Note-worthy Experiences Music Studio
F E A T U R E
Interview with Kailey Zercher
F E A T U R E
Interview with Kailey Zercher
How old were you when you started to learn violin?
I started to play violin when I was nine years old. As part of the Waldorf education that I received, it is part of the curriculum to start learning a stringed instrument in 3rd grade. I begged my mother to let me start earlier! I started learning violin under the Suzuki method, which requires beginning students to learn everything by ear. I think training my ear from the very beginning paved the way for the rest of my musical career, as I was able to learn songs and play with others mostly just by listening at an earlier stage.
Do you play any other instruments?
Yes! I picked up guitar about ten years ago, but I don’t play as proficiently as I play violin. I also sing, play viola, bass guitar, and a little piano and percussion.
Who were some of your most inspired teachers?
I’ve been very lucky and have had so many inspiring teachers. My first teacher, Margaret Carpenter, helped me get my footing in the music world and introduced me to training my ear and taught me how important it is to do so. Kerri Lay prepared me for college auditions and really pushed me to train harder than I ever had before. Mimi Rabson was my first and last teacher at Berklee, and guided me into practicing jazz, rock, funk, blues, and how to improvise within all of those genres. It’s basically all of the genres I perform today, and she showed me how to bring out a way of playing that reflected my calling. Darol Anger, one the founding members of The David Grisman Quartet, taught me how to let go of my inhibitions with improvising (especially with rhythms!) and also helped me bring out the creativity I already had inside me. Last but not least, I will never forget the teachings of Mitch Haupers, who opened my eyes to what pure musical communication feels like in an improvisational form. He showed how magical and beautiful improvisation is, and it shaped the way I listen to other musicians and myself today. I took his class five semesters in a row!
What was your most memorable musical performance?
In my first semester at Berklee, I joined the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra and got the opportunity to perform at Boston Symphony Hall through that. I had been inside that amazing acoustic space before and had known that it’s one of the best music halls in the country, but to experience that with a big orchestra and choir as a musician was beyond anything I could've ever imagined. For the performance, we played the music from the video game Final Fantasy. The composer, Nobuo Uematsu, came to perform with us, and the hall was sold out!
How often did you practice when you were a kid?
When I was first starting out, it was a challenge to get myself to practice, but when I did, it was anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. As I got older, it became easier to practice for longer periods of time. By my junior year of high school, I was practicing at least two hours every day, and stuck with that for most of college.
What do you want to tell your students and their parents?
I wish for all my families and others that they always have fun with learning music! It is one the only ancient things in the world that brings people together and evokes such powerful messages, emotions, and memories. By learning music, you are learning to access that most magical and sacred part of our existence. I encourage students and parents to explore together! Try new things, even if it might be scary! Create games with music! I love it when my students show me what they’ve been experimenting with on their own. And when practicing gets tough, remember why you wanted to learn to make music in the first place and carry that with you. Most importantly, have patience with yourselves! The world will forgive every wrong note. It’s all part of the journey.
When you’re not performing or teaching, what other hobbies or interests do you have?
I always love playing music with other people in casual settings, whether we’re jamming in the living room or busking on Newbury Street. I also like to write songs, or at least when they come to me. Other than that, I love reading, painting, sketching, and most of all being out in nature, whether I’m just sitting by a pond, hiking or camping.
Read more about Kailey in her teacher bio.