Artist of the Month: Haley Gillia


Olivia Guarna, Staff Writer

“I believe that music is important, and that it’s not merely ‘entertainment,’’ explains senior Haley Gillia.  A talented and dedicated violinist, Haley has been playing since she was only four years old.  She chose the violin after an inspiring trip to a NY Philharmonic concert:  “I saw the violinists in the orchestras [and] I wanted to learn how to play.”  In third grade, she was accepted to The Special Music School in Manhattan, where she received “rigorous classical music training (private lessons, music theory, music history and ear training) during the regular school day.”  Since returning to Berkeley Carroll in ninth grade, she has been studying at the Kaufman Center’s Young Artists Program most days after school and on weekends. As busy as she is, she still finds time to “practice every day for at least 3 hours,” she explains.

Haley regularly performs outside of school and works with composers and other musicians. Recently, she collaborated with indie/classical band, Alarm Will Sound, at the Ecstatic Music Festival. She recorded on the album “It doesn’t Matter” by progressive rock band Saxon Shore, which came out in 2009.  Haley also performed a piece called Honest Music at Merkin Hall, after working with the composer, Nico Muhly. She was even interviewed on this performance for NPR’s All Things Considered, which was broadcasted in May, 2010. “It can be intimidating to play a piece with the composer right in front of you, but its rewarding and helpful to hear their advice,” Haley explains.  In addition, she was favorably reviewed in the New York Times for a solo performance at the Merkin Hall Reopening Gala in January 2008.

In addition to her solo work, Haley is also the first violin in the Face the Music Quartet group, which plays music by living composers who they get to work with. Currently, she is working on a piece called “Physical Property” by Steve Mackey.  “We get to perform at cool venues like Le Poisson Rouge, Symphony Space, BAM Cafe and as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival,” Haley explains. The quartet also plays benefit concerts for public schools’ music programs around the city.

Haley’s passion and talent for violin is well-rounded; she “love[s] listening to and playing all types of music,” she exclaims.  “My favorite pieces are outgoing and fiery!”  Besides classical music, she also plays a lot of contemporary and experimental music. Her favorite violinist is Maxim Vengerov, a Russian musician and conductor,  “because he is such an incredible musician; he takes all sorts of exhilarating musical risks.”  Other influences include Nico Muhly, a contemporary classical composer, whom she loves because “he writes whatever music he wants.”  Haley says that there are all kinds of classical musicians and she loves it all—“from Bach to Prokofiev to Philip Glass.”

Besides her personal love for music, Haley also has strong views about her passion. Chiefly, she believes that “everyone should have music as a part of their education.  It is just as important as subjects like math or history.” She is also a strong believer in the value of classical music in particular, and would encourage people to give it a chance. “A lot of people think that ‘classical’ music is boring, and that’s because they don’t know much about it!” she says. “There are so many different eras and styles within this very preconceived label of ‘classical’ that are anything but boring!”

Currently, Haley is in the process of auditioning for music conservatories.  After, she is hoping to play in an orchestra, a string quartet or even form her own indie band or contemporary music ensemble.  As a professional musician, she wants to continue to play classical, as well as folk and many different genres.  “Studying violin can be challenging, but it’s really rewarding and fun to play music!”