourself, or playing an excerpt in the style that best impresses the committee?

MainlyMozartSD7 karma

I would say half and half. I don't think you should change playing styles for each individual committee (e.g. lighter for Cleveland, heavier for Boston, etc) but there is definitely an element of what the committee is looking for generally, such as respect for the markings and levels of cleanliness. I think there are ways to make your audition yours while still respecting the composer's intentions. In my mind, that means a personal sound/voice and phrasing that is well thought out and is convincing to you while being compatible with what is on the page. I hope that helps!

madman11013 karma

have you become a pacers fan yet?

MainlyMozartSD5 karma

I absolutely have respect and appreciate the Pacers, but I will always be a Lakers fan. I began watching basketball in 2010 by seeing game 7 of Lakers/Celtics. I fell in love with Kobe's play style and work ethic, and became a Lakers fan because I was a Kobe fan. I had never really watched basketball before that so it was all new to me. Especially now that we won a championship, I think I'll stick with the Lakers ;)

ilovechairs3 karma

Hi Austin, have you ever picked up an alternate instrument while hanging out with orchestra friends? And congratulations on seeing all your hard work and practice result in amazing opportunities/experiences.

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

Hello! I have played a number of alternative instruments, mainly because of school requirements since they weren't in need of a cello at that point. I've played a year of clarinet, french horn, and percussion, and I've also played piano for about 5 years, and then again in college for keyboard proficiency. I was bad at all of them, but really enjoyed learning completely different instruments!

alvy-singer3 karma

Hello. Do you also occasionally play chamber music, in a quartet or else ? If you, which do you prefer, orchestra or chamber music ? And I always wondered, does the stage fright while playing in an orchestra kinda dilates in all the musicians as compared to chamber music where it would be stronger ?

MainlyMozartSD5 karma

In addition to my responsibilities at the ISO as principal, we have also been playing more and more chamber music because of COVID protocols, which I am really enjoying! Outside of the ISO, I am the cellist of the Indianapolis Quartet, in residence at the University of Indianapolis. We actually just gave our opening concert last night for a socially distant crowd of students/faculty and a livestream. We also had our Carnegie Hall concert the week before everything in NYC was shut down as COVID spread, which looking back on now was not a good time to be in the city. I don't prefer one or the other, but I can't live without either! There is more responsibility in chamber music that keeps you on the edge of your seat, also since your part is that much more important individually.

chezzy793 karma

How many hours do you practice everyday, and how much of it do you still find enjoyable?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

On a free day, I try to practice about 4 hours of focused practice. With a full day, whenever I get the time. I find the most enjoyable practice to be right in the middle of the life cycle of the piece- when it is new enough to notice considerable progress through practice but not so new that practicing could get frustrating or tedious.

shinypidgey3 karma

If you had to pick one (I know it's hard), what is your favorite movement from the solo Bach suites? What is your favorite recording of it?

What Popper etude do you find most difficult?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

My favorite movement of a Bach Suite is the Sarabande of the 5th Suite. It is the only movement in all the 6 suites without a chord and it is one of the most powerful movements of any piece because of its simplicity and depth of emotion. Favorite recording is the original Yo Yo Ma recording. Any Popper can be difficult depending on what you as a cellist find difficult. For me, that's Popper 9. Something about thumb position intervals in a melodic setting that is always tricky for me.

Klendy3 karma

Howdy Austin,

My wife auditioned for the Indianapolis Symphony last year as a Violist, but didn't get in (probably for the best, as she still had one year of school left!). In your estimation will there be more openings nationwide to audition for once things return to as they were pre-covid?

MainlyMozartSD4 karma

Howdy! Looking forward, I think that it will be very interesting to see what happens the next 2-3 years after COVID passes. In one scenario, I can see where it is more expensive not to be retired for some musicians around that age, so this would possibly lead them to retire earlier than they initially thought because of the collection of benefits. In other cases, even if that happens, I could also unfortunately see a temporary hiring freeze imposed by management until budgetary concerns from this year are under control. I sincerely hope and will fight against that second point, but it is something to be prepared for. Best of luck to your wife with her future auditions!

jazzb543 karma

What are your favorite types of strings and rosin, and how often do you rosin?

MainlyMozartSD5 karma

I use Larsen Il Cannone Warm & Broad A/D with Magnacore Arioso G/C. Wonderful combination for my cello! I use Wiedoeft rosin and rosin maybe once every 1-2 days.

lv_zalil3 karma

Your insta says you are a dog person so, do you have one? Or what's your favorite dog breed?

Oh and if you do have a dog, this is kinda specific, what does it do when you are practising? (Mine starts howling a lot and I'm curious if it's the same with cellos)

Thanks for doing this AMA!

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

I do! I have a little fluffball of a chocolate pomeranian. He is one of the most special dogs I have known. I haven't always been a small-dog person, but this little guy has turned me into one. He's insanely smart and observant and doesn't at all behave like a pomeranian (aka doesn't yap at everything and try to nip at you). That said, I grew up with two incredible golden retrievers that will always have a special place in my heart. My puppy actually takes practice very well! He usually curls up on my feet and goes to sleep or brings his chew toy in if he isn't sleepy.

MrWheelieBin2 karma

What is your favorite Radiohead song?

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

Paranoid android is fantastic!

pants67892 karma

What's a regular listen/play in your music library that we'd find most surprising?

MainlyMozartSD5 karma

Probably Marshmello or Swedish House Mafia!

Ohlookitsmrd2 karma

How often do you have to suspend students?

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

Never had to suspend students, though there are times when they come seemingly less prepared than the week before and I've thought about it...

CptanPanic2 karma

You mentioned that you have practiced daily for hours a day for a lot of your life. In terms of "Talent" I would say that is your biggest talent to be able to practice that much, and regularly without giving up, which as led to your high skill. How does someone like you that is at the top of the game view the term talent that people throw around?

MainlyMozartSD4 karma

I try to view "talent" as how natural many of the more subtle aspects come to you, especially phrasing. You could probably get into a big discussion about the role of talents and what it actually means but my two favorite quotes are "90% hard work, 10% talent" and "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."

AceyAceyAcey2 karma

I’ve heard there have been systemic biases against women and non-white people in the past, but that some orchestras are doing auditions behind a curtain now so the committee can’t tell that info. How’s the demographics of the orchestras you’ve been in? Have you seen them taking steps to try and help these sorts of unconscious biases?

MainlyMozartSD11 karma

Yes, that is very true. The demographics are about in line with other orchestras in terms of diversity. From an audition perspective, I am an incredibly staunch advocate of keeping the screen up every part of the way, so that we don't find out who we hired until after they are hired, so that their playing alone earns them the audition. There is an option where if a majority of the committee votes positive, the screen comes down. There is definitely the presence of an unconscious bias, and keeping the committee as far removed from the auditionee seems to be the cleanest way of removing that. If any committee member attempts to identify themselves to the auditionee or vice versa, both the member and the auditionee are asked to leave (of course, depending on who the offending party is). All communication goes through the personnel manager, so there is no direct communication between the committee and auditionee (except for when, say the MD will ask the candidate to repeat a passage a specific way). There is even a carpet laid down so that the committee can't hear how heavy the footsteps are or the type of shoes. But we are always open to developing further to keep breaking this down, so please don't hesitate to send thoughts or ideas!

meatfrappe2 karma

Are cellos just giant violins, or are violins just tiny cellos?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma


MainlyMozartSD3 karma

Also on that note, is a hot dog a sandwich, and is a bagel a donut?

kittykittysnarfsnarf2 karma

Was it a blind audition that got you the spot? Also do you feel like all the technical learning and practicing has interfered with your creative flow? Do you write music ever? Any musical regrets?

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

Yes- they didn't know who I was until I was already offered the two trial weeks. I try to view technique as a way to improve musicality, actually. Cello is a rather unnatural instrument to play, and the more technically proficient we are, the better and more efficiently we can express the musicality that is inside our head, if that makes sense. I am terrible at writing music. I always find I can't come up with a new melody to save my life. It always ends up sounding like some cheap classical imitation that I wouldn't pay to hear myself. My biggest musical regret is not continuing to take piano lessons when I was younger. It is the single most important thing outside of learning your main instrument that you can do to improve your understanding of music. I can get by playing piano, but my knowledge definitely stops after a certin point!

doobymcbooby692 karma

Hi Austin! What would you rate Isabel’s boba making skills, on a scale of 1-10?

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

I would rate it OMG WOW out of 10.

jp_glez_212 karma

How excited are you for this?

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

More excited that I have been for an orchestra concert/festival in a LONG time. I always love coming to play with Mainly Mozart, though this festival is even more special since it will be the first full orchestra concerts I will have played in nearly 8 months..as a professional orchestral cellist.

visual_honeydew2 karma

Hi Austin,

I’m very close to the Del Mar Fairgrounds - which of the 5 days have your favorite scores? I will be purchasing a ticket for that day.

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

Hello! The concert I am most looking forward to is October 24- I haven't played the Salieri piece before, but the Sinfonia Concertante and Mendelssohn 4 are two of my favorite pieces to play! I hope you enjoy!

misterreiffer2 karma

Do you like classical guitar? I played with a cellist before and despite the issue of balance, it was one of the coolest experiences I had in music school.

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

I love classical guitar! I played a couple of pieces with classical guitar this past year- Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez and Angulo Paseos for guitar/string trio.

AugustineBlackwater2 karma

As a music professional, how do you feel COVID has affected the industry? Has it become better or worse? Have there been any benefits to the shift towards online/virtual performances compared to physical performances?

MainlyMozartSD4 karma

I would say the vast number of effects on the industry are very negative, especially from a financial viability viewpoint. The silver lining is that now orchestras are taking outreach and online presences more seriously than before. I don't think that will ever replace in person performances, but an emphasis on streaming and individual donor visits both should carry on after COVID has passed. We have to get something positive out of this mess!

Robobvious2 karma

Do you feel like you met any resistance in achieving this not due to your skill, but due to your age?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

There have been instances where individual musicians will cite my age to argue their point in a conversation, but nothing systemic, luckily for me. I have been very fortunate to be surrounded with very understanding and kind people who see past any age. I also try to defer to those with more experience on matters where they are more knowledgable, which I think helps matters.

Robobvious2 karma

I’m trying to think of how best to phrase this, What are some unpopular performances of popular pieces of classical music that you feel go under appreciated or are well worth listening too?

Like maybe everyone knows the London Symphony version of a Beethoven song, but there’s another lesser known performance that you think is better in some ways.

MainlyMozartSD5 karma

There were a couple- the one that sticks out to me is this wonderful percussion concerto by Andrew Norman called Switch. Fantastic modern concerto with an amazing compositional method. The piece went incredibly well and everyone in the orchestra loved it. When it came to the end, there was a smattering of respectful applause, not the thunderous roar that the piece deserved.

MadTrollzor2 karma

Favourite symphony?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

Mahler 5 or Shostakovich 4

tennantive2 karma

Oh, hey, I’ve seen you preform at the Indianapolis Symphony a while ago! I actually remembered your name because I thought you looked incredibly young to be a principal. Congrats on everything and all your hard work!

What words do you have anyone who would want to start learning the Cello? Is there anything particularly unique you like about this particular instrument that drew you to it/kept you with it?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

Thank you so much for your kind words! For a beginner, I would say the most important thing is to be patient and trust your teacher. I was drawn to the cello because of its rich voice and natural sound color. It's hard not to love the sound of the cello! I also now understand that the cello plays many roles- from the bottom bass voice of a group all the way up to the top melody. You get to wear many hats!

boringpersona2 karma

What components of your practice routine do you think contributed the most to your growth as a professional musician?

MainlyMozartSD4 karma

Taking scales, warmups and technique seriously. Before I got to college, I hadn't practiced scales regularly and I definitely didn't do technique or warmups. My teacher in college is huge into these and quickly turned my attitude around. When you have 1001 things to do as a professional musician at any given time, the best and most efficient way to prepare in advance/continue getting better is to work on these things. The Galamian scale method mixed with Popper, Cossman, and Sevcik are my staples and have been for a few years now.

Onepopcornman2 karma

I hope i don't offend with this question since I'm not typical symphony goer.

My perception in popular music is that personalities often drive authorship to a large extent. You might imagine saying "Oh I like X or Y or Z artist, artist (John Mayer, Katy Perry, Brittany Howard)." When in reality that band might be 5 people, where the authorship for the music is actually less straightforward than is attributed.

So I would ask for people who don't spend time in the world of Orchestra; what do you think pulls people into this world of orchestra that you think is different from that more single author driven take on music that we see in popular music?

Do you personally feel a pull towards the perspective of popular music or something where people might recognize you on the street (more I guess? I don't know if that happens for you).


MainlyMozartSD3 karma

No offense here at all! That is a fantastic question. In my mind, there are many different factors for a symphony performance that contribute to the end result. For example, you have the specific composer, the conductor, and the orchestra all contributing individual styles.The more you go to orchestra concerts, the more you are able to tell the "character" or the style of the players collectively. Every concert is different because of these factors as well as the intricacies of the music itself. And for your second question, I think anybody would feel good being recognized on the street- though for me, I am happy trading that publicity for being able to play the music that I love (I love pop music, but I love playing classical, if that makes sense). I hope that answered your question!

Inkin2 karma

Who is your favorite member of the orchestra, and why is it Tony Kniffen?

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

Yes. But in all seriousness, Tony is one of the most incredible musicians and human beings that exists. It really is an honor to share the stage with him!

tknames2 karma

Best band camp story?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

Well this one time at band camp...

levistobeavis1 karma

I've seen you in concert in Indy, crazy I see you here now!

What was the jump like going from (assuming) college and school life/gigs to a professional orchestra?

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

It was pretty jarring, to be honest. You don't realize how much time and opportunity you are given to get things done in college until you're thrust into the professional role and you always have one more thing to do than you have time to do. What is so fulfilling though is getting to know your new musical family, the ones that you'll spend 5-6, sometimes 7 days with straight working together with. In Indy, I'm incredibly fortunate that I'm surrounded with some of the nicest and most dedicated professionals I've met!

TisManoulasSou1 karma

Hello from my side! Fellow cellist, i used to play in several orchestras in Athens, Greece bit lately im doing a lot of personal work with loopers and effects.have you yourself ever experimented in alternative genres? If so, do you have any preference microphones, effects or equipment you might have tried and would recommend?

MainlyMozartSD1 karma

Hello! I have not personally experimented with that, though in one of our pops concerts, I had a microphone attached with a pedal that distorted my sound to sound like a shredding electric guitar. I'm a huge novice with this kind of stuff, but the microphones I've used in orchestra have been those kinds that clip onto the A and C string and have a flexible directional mic at the end. Work very well from what I can tell!

Kyoh211 karma

If you could share the stage with any other contemporary artist, regardless of whether your instrument would suit the music, who would it be?

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

Good question! To be honest, I would have to choose Kanye. He is such a controversial figure and personality that it would be absolutely fascinating to be able to work with him,

izactuallydolan1 karma

Assuming Yo-Yo Ma is the eternal God-emperor, who wins the YouTube cello battle royale among Tina Guo, ThatCelloGuy, Steven Nelson, Sarah Joy, Vesislava Todorova, and Hauser?

MainlyMozartSD1 karma

I have to pick Hauser. That face alone is enough to bring any other cellist down...

metraino1 karma

How accurate is this depiction of Cellists from Mitchell and Webb?


MainlyMozartSD2 karma

Pretty accurate! Though I don't know what they're talking about. Sweden seems amazing!

rdgrdmdfld1 karma

How many wedgies did you get in school?

MainlyMozartSD5 karma

Don't know what you're talking about. Cellists are basically as cool as it gets.

Butterball_Adderley1 karma

I’ve heard people say that classical musicians can’t jam without a chart in front of them, but I find this hard to believe. Do you ever find yourself playing improvisational music with random people? If so, can you shred?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

Good question! I am terrible at improvising or writing music. I know a number of musicians who are incredible at it and it comes very naturally to them. In classical music, there is an element of memorization involved, where you learn exactly what's on the page while putting your own individual interpretation in it as well. In orchestral playing, it is essential to have music for all the musicians because of how intricate the parts are. There is definitely a separation between musicians and composers in classical music that didn't always exist, for better or worse. Hope that answers it!

ButtsexEurope1 karma

Will you be wearing masks and social distancing?

MainlyMozartSD1 karma

Yes! All concerts that Mainly Mozart is putting on will be masked, outdoors, and 6 feet in between players. Safety first and foremost!

irvingstark1 karma

How do you answer your phone?

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

About as exciting as it comes: "Hello?"

ElectricButt1 karma

Who would win in a knife fight, you or Yo-Yo Man?

MainlyMozartSD1 karma

We should tag him and find out!