Though many students enjoy listening to and playing music, few have taken their passion for music as far as Eli Spies (’15) has. Spies has attended the AMIS Honor Orchestra five times, regularly attends the Royal College of Music Junior Program and now has plans to become a professional musician.
Spies’s love for music and, more specifically, his love for the viola started in the Middle School Orchestra Program. “There immediately was just something I really liked about making the viola’s deep, rich and romantic sound, which I really wanted to make more of,” he said.
Numerous characteristics of playing the viola interest Spies, ranging from its role in chamber music to its dark, romantic sound. “In chamber music, the viola takes an extremely wide range of roles. Especially in the string quartet, as quartet writing has continued, from romantic composers such as Ravel, Dvorak, and Smetana, they give the viola these beautiful rich, solo, lines that sail above the other three players,” he said.
Spies’s advancement in music can be attributed to natural talent, but his teachers have noticed something more: Motivation. “[Spies] has a natural inclination. But again, lots of people have natural ability, but he has decided to do something with it,” Performing Arts Teacher Anna Salmi said. Spies practices for five hours a day, waking up as early as 4:30 a.m. to practice before school.
Viola has never been a chore to Spies. “I enjoy practicing and when I’m being productive, the time actually goes by very quickly and doesn’t feel like I’ve just spent two hours with my viola and metronome, working on the same passage,” he said. “To actually get anywhere in any field, putting in hours of hard work is completely vital, and in music, that concentration of hard work in a day needs to start at perhaps an earlier age than other fields. I like feeling that I’m working hard at improving and getting closer to becoming a true musician.”
Spies’s friends and family have also contributed to his musical development. His parents wanted him to be involved in music, encouraging him to pursue it at an early stage. “My parents have always just been extremely supportive of me and music, and right from the beginning I started taking private lessons, so I could be the best player that I could be, even though it wasn’t a huge interest to me at that stage,” Spies said.
Spies’s ultimate ambition is to become a professional musician, something he’s gotten closer to accomplishing through his work at the Royal College of Music Junior Program, a highly prestigious program at the world-renowned music school. “I’ve learned so much through my private lessons on viola and piano, musicianship classes and my orchestral and chamber music rehearsals. I’ve been given a wealth of opportunities from being at the College, and feel that I’ve grown from all of them,” he said.
Though Spies’s ultimate ambitions may be hard to attain, he is willing to go to any lengths to accomplish them. “The music world is so competitive, so this at times seems like an unrealistic goal, but music’s by far what I’m passionate about; more than anything else,” he said. “I’d much rather starve to death trying to do what I love the most than settle for doing something I’m not completely crazy about.”