Spotlight on... Stefani Matsuo
by Kayla Moore
She began learning by watching—one by one, her mother’s violin students would breeze in and out of her childhood home in Southern Pines, North Carolina, so she assumed that everyone played the violin. Stefani Matsuo looked on with wonder and excitement at the beautiful instrument and the music it created, and, at one year old, she had found her instrument.
From then on, Stefani kept music at the forefront of her life. She received her bachelor’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music under the tutelage of Paul Kantor, and her Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School under Sylvia Rosenberg. Following her studies, she won her first position as Section First Violin at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in 2014, followed by Section Second Violin with the CSO starting in 2015, and, most recently, Associate Concertmaster with the Orchestra in 2018.
When asked what some of her favorite memories with the CSO are, she says that the memories that stand out the most are the days she and her husband, cellist Hiro Matsuo, received their positions with the Orchestra. “Both of us felt, and continue to feel, so fortunate to work with such a wonderful orchestra filled with fantastic musicians. Not to mention, we feel especially fortunate to work together!”
As newly appointed Associate Concertmaster, Stefani holds many added responsibilities. She notes that preparation for each concert cycle, each piece, and each moment is different, but fun and challenging to contemplate and then assist in implementing. “Preparation for a concert cycle begins months in advance when, if I am sitting Concertmaster, I decide bowings for the first violin section, which then influences bowings for all of the string sections in the orchestra,” said Stefani.
“Then, before each program’s rehearsals begin, a lot of preparatory practice is required to know both my part and other instruments’ parts and how the piece is supposed to sound as a whole. Once rehearsals begin, whether I am sitting Concertmaster or Associate Concertmaster, my role is either to assist the Concertmaster in solving ensemble issues in rehearsal or to relay information, from the Conductor or from my observations, to members of the orchestra.”
Stefani is grateful and excited to be taking on this new position with the CSO and says that she “truly enjoys having a front row seat to great conductors and soloists. I learn something new every rehearsal and concert. Working with this Orchestra continues to shape me as a musician, as I am constantly inspired to strive for the best in my performance and to grow as a musician.”
Every musician is bound to favor the works of specific composers. Stefani notes that her favorite composer is Bach, and that his compositions are “truly timeless…they affected all composers that followed him.” She loves to play Bach Sonatas and Partitas, and she loves the fact that the music is “so pure, yet incredibly challenging. These works have stood the test of time to remain a staple in violin repertoire.” Alongside Bach, Stefani loves the romantic era of classical composition. Why? Because of the rich nature of the music—she notes that you can “really bask in the beauty of the sound, melodies and harmonies.”
Stefani’s passion, technique and artistry, along with her incredible ear for sound and love of this Orchestra, are all factors that make her especially suited to her new position. Congratulations, Stefani!
FUN FACTS ABOUT STEFANI
• She is currently studying Japanese and hopes to become fluent one day.
• She loves to cook international cuisines, especially experimenting with new dishes and pairing them with unique, delicious wines.