On 28 October, we're welcoming a new Member of the LSO: Sofia Silva Sousa, who joins our Viola section.
We spoke to her to find out more about her background in music, her advice for young musicians, and her experience in the LSO so far.
When did you first get involved in music?
I started learning music when I was six years old after successfully 'auditioning' for my town’s Music School (Conservatório Calouste Gulbenkian de Braga). Whilst I lived in Portugal, my whole musical and academic lives were spent there ... It has a sense of community and a special atmosphere. It truly is a unique place and I will always speak of it with respect and tenderness.
Were there any memorable early experiences that made you realise you wanted to do this as a career?
I guess the critical moment for me was after my ninth year at music school. It's at that time that the students must decide whether they want to leave the Conservatório, or whether they will stay and further their studies in music. At that time it didn’t seem right to lose my 'voice' and the opportunity to express myself. As an introvert, this last part felt truly important to me, and I still find that music and playing my instrument are ways of connecting with myself and with other people.
I went on to study in London, at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music, and I finished my Master’s at the Royal College of Music last September. I am also concluding my Artist in Residence programme at the Reine Elizabeth Musique Chapelle in Belgium. I have recently been accepted into Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Paris with a very dear project of mine, the Tejo String Quartet, which is formed of me and three other Portuguese friends.
What are you most looking forward to in becoming a Member of the LSO? Do you have any favourite memories of your time working with the Orchestra so far?
I feel blessed to have been accepted into this wonderful team. It is not something that I had ever believed would happen to me! I have shared some incredible experiences with the Orchestra already: from working with Maestro Haitink to being overwhelmed with joy at the end of Mahler 2 (with Semyon Bychkov), and taking part in exhaustive, beautiful tours. I should also mention the terrific staff and Members that keep this Orchestra going: I am always impressed and moved by everyone's organisation, positive energy and kindness!
What advice would you give to young people who are hoping to pursue a career as an orchestral musician?
I am also searching for the answer, and I still feel that I could use some advice on this matter! I can only say that, for a musician, no matter the context, there are always two main ingredients for success: hard work and passion/commitment to the music. These two combined are very powerful, I believe, and all the other qualities one needs will naturally derive follow. The learning process is never-ending! But some things can’t be taught; they have to be experienced and felt. Having played in this Orchestra, first as a student, then as an 'extra' and finally as a trialist, has given me some of this invaluable knowledge that I wish every young musician could also get!
Do you have a favourite composer, either to perform or listen to?
I think this changes with time (sometimes by the hour!). My choice at the moment has to be Beethoven. Perhaps it is a 'clichéd' answer, due to the ongoing commemorations, but I have recently been discovering his later chamber music, which, shamefully, I hadn't delved into before. In these pieces, one can find an unbelievable world of knowledge and understanding of the whole of humanity, and also the most private feelings that can exist. It can be both 'cosmic' and 'inner', fragile and powerful, the simplest and the deepest ... As musicians, we are blessed (and responsible!) for humbly creating a bridge between the physical world of sound and the sublime.
If you didn’t play the viola, what other instrument would you choose?
My mum chose me this instrument when I started at the Conservatório and I feel eternally grateful to her. I have found, in the viola, my own voice and I could not imagine how that could ever be replaced by a different one!