Benjamin Geller joined the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra as Principal Violist in 2014 where he regularly performs as a soloist in the orchestra and as a chamber musician in the Charlotte Area. Originally from Rockford, IL, Ben began violin lessons at the age of three in the Suzuki tradition at the Music Academy of Rockford. He continued his musical training at Butler University with Larry Shapiro and formally took up viola with Michael Isaac Strauss as well as a Jazz Minor with Mark Buselli. He went on to pursue his Masters at The Juilliard School where he studied with Toby Appel. Following graduation, Ben was awarded a fellowship to the New World Symphony in Miami, FL where he performed for almost two years. His first professional engagement took him to New Zealand where he was Associate Principal Violist of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. While in New Zealand, Ben also served as Principal of the Auckland Chamber Orchestra and regularly performed as soloist with both orchestras. He then returned to the United States and joined the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra viola section for two seasons before his appointment in Charlotte. In addition to his work in the Charlotte Symphony, Ben teaches and performs at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC and performs in the Arizona Musicfest Orchestra in Phoenix, AZ. Ben also coaches string programs in Charlotte area schools and has been a guest teacher at the Atlanta Music Project. Ben has also performed in the National Repertory Orchestra, Spoleto Festival USA, Aspen Music Festival, Bowdoin International Music Festival, Brevard Music Center, Interharmony International Music Festival, and the New York String Orchestra Seminar at Carnegie Hall. Ben Plays on an award winning viola made by Theodore Skreko in 2007 and bow by Matthew Wehling made in 2008.
Off StageDoes your instrument have an interesting story?
My viola was custom made for me in 2007 by Theodore Skreko of Indianapolis Violins, modeled after the Breacian master Gaspar da Salo. My bow is also fantastic and made by the incomparable Matthew Wehling from St. Paul, Minnesota.
How did you get introduced to the viola?
I'd flirted with viola a few times in different ensembles in high school, but I fully committed from the violin the summer after my undergraduate sophomore year at Butler University when I studied with Michael Isaac Strauss. I really haven't looked back since.
If you weren't a professional musician, what would you be?
I've never had a real plan B. Maybe acting? Or something in ceramics...I loved throwing pottery in high school. I'd probably just farm somewhere in Canada.
How do you mentally prepare for a performance?
Naps. Also, long baths. Seriously though, the only way to prepare mentally for a performance is by learning the music inside and out. Once I've made technical decisions about every note from informed knowledge of the score with a few recordings for reference, the performance takes care of itself. Also, deep breaths and I try not to slouch.
What kinds of music do you listen to when you are not practicing or performing?
Jazz, Prog Rock, Classic R&B and Hip Hop, and whatever is on NPR or WDAV.
Where can we find you when you're not rehearsing or performing?
Swimming at MAC, biking around on my '89 Schwinn, playing Frisbee somewhere, but I'm probably just practicing at home.
What's one thing you can't live without?
Oxygen. Also, food. Specifically chicken.
Which composer or composition most inspires you?
Bela Bartok. He combined mathematic formulas found in nature, folk music he researched from all over Hungary and Eastern Europe, and modern art music techniques to bring the listener and the player a wild and interesting experience. He's one of my very favorites.
Are there any other musicians in your family?
I come from a very musical family. Everyone played something at some point, however my cousin Noah Geller (Concertmaster of the Kansas City Symphony) and I are the only professional orchestral musicians.
What is your earliest musical memory?
Suzuki class sometime in the late 80s. I had a cardboard pizza circle that I was supposed to stand on properly in designated foot outlines that was much more fun to throw like a Frisbee.