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On the Cover: Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps

“Once I [got] a viola it was clear that it was an instrument that really spoke to me. I felt that I could draw a sound out that I really loved.” — Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps

Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps, November’s On the Cover musician, has an important job within the Orchestra. She not only draws out a velvety sound on all the big viola solos in the symphonic repertoire, she also elicits a unified sound from the viola section. To do that, she works behind the scenes — deciding on bowings, liaising with the conductor — and leads the section to keep everyone together rhythmically and stylistically in real time. Watch her Q&A video above for more!

This month Cynthia Phelps steps out of her Principal seat and into the hot seat — the soloist position. She’ll perform the New York Premiere of Julia Adolphe’s Unearth, Release, conducted by future Music Director Jaap van Zweden, November 17–19.

Join the conversation: Cynthia will take over the Philharmonic’s Instagram Wednesday, November 16, for the first rehearsal of Julia Adolphe’s new viola concerto. On Tuesday, November 22, we will post Cynthia’s curated playlist to sing along to on your holiday travels. And lastly, on Tuesday, November 29, Cynthia answers your questions on Facebook.

Next month we feature Philharmonic trumpet player Ethan Bensdorf, just in time for the beloved annual Holiday Brass concert!

Learn more about Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps.

On the Cover: Ethan Bensdorf

“It’s my goal every year to win the Best Supporting Actor award.” — Ethan Bensdorf

Ethan Bensdorf, December’s On the Cover musician, has developed a niche skill set as a section trumpet player at the Philharmonic, often playing second trumpet. The Principal Trumpet communicates his approach to entrances and style, and it’s Ethan’s job to adjust and respond quickly and be a rock-solid support for the Principal Trumpet. The trumpet section operates as a tight team, coordinating between themselves, within the brass section, and ultimately within the Orchestra. Watch the video Q&A above for more about Ethan and his role in the Philharmonic’s legendary brass section.

(If you’re a trumpet player or friends with one, you may recognize the opening music: the second etude of Theo Charlier’s 36 Transcendental Etudes “Du Style.”)

One of the most beloved Philharmonic traditions is the annual Holiday Brass concert, in which Ethan will be performing December 18. He will also be sharing behind-the-scenes Philharmonic photos on Instagram this month.

Next month we feature flutist and solo piccolo player Mindy Kaufman.

Learn more about Ethan Bensdorf.

On the Cover: Mindy Kaufman

“You really get to know your colleagues, and it’s such a special experience to develop friendships through our music. I think that’s why I went into music in the first place.” — Mindy Kaufman

Flute and piccolo player Mindy Kaufman has one of the best seats in the house, and in some pieces she has time to enjoy it. In Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, for example, Mindy does not play a note for 30 minutes. During that time she enjoys the music around her, silently preparing for her big solo piccolo moment (one of the most famous in the repertoire).

Watch Mindy’s video Q&A above to find out more about her 38-year career at the Philharmonic, from her most memorable moments to some surprising facts. (There’s a good chance you’ve heard Mindy perform, even if you have yet to attend a Philharmonic concert!)

Follow us on Instagram for photos of Mindy as she prepares for the first program of Beloved Friend — Tchaikovsky and His World: A Philharmonic Festival with conductor Semyon Bychkov. Stay tuned: next month we’ll feature Principal Clarinet Anthony McGill.

Learn more about flute and piccolo player Mindy Kaufman.

On the Cover: Richard Deane

This month On the Cover features Associate Principal Horn Richard Deane. In seventh grade the world opened up to Richard as he played Mahler’s Sixth Symphony in a Kentucky youth orchestra. From that moment he knew music was his life’s calling, and now he is in Mahler’s Orchestra. Talk about full circle! To learn more follow along throughout April for more.

In a new video Q&A with Richard (above), he answers one of the most important questions asked of horn players: What are you doing with your right hand when playing? 

We know this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to questions about playing the horn. So we are opening the floor for questions in our first live Facebook Q&A during the week of April 11. 

Later this month, Richard will share his favorite tracks on Spotify, so follow us there to hear Richard’s playlist and playlists from previous On the Cover musicians. And on April 26, Richard will chronicle his day with the Philharmonic as he takes over our Instagram.

Next month, in our last On the Cover of the 2015–16 season, cellist Sumire Kudo brings it home.

Learn more about Richard Deane here.

On the Cover: Sumire Kudo

For May (and part of June) On the Cover features cellist Sumire Kudo, who celebrates her tenth anniversary with the New York Philharmonic this June. Learn more about Sumire in our final installment of the season — from her affection for her section, “the best cello section in the world,” to her affection for her dog, Cinnamon. 

Start with Sumire’s Q&A video (above), where she talks about her first time playing cello, her favorite composers, and her life outside the Philharmonic.

There are lots of opportunities to connect with Sumi this month and next. Tune in on Tuesday, May 24 when she takes over our Instagram.

Sumi will be taking your questions live on Facebook this month. Stay tuned to the Philharmonic’s Facebook for updates.

Plus, keep up with Sumi on the Philharmonic’s Snapchat (username: NYPhilharmonic) as she prepares for the season finale, on June 11, when she and six Philharmonic cellists finish off the season with Boulez’s Messagesquisse at the NY PHIL BIENNIAL.

Learn more about Sumire Kudo here.

On the Cover: Sara Griffin

This month we bring into focus the life of one Philharmonic musician who doesn’t sit on stage but is never far away. No, it’s not a percussionist “in der ferne” or an offstage member of the brass section. It is March’s On the Cover musician: Assistant Principal Librarian Sara Griffin.

Watch Sara’s Q&A above and find out how her work — and that of the two other Librarians at the Philharmonic — is critical to the success of the Orchestra. Make sure you follow us on Instagram next Wednesday, March 9, when Sara takes over our account. She’ll take us through a day in her life, and who knows who will pop into the library!

Later in the month we’ll test your librarian chops. Brush up on your music theory, orchestration, the David Daniels book, and your manuscript penmanship…

Sara has even more ways to share the life of a Philharmonic Librarian up her sleeve, so stay tuned to nyphil.org/onthecover. Learn more about Sara Griffin here.

Next month, Associate Principal Horn Richard Deane takes the reins and teaches us how he tackles life in the back row.

On the Cover: Quan Ge


This February we highlight violinist Quan Ge in the cross-channel On the Cover. In the video Q&A above, Quan recalls the impact of hearing the New York Philharmonic for the first time and how she went from “Fingerboard Maniac,” as her teacher called her, to a violinist in the Philharmonic.

Follow along on the Philharmonic’s Instagram tomorrow, when Quan takes over and shows what life is like in the first violin section.

And mark your calendars. Quan will join us for a live Twitter Q&A on Thursday, February 25 at 1:00 PM EST. Follow us on Twitter and have your questions ready!

Keep your eyes peeled for more on Quan by checking nyphil.org/onthecover. Learn more about Quan Ge here.

Next month, Associate Principal Librarian Sara Griffin will uncover the oft-unexplored work-life of an orchestra librarian.

On the Cover: Markus Rhoten

New year, new On the Cover musician!

This January we introduce Principal Timpani Markus Rhoten in our On the Cover series highlighting the great musicians of the Philharmonic. In the video above Markus talks about his journey to the Philharmonic, the role of the Principal Timpani, and (most importantly) whether he prefers red wine or white.

Follow along this month as Markus takes over our Instagram and shows us a typical day in the life of an orchestra musician, juggling rehearsal and teaching.

Also, for you percussionists out there (and for the classically curious): Later this month on Facebook, we will post a video of Markus giving a tutorial on how he crafts each timpani head by hand with a metal frame and calf-skin, also known as tucking. You may not realize how much time and care go into maintaining timpani. They are indeed temperamental instruments!

And because last month’s live Twitter Q&A with Kuan Cheng Lu was such a success, we’re bringing it back. Follow us on Twitter and tune in at the end of January for updates. There is no question too small or too nerdy!

Learn more about Markus Rhoten.

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