Award-winning violinist Mikylah Myers McTeer of the West Virginia University music faculty has her grandfather _ a professional violinist _ to thank for starting her on her career as an outstanding musician and teacher.
McTeer was recently named “Studio Teacher of the Year” by the West Virginia chapter of the American String Teachers Association. She was also honored with the WVU Division of Music’s Outstanding Teaching Award in 2008.
Currently the only violin professor at WVU, McTeer teaches 16 students in her studio at the Creative Arts Center and also performs internationally as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player. She has performed in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Italy, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.
A native of Portland, Ore., McTeer began studying the violin at age 4 and was greatly influenced by her grandfather.
“My grandfather, Harold Wolf, was a wonderful violinist,” she said. “He was concertmaster of the Utah Symphony for many years and was also a studio musician in Los Angeles and played on many of the major movie soundtracks.
“He was also my first teacher. I would go to LA in the summers, when I was maybe 6 years old _ traveling on the plane by myself with my violin _ and when he met me, he always said the same thing: ‘Your free and easy days are over!’
“The violin I play today is my grandfather’s violin.”
McTeer received her bachelor of music degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where she studied violin with Roland and Almita Vamos.
She then earned her master’s degree and a doctorate in violin performance from the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music, studying with Fredell Lack. During her time in Houston, she regularly performed with the Houston Symphony and the Houston Grand Opera. She was also a violinist with the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Fla.
“I have had the opportunity to study with some of the world’s greatest violin teachers,” she said. “In violin pedagogy, we speak of ‘violin lineage.’ You can trace some of today’s best teachers back to the famous composers. I was very lucky at Oberlin, and at Houston, to study with teachers who came from this lineage, and I am lucky to be able to pass this on to my students as well.”
It was while working on her master’s degree at Houston, that McTeer realized she really enjoyed being in an academic setting.
“I looked around and saw that the people who were the happiest were my teachers _ for example, Fredell Lack, who was then in her 80s! So I decided to teach and I did my doctorate at Houston also.”
McTeer joined the WVU music faculty in 2007, after teaching violin and viola at Fort Lewis College, where she was also concertmaster of the San Juan Symphony and founder, artistic director and conductor of the Durango Youth Symphony.
Of teaching, she says: “You have to recognize that every student is different. It is fun to find out what technique works best for each student. You have the same goal of getting them to play at the highest level, but some you have to push in one way and others you have to encourage in a different way.”
Currently, McTeer teaches a one-hour lesson each week with each of her 16 students. Next year, she will have more than 20 students.
“We’re up to 21 violin students for next year,” she says. “We’ll have 24, including those with a minor in violin. We have the number of students we need right now to fill the positions with the WVU Symphony Orchestra. It’s like filling positions on the football team. We can only have a certain number of the very best.”
Her students have also been very successful. For two years in a row, a violin student has been one of the winners of the WVU Young Artist Competition, held annually to recognize the top music students at the University.
They also perform at major music festivals that are very competitive on the national level, such as the National Orchestral Institute Festival, the Madeline Island Music Festival and the Round Top Festival.
“One of my students, Keith Michael, has been invited to Washington, D.C., to participate in a Summer Music Institute with the National Symphony Orchestra of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts,” she said.
McTeer also spends her summers performing at music festivals throughout the United States and Europe, which have included the Spoleto Italy Festival, the AIMS Festival in Graz, Austria, the Oregon Coast Festival, and the Ernest Bloch Festival in Newport, Ore. She is also currently a member of the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra and is a 13-year member of the Britt Festival Orchestra in Jacksonville, Ore.
Her performances have been called “energetic and virtuosic” by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and “captivating” by Boulder, Colorado’s Daily Camera.
Her grandfather would be proud.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
304-293-4841 ext. 3108, Charlene.Lattea@mail.wvu.edu
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