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A gift for music

The donation of the Alsop Viola amplifies a young musician’s talent
Posted June 29, 2015
Peabody student, Aik Shin Tan IMAGE: Richard Anderson Peabody student, Aik Shin Tan IMAGE: Richard Anderson

As the 1998 film The Red Violin so artfully illustrates, a musical instrument of great quality can pass through many skilled hands as it travels through time. This tradition is much in evidence at the Peabody Institute, where Aik Shin Tan, a graduate student majoring in the baroque flute, was handed an exquisite viola.

The instrument in question was a 16-inch Iizuki model viola, #44, built in 1991 by Clif Alsop, late father of Marin Alsop, acclaimed music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and a member of Peabody’s conducting faculty. Alsop donated the viola to Peabody, where it resides with other baroque instruments in the Early Music Department. Such donations are invaluable to the school’s educational experience, as they provide faculty and students with access to special instruments for practice and performance.

Such was the opportunity given when Aik Shin received the loan of the Alsop viola. Like many baroque musicians of the past, he is a multi-instrumentalist. “It’s very common for musicians who play early music to double on other instruments,” he notes. “Back in the 1700s, flute players often also played the viola, although doubling on both a string and wind instrument is not that common.”

By adding the viola to his range of musical abilities, Tan says that he has been able to explore his love of baroque music in much greater depth. In addition, he regularly performs with the Alsop viola in Peabody’s student baroque orchestra, the Baltimore Baroque Band.

“I’m very grateful for having this instrument loaned to me, as it has allowed me to keep doing what I love to do,” he says. “It has a beautiful shape and a bigger sound, which helps me to hear my playing more closely.”

What does tomorrow hold for the Alsop viola? If the current accomplishments of Aik Shin Tan are any indication, it will have long and inspiring life in the hands of future Peabody students.