Annija Kerno – Violin and Viola Teachers

Violin and Viola Lessons
Masters of Music
Northwestern University
Advanced Classical

headshotI teach violin and viola. As a dual citizen of Latvia and the United States, I have performed in a variety of concert venues throughout Europe and America. Most recently, I concluded my two year residency with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work with many of the major classical musicians in the world. Among them are Ricardo Muti, Christoph Eschenbach, Yo-Yo Ma, Kristjan Jarvi, and Ken-David Masur, amongst many others. I recently performed a solo in the bi-annual North American Latvian Song and Dance Festival, where I collaborated with Latvian musicians from all over the world to create a performance of choral and orchestral music written solely by Latvian composers.

I hold an active private studio of violinists and violists, and also has taught group classes through a variety of programs in Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia. I am currently teaching through Play On Philly, the Darlington Arts Center, and Temple Music Prep. I believe that every student should have access to a quality music education and I realize that all students are different. As a teacher, I accept the differences in my students and adapt my lesson plans to each student, so they can achieve their best.

When did you begin playing viola/violin, and why?:
I began playing the viola in the fourth grade, after attending my school’s instrument petting zoo. As a baby, my father would play Berlioz’s, “Harold in Italy,” where there is an incredible viola solo, while we were driving and according to him, I would bob along to the music. That is when my father knew that I would someday play the viola and become a musician. At the petting zoo, I had the choice between viola and violin. Although I chose the viola then, as I grew as a musician, I picked up playing the violin, as well. 

Growing up in New York, I had many opportunities to become involved in music. I began my studies with Dr. Yeou-Cheng Ma (sister of Yo Yo Ma) through the Children’s Orchestra Society, an organization started by her father. That is where I fell in love with playing in chamber music and in an orchestra. In addition to participating in this organization, I also was a member of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, with whom I went on an orchestral tour to China.

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?:
I play both the viola and the violin. I have received both my undergraduate degree and masters degree in viola performance (from American University and Northwestern University, respectively), but I have also always been interested in the violin. While the viola gets the interesting and rich harmonies in a piece of music, the first violin part primarily plays melodies. In order to fully understand a piece of music, I believe it’s important to immerse yourself in all of the parts of a piece – what better way to immerse yourself than having the opportunity to play through them all? 

What are your personal goals as a musician?:
My goals as a musician are to be able to combine my love of teaching and performing in to one career. I can’t imagine my life without performance or teaching, so I have decided to combine the two to create one, amazing career. I would love to continue to spread my love of classical music to my audiences and students. 

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?:
When I was first beginning my lessons with Dr. Yeou-Cheng Ma, she had working on, “The Swan,” a piece by Camille Saint Saens, which is a part of the Carnival of Animals suite. Before then, I only played through a piece of music, but didn’t really express myself through music. Once, as I was playing, she acted out how she felt the swan was feeling as the piece progressed. Her acting of a dying swan has stuck with me, primarily because that was the moment I realized that music has feelings and that as a musician, you can express how you feel through the music you have chosen to play. Now, whenever my students start learning the Swan, I try to re-enact how the Swan must feel at the end of the piece, just like Dr. Ma did for me. 

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
My favorite piece of advice that I have received from my teachers has always been to never give up and to always try my hardest. Music and learning an instrument is difficult, but if you keep up with it, you will only get closer to your goal. 

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:
My most challenging moment of learning my instrument was 

What is your biggest musical achievement?:
My music has brought me to many corners of the world, which is something that I am truly grateful for. I have received the opportunity to combine my passion of music with my passion of travel and exploring the world. While living in Chicago, I was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the training orchestra of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I got to work with members of the Chicago Symphony, rehearse and perform in the great Symphony Center of Chicago, and partake in community engagement concerts throughout the city. I worked with many famous conductors and musicians, including Ricardo Muti, Christoph Eschenbach, Yo Yo Ma, Joshua Weilerstein, among others. As a dual citizen with Latvia, I was able to audition and be a member of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, under the baton of Kristjan Jarvi. We rehearsed and performed in Latvia, then performed in Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, and Russia. 

Favorite thing about teaching?:
Since I began teaching, I have found that it is one of the most rewarding experiences because I get to spread my love and joy of classical music to younger generations. At recitals, I watch my students with pride because I see how they have learned to enjoy performing and the instrument that I have taught them. My goal as a musician is to spread my love and appreciation of music through performance and teaching. I believe that everyone should have access to a good music education. Music is a universal language and many times, I have found that music succeeds, where words might fail. 

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
I love music, both teaching and performing. I can’t imagine my life without my viola or violin and I hope that my students inherit my love of music through our lessons. My biggest piece of advice to all of my students is to never give up, even when you feel like you cannot do something. It is important to just keep pushing along to reach your own personal goal.