Zoe Hartenbaum – Viola, Violin Teacher

  • Advanced Viola and Violin
  • Specializing in Classical and Contemporary music
  • Studied at the Peabody Conservatory under Richard Field

I teach Viola, Violin. My journey as a musician started with a love for classical music rather than with the instrument itself. The first time I auditioned for a youth orchestra in 7th grade, I got rejected. I was determined to practice and prepare enough so that I would get into that youth orchestra the next year, which I did. By the time I reached high school, I was fully ready to commit to learning the viola and started to take private lessons. Halfway through high school, I picked up the violin as I was interested in violin repertoire. At this time, my private teacher was generous enough to let me shadow her lessons with other students & even teach a few of them. I started teaching my own violin and viola students in my junior year of high school, and have continued teaching privately since, as well as with the Pennsylvania Youth Orchestra’s Petit Division in the 2018-2019 season, and Knauer Music School from 2019-2020. In 2014, I joined the Philadelphia Sinfonia and continued to play with them through high school. The same year, I was accepted into the prestigious Tanglewood Institute, where I spent two summers studying and playing orchestral music.

After high school, I was accepted into the Peabody Conservatory, at which I studied for 2 years under renowned orchestral & solo violist, Richard Field. I left the Conservatory after Mr. Field fell ill and unexpectedly retired. From there, I moved to Los Angeles where my career focus shifted to studio music recording sessions and teaching. Some of my most recent notable performances include playing with the Jack Curtis Dubowsky Ensemble in a sold out live score performance of Nosferatu, premiering a new work with the Isaura Quartet at Redcat Theatre, as well as soloing with a contemporary ensemble on Morton Feldman’s Viola in my Life. Since returning to Philadelphia, I am continuing to pursue both my performance career and my teaching career.

My teaching philosophy is that every student is unique, and should be treated as such. I do not have a set method of teaching. The teaching route I take depends on how the student learns best, and what they’re most passionate or excited about. However, something I focus on with every student is technique as it pertains to alignment in the body. This is so that the student can avoid instrument related injuries in the long run. Aside from technique, I ultimately want to ensure a lasting and healthy relationship between the student, the instrument, and music in general.

When did you begin playing Viola, and why?
I began playing viola when I was very young, but I truly fell in love with the instrument at the end of my middle school years, due to a newfound affinity for classical music. Midway through high school, I took up the violin and was granted the opportunity soon after to help my private teacher teach some of her violin and viola students. It was at that time that a deep love and appreciation for the intricacies of the violin and viola was instilled in me.

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
I have experience whistling, for recording sessions and in one special performance of Steve Reich’s “Drumming”. In addition, I have some experience playing basic piano.

What are your personal goals as a musician?
I have goals both as a performer and as a teacher. My personal goal as a performer is to create a space of ultimate vulnerability and healing for the audience. My greatest hope is for the listener to walk out of the performance with a few weights lifted off of their soul. My personal goal as a teacher is to create a comfortable and uplifting learning environment to best encourage a healthy and lasting relationship with the student and the instrument.

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?
A great mentor of mine really got me to understand how the instrument is just an extension of the body, and that tensing up certain muscles is counterproductive to achieving a comfortable technique setup. When I started teaching more students, I found it very helpful that I could remember a time at which I did not know that knowledge, because it helped my students to go through the processes of learning certain techniques and unlearning others.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
Once you’ve decided upon your personal interpretation for a piece of music, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Take that as a challenge to be more convincing with your interpretation.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
My most challenging moments in learning viola and violin were related to changing aspects of my technique that no longer served me. I found that it took a lot of patience and determination to break old habits and build new ones when the results didn’t feel immediate. In the end, it has always paid off.

What is your biggest musical achievement?
During my 2nd year at Conservatory, I was preparing for my jury a Hindemith Sonata that was very special to me. My professor, whom I very much admired, told me that my interpretation and performance was one of a kind, and that it touched him. I believe that to be one of my musical achievements, as it felt like an integral moment in my personal motivation and artistic development.

Favorite thing about teaching?
My favorite part of teaching is seeing the excitement in a student when a concept starts to make sense.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Make sure to be kind to yourself while you’re learning and practicing. Discipline is good in healthy amounts but not to the extent where learning music is no longer enjoyable or exciting.

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any)
I am currently working on a few pieces of contemporary music that were written for me, to be premiered in the next few months.