Col. and Mrs. Ran Watson Chair
“Meet the Musicians” — Allyson Dawkins, Principal Viola
What is the story of a moment or a person that inspired you to pursue music?
…..I attended a national summer camp sponsored by the American Federation of Musicians. There were students there from all over the country that were amazingly advanced on their instruments. I was lucky enough to experience a great deal of major string orchestra repertoire at a high level with people my age. I caught on fire and never looked back.
What other work do you do outside of being a Symphony musician?
…..I teach both privately and at the University of Texas San Antonio. I also teach viola and coach quartets at the renowned Castleman Quartet Program at State University of New York in Fredonia, and play in the fabulous Sun Valley Summer Symphony in Sun Valley, Idaho during the summer.
What composers highly influenced your approach to musical expression, training, or performance?
…..Bach and Schubert. I love the cantatas and the lieder, and have transcribed for viola many songs by both composers. I listen almost (but not quite!) exclusively to singers.
If you had not become a musician, what would you be doing instead?
Tell us about your family members.
…..Sasha and Sadie, my two black cats. And of course my husband, Jan, of Dutch descent.
Tell us about your recent trip to the Netherlands.
…..My husband and I just returned from the Netherlands where we were visiting his family. We stayed solely in Holland other than two short ventures. One to Cologne, Germany where we visited the Cologne Cathedral, one of the largest churches in Europe. And one to Luxembourg travelling through the Ardennes region which is a quite densely forested and hilly part of Belgium. While in Holland we stayed in Leeuwarden in the Friesland Province which is very far in the north. The people of Friesland have a completely different language from common Dutch. It is not a dialect, and my husband Jan cannot understand a word of it. All of the highways signs are in two languages! Being in the 53rd latitude, the sun sets there at around 10 p.m. and rises at around 5 a.m. right now. Our most memorable visits were to the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Both museums are recently remodeled. The Mauritshuis owns 3 of the only 36 paintings by the famous Dutch painter, Vermeer. It is home to Vermeer’s most well-known painting – The Girl With The Pearl Earring. The Rijksmuseum is the home of Rembrandt’s most famous work – Night Watch. After the remodeling of the museum, that work has been moved to a place of profound prominence at the end of a long train terminal style gallery. It may be seen dramatically from afar, and then approached gradually. The improved natural lighting also greatly enhances Rembrandt’s masterly depiction of light and dark. My favorite things about Holland are trains, bicycles and bicycle paths, Friesian cows (Holsteins that are the world’s highest production dairy animals) that bring us amazing cheeses, canals, and countless works of breathtaking art by the Dutch masters.
What fun hobbies, activities, or interest do you participate in outside of music?
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
BFA: State University of New York at Purchase
MM: Eastman School of Music
Allyson Dawkins, Principal Violist of the San Antonio Symphony has won consistent admiration for her playing as both orchestral soloist and recitalist. Critics have praised the “great sensitivity and intelligence” of her playing, as well as her “full-bodied, velvety tone.”
Ms. Dawkins is on the faculty of the University of Texas at San Antonio, and is highly sought after and widely respected as a private teacher. During the summer she serves as Dean of Students, teaches viola, and coaches chamber music at the Castleman Quartet Program at State University of New York at Fredonia. She is co-author, with Charles Castleman, of a technical instruction book titled Fingerboard Memory for both viola and violin. As a teacher and coach she has taught at the New World Symphony, and participated in a workshop there on the topic of Orchestral Leadership.
She has performed at the Aspen Music Festival, Colorado Music Festival, Grand Teton Music Festival, Victoria Bach Festival, and as Principal Violist of both the Peninsula Music Festival in Door County, Wisconsin and the Sunriver Music Festival in Oregon. She is currently a member of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Ms. Dawkinsreceived a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the State University of New York at Purchase, and a Master of Music degree and the prestigious Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music.
Ms. Dawkins also has substantial practical organizational experience having served on many boards. She was a musician representative to the Board of Directors of the San Antonio Symphony from 2004-11. Since 2004 she has also served on the board of the San Antonio Chamber Music Society where she is Chair of the Outreach Committee and a member of the Artists Committee. Since September 2012 she has been a member of the Executive Committee of the American Viola Society where she is Chair of the Orchestral Excerpt Competition.
Strongly committed to community service, Ms. Dawkins is director of the San Antonio Symphony Caroling Project, a program that takes musicians to area hospitals, hospices, correctional institutions, and shelters during the December holiday season.