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Meet the Musicians

Meet a Musician: Jude Park

An image of Jude Park onstage, smiling and speaking with their colleague Kenneth Freed.
Park shares a laugh with fellow violist Kenneth Freed. Credit: Greg Helgeson.

Position: Viola
Minnesota Orchestra musician since: 
Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, Oberlin Conservatory
Hometown: Tampa, Florida


How did you find your way to the viola, and what made you stick with it?

My journey to viola was a relatively recent one. Since my mom is a pianist, my first instrument was actually piano. However, she quickly realized that it didn’t come naturally for me, so I transitioned to a different instrument. At the age of four, I started playing the violin and it became my main instrument until my junior year of undergraduate studies at Oberlin Conservatory.

That year, a friend (who is ironically now a violist with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra) gave me my very first viola lesson and I was instantly hooked. Compared to its string siblings’ proportions, the viola is an imperfect instrument, which I believe creates its unique timbre. I love its pathos quality and ability to weave in and out of different roles. The viola can be a soloistic voice, the glue that connects the upper and lower string instruments or it can accompany other instruments.

Though you only joined the ensemble in 2022, the Minnesota Orchestra was a big part of your musical upbringing—which included early encounters with Principal Cello Anthony Ross and the late Jorja Fleezanis. Tell us a little more about these early encounters.

In 2012, I attended one of my first summer music camps, Interlochen Arts Academy, and Tony Ross and Jorja Fleezanis happened to be there. Tony, the soloist that week, performed Elgar’s Cello Concerto while Jorja coached the strings, taught lessons and gave a lecture on how to be an orchestral musician. While it wasn’t required of her, Jorja also performed with us in the rehearsals and concert (I fondly remember her scolding us from the back of the section during rehearsals). Her fiery passion for orchestral playing left a significant impact on me and she opened my eyes to a new career path. Looking back, it’s clear that Jorja and Tony were a natural team of musicians and educators. That week of camp was simply different—they inspired and united all of us.

Do you have a favorite concert experience from the past two seasons?

I have many! For different reasons, too. Most recently, I enjoyed concerts with Thomas Søndergård which included Walton’s Scapino Overture, Britten’s Violin Concerto, and Enigma Variations by Elgar. Another favorite with him was our opening week of Alpine Symphony. Søndergård always brings out a sense of freedom within the orchestra, and the music-making is a joy to be a part of. On a different note, I’ve always enjoyed our Lunar Year Concerts. I love the community it brings together and I wish I had access to concerts like this as a kid. I’m also grateful that [Principal Bassoon] Fei Xie is the artistic consultant for this concert. From the programming to the artists involved, it all feels genuine and authentic.

An unusually large number of violists joined the Minnesota Orchestra all at once in 2022—you, Lydia Grimes, Marlea Simpson and Sarah Switzer. Did the four of you form any special bond because of that?

While the classical music world is small, the viola world is smaller. Marlea and I were studiomates at Oberlin Conservatory, so we were already friends prior to joining the Orchestra. I remember thinking at the audition that it’d be a dream if we could become colleagues since she’s an absolute hoot to be around. Now that it’s a reality, I could not be more happy to have her as a friend and colleague. Sarah and I were also studiomates while I was in Houston pursuing my master’s degree at Rice University. And while I didn’t know Lydia beforehand, coming in together has definitely brought us closer. There’s a lot of camaraderie and support, and I’m grateful we could all join this orchestra together.

You’ve mentioned in the past that you enjoy horology—which is the study of keeping time, right? Tell us more about this interest.

More specifically, horology is the study of keeping time and instruments that keep time. Ever since my senior year in high school, I’ve had a fascination for watches. From a mechanical standpoint, a watch is similar to an orchestra in that each tiny, delicate part on the inside has a specific role and all those parts must work together to keep time. While the general public might see watches as fashion statements, there is so much nuance required of these tiny vessels of time. And from a romanticized standpoint, watches are always my constant—simultaneously keeping and passing time for me.

What else do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from Orchestra Hall?

Too many things! I’m the type who can easily preoccupy myself with current hobbies while also dreaming of a million other hobbies. I enjoy reading, gaming, playing guitar and collecting watches. As of late, I started taking piano lessons and it has been a rewarding journey so far thanks to my incredible teacher, Claudia Chen. She challenges different parts of my brain and body compared to the viola, and it’s always refreshing to gain new perspectives as a musician.

I’ve also been maintaining an aquarium that currently contains fish (specifically minnows and loaches), a snail, shrimp and a variety of aquatic plants. The goal is to eventually create multiple balanced, self-sustaining ecosystems.

In the future, I hope to also pick up watchmaking, pottery and woodworking. Clearly I’m a bit of a dreamer and I like to stay curious—it keeps things exciting for me!

What have you been listening to or watching lately?

Lately I’ve been listening to jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, and I highly suggest his albums The Melody at Night, With You or The Köln Concert. When it comes to tv shows, my colleagues often tease me because I admittedly have terrible taste that doesn’t match the rest of my personality. I love reality shows and some recent favorites include Real Housewives, The Golden Bachelor, Singles Inferno and Love Island (yup, I’m not kidding).