Every so often, The State Room plays host to PechaKucha nights in SLC. Each event brings in about a dozen presenters to either talk on the subject at hand, or perform their craft. For their fourth event, the group will be presenting "20x20", featuring 12 women with diverse backgrounds making presentations about subjects of their choosing. One of the scheduled presenters is Mary Jeppson,
an SLC-based violinist with an accomplished résumé. Today we chat with Jeppson about her career and what she'll be doing this Friday. (All pictures providded courtesy of Jeppson.
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First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I've always been a very curious and driven person. Sometimes, this didn't sit too well with adults when I was a child. I guess now, sometimes, too. I've always loved music and science. I don't think that creative and scientific endeavors are different; it's all kind of the same practice. I am driven to understand and explore.
What first got you interested in music as you were growing up?
That's actually kind of hard to say. I think I mostly just didn't want to quit something I started. I finally saw what a fantastic means of expression and exploration violin was, but it took a few years to see it.
At what point did you start taking an interest in classical instruments? What drew you to the violin?
I loved the challenge. I'd listen to this fantastic music and want to be able to play it. Violin appealed to my ambition. The violin is the "hero's instrument," and I wanted nothing less.
What was it like for you first learning how to play and figuring out timing and style?
I grew up with the Suzuki Method, which is very regimented. It teaches discipline and accuracy, but often doesn't emphasize creativity. I found that in spades later on, especially with experimental modern music, which I love.
What made you decide to initially enroll at the University of Utah to earn your degree?
Well, I had two great violin teachers, Lynnette Stewart and Gerald Elias, who guided me through the transition to university. Jerry was my teacher all throughout my time at the U of U. He's a fantastic musician and teacher and does a lot of interdisciplinary creative work. I learned a lot from many mentors at the U, and I'm very grateful for the opportunities they gave me.
You eventually earned your Masters in Violin Performance from Rice University. What made you decide to pursue that level of honors?
I wanted to see what I could do as a musician. The Shepherd School at Rice is one of the world's best music schools and it offers many opportunities to work with world-class musicians and composers.
What made you decide to become a private music teacher?
I love teaching. I feel like it was so recently that I was in the position of my students. I want to be the kind of teacher that I would have wanted as a kid. It takes positive mentors to get anywhere in life and I was fortunate that way. I would love to pay a little bit of that forward.
How has it been for you also having an active performing career with bands and album recordings?
It's been wonderful. Salt Lake is just exploding with musical opportunities. It's an adventure every gig or performance.
Have you had any desire to branch out and become part of an orchestra or traveling show?
Maybe someday! I'm studying for a second bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering now, so I am really immersed in that curriculum and trying to survive it!
How did you get involved with SLC's PechaKucha and eventually sign up to be on this show?
My violin student Ryan McKeen's mom, Rachel McKeen, asked me if I would like to talk about female composers. I loved the idea because I love to show people how broad the experience with classical music can be. There are many wonderful women composers these days to choose from.
What kind of performance are you planning to give? What else are you looking forward to seeing that night?
I am going to do my best to explore musical ideas with the audience using my violin. I want to discover this music with them. I'm looking forward to learning about the creative work of other talented women in Salt Lake. It's so eye-opening to see the creative process and perspective that others have.
What other projects and performances can we expect to see from you this year?
Well, a number of engineering projects! Musically, I just recorded an album with Jon Schmidt and Jenny Oaks Baker, and I play almost every weekend during the summer with Maywood String Quartet. We play at a variety of events all around the valley. What interests me most as a musician is interdisciplinary creative work. I'm working on some ideas that combine art and science in different ways. I'd love to collaborate with anyone who wants to explore that with me.