Alumni Spotlight: Alum Greg Hix Performs with Yo-Yo Ma!

Publication date: 
May 6, 2014

SDYS French Horn 2000 to 2005

This month we caught up with SDYS Alumni Greg Hix (2000-2005) who just performed with Yo-Yo Ma as part of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago's project the "Artistic Challenge."  Greg graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago with a Masters in French horn performance and has an undergraduate degree from UCLA. In addition to recently performing with Yo-Yo Ma, he has substituted for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for several concerts and for Les Miserables, and has played on stage with Andrea Bocelli, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.


Tell us about the Civic Orchestra of Chicago's performance with Yo-Yo Ma. 

The event was the culmination of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago's season-long project, the "Artistic Challenge".  The goal of the project was for the orchestra to gain complete ownership of a single piece of music, in whatever way we deemed most appropriate.  For some people, this meant memorization, or learning as much of the historical context into which the piece was born, or as much about the story on which the piece was based, etc.  


Can you tell us your personal goal for the Artistic Challenge?
One of my main goals with the piece was to provide a unique concert that would leave the audience saturated with as much musical background and appreciation of the piece as possible.  It seemed silly for us to spend so much time preparing a special concert only to have the audience listen for 45 minutes and then walk out.  It was of the utmost importance for me that the audience feel as much of the ownership that we had, and that they were fully sucked in to our musical world, however small and briefly it existed.

What piece did the orchestra perform and how was Yo-Yo Ma involved? 
We performed Richard Strauss' Don Quixote with Yo-Yo playing the solo cello part.  He was present on and off throughout the 6 month rehearsal process to provide guidance (both musical and otherwise) and to help shape what was to be an extremely memorable and rewarding concert experience.  The impetus of the project came from his Citizen Musician Initiative that he began with the Chicago Symphony the season prior.  The main goals of that are to be a much more well-rounded and multi-faceted musician, and to be more than just a "practicing machine," finding new and innovative ways to bring what we love to do out to the masses.
Tell us about your experience of working closely with Yo-Yo Ma. 
Working personally with him (sometimes one-on-one) was sort of a trip to be honest.  His brain is always, ALWAYS thinking of how to tweak musical ideas- whether it was phrasing, dynamics, seating, dress etc.  He seems to exist a few seconds in the future at all times.  His energy, and his uncanny ability to capture your attention with his seemingly perpetually hoarse voice became hallmarks of our rehearsals with him.  We could always count on trying things that were way out of our comfort zones, and way out of the classical music "box."  
Next season in Civic should have a similar project lined up with Yo-Yo, and I can't wait to see what he has in store for us next season.