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Meet the Musicians

Meet a Musician: Emily Switzer

A portrait of Emily Switzer, a woman with brown hair, smiling directly at the camera, holding a violin.

Minnesota Orchestra member since: 2019

Section: Second Violin

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Education: Yale School of Music, Yale University


Navigating a pandemic, experiencing a change in music director—you’ve been through a lot since joining the Orchestra in fall 2019! How have you stayed focused through the ups and downs?

It's been a roller coaster to say the least, but I’ve been continually impressed by the organization’s commitment to and prioritization of the musicians. And, of course, the ingenuity and tenacity displayed by all as we tried to keep the music going under difficult circumstances. I’m really looking forward to the next chapter and the beginning of Thomas Søndergård’s tenure—he’s a delight to work with, and his Rite of Spring this fall has been a highlight of the season (so far) for me.  

Coming from Denver, Colorado, what do you like most about living in the Twin Cities? 

Surprisingly, Minneapolis feels quite a lot like Denver! It exchanges mountains for lakes, of course, but in atmosphere the cities feel quite similar. I knew nothing about Minneapolis before moving here and was pleasantly surprised by how beautiful the city is. It wears the seasons (even winter!) very well. 

Your educational background is in English as well as music.

That's right, I majored in English in college and wrote my thesis about the relationship between literary and painterly realism during the Industrial Revolution. I remain fascinated by the interplay between language, art and music and spend most of my free time fiddling about with some combination of the three.

What do you see as the connections between literature and music?

I think there’s a lot of common ground between music and literature. Every piece of music tells a story of some sort, and finding or coming up with that story is an integral part of understanding a piece. I don’t necessarily think up a single narrative for every piece I work on—in fact I usually don’t—but the experience of performing (and listening to) a piece of music is quite similar to reading a book. Each unfurls as you go along, and it’s the job of the performer to “narrate” the work as it goes along. A good performance, like a good story, should capture the listener’s attention, and keep them asking “what next?”

At the beginning of the season, your sister Sarah Switzer joined the Orchestra’s viola section. What’s it like having your sibling in the ensemble?  

Getting to work with my sister has been a delight so far! We’ve always been close, and after a few years living in different cities it’s great to be in the same place again. It’s also been nice to do some of the new-to-Minnesota things again, since I’d only been in Minnesota for a few months before the pandemic hit.

Are there pieces or upcoming concerts on the Minnesota Orchestra’s calendar that you’re most excited about?

As a violinist, I’m always excited for visiting violin soloists, and I’m especially excited to hear James Ehnes again—his Prokofiev concerto in March of 2021 remains one of my all-time favorite performances of that piece—as well as Leonidas Kavakos, who I haven’t (yet) had the opportunity to hear in person.