The Bellingham Symphony Orchestra’s new concertmaster is Dawn Posey, a violinist who comes from a family of musicians. Posey, who attended her first live concert when she was 10 days old, chose the violin as a child because she thought it looked easy to play. Hindsight, of course, is 20/20.
Throughout her childhood, Posey learned under a teacher who used the Suzuki Method. At 13, her family moved to China where her dad was conducting an orchestra. She took lessons for six months from a teacher who didn’t speak English.
“We had a translator for a few lessons, and then realized it wasn’t really necessary,” Posey says. “The way that he was able to help me connect with music and expression really changed the course of my life.”
Upon returning to the states, Posey knew she wanted to grow up to be a professional musician. She played in many community orchestras such as the Kansas City Youth Symphony and all- state orchestra. Though she knew she wanted to go to music school, she wasn’t sure what her career could look like.
“I knew what my parents did. I knew there were professional symphonies,” Posey says. “But I just didn’t really know much beyond that. I just knew I wanted to go get really immersed in playing the violin.”
After attending Boston Conservatory and Cincinnati Conservatory, she played in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.
“The great thing about being in an orchestra is that your sound becomes amplified. Your voice becomes amplified and blends with all these other voices to create something that you can’t do by yourself,” Posey says. “To feel the energy of other people on a stage working towards creating a phrase or a shape is incredibly meaningful and special.”
Posey is looking forward to her new role as concertmaster for the Bellingham Symphony Orchestra (BSO), and after driving cross-country from Pittsburgh to Bellingham, she will call Pacific Northwest her new home.
“It was a hard competition and Dawn played so beautifully,” Music Director Yaniv Attar says. “We wanted somebody who has natural musicianship and flawless technique. But beyond [that], we really wanted somebody who we thought our players would connect to.”
One of the things that drew Posey to the BSO was the initiatives they have taken to promote inclusivity and diversification.
“There’s a lot of great music out there that people don’t know about,” Posey says. “Unfortunately, you have to dig for it now. One of my personal hopes is that we can reach a point where we’re not having to dig quite so hard for this stuff.”
According to Attar, the BSO operates differently than many orchestras because they don’t just play what people already know. One of their series, Harmony from Discord, originally brought to the stage work from composers who died in the Holocaust. The series has shifted into including a variety of voices not usually heard in classical music.
“We want our symphony experience to be as diverse as we want life to be,” Attar says.
These values align with those of the Kassia Ensemble, an all-women’s group in Pittsburgh that Posey will remain a part of even after her move. The group focuses on promoting female entrepreneurship, equal representation in programming, and amplifying composers of color. Due to the pandemic, the ensemble’s busy 2020 season was postponed, so Posey will be going back to Pittsburgh to participate in larger projects over the next year.
While her first piece with BSO was soloing on Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” in September, she will be one of seven soloists for the baroque concert in November.
During the pandemic, there were no live concerts. Attar remembers the last rehearsal before the shutdown. Right before it began, they learned the show was canceled.
“We did the rehearsal anyway,” Attar says. “We still wanted to play that repertoire together, the last time until… who knows?”
It has now been over a year since that rehearsal, and the BSO is playing live shows again. They plan to return fully in January, but until then, they’ll be performing small ensembles at Mount Baker Theatre.
104 N. Commercial St., Bellingham, 360.734.6080, mountbakertheatre.com