Covid 19 forced the entire world to evaluate what was most valuable to them and to recalibrate the course of our lives. For professional violinist Trista Wong of the Phoenix Symphony, her dedication to the artistic path she set upon since the age of five-years-old never once waivered. However, the ability of all career artists met the challenges of how to perform and how to generate income. While not perhaps “life or death”, this scenario was certainly “career life or death.” Trista’s years of performing in the esteemed position of section second violin for Phoenix’s premier music ensemble associated her with a determined group of collaborators who found means of performing even under the highly restrictive and uncomfortable parameters necessitated by a global pandemic. The tenacity of Ms. Wong and her fellow musicians stands as a testament to the unquenchable spirit which has preserved and maintained the arts throughout centuries.
We all have our own personal pandemic story of how we managed to persevere through the fear and danger of this unprecedented time in history. For career musicians like Trista Wong and her fellow symphony members, this meant an abrupt stop to all public performances and a need to reinvent a manner of creating music. Video performances were recorded and posted online. Virtual performances were conducted by varied ensembles and video calls of great gratitude were delivered to the donors who are the lifeblood of such artists. When the Phoenix Symphony started performing live again in October 2021, it was a stark contrast to all previous concerts in order to adhere to safety standards. Events such as the Downtown Chamber Series allowed smaller ensembles to perform to audiences in various locations, allowing the public to feel the sonic presence of members of the Phoenix Symphony in uncommon venues. Enthusiastic about taking music to the people, Trista cites her performance as part of the Downtown Chamber Series which took place at the Park Central Arts Pavilion in Phoenix as one of her absolute favorites. Ms. Wong appeared in a series of three concerts which included such compositions as Beethoven’s String Quartet Op.18 No.2 and Vivaldi’s Concerto in D for guitar and strings. Trista performed alongside Adrienne Finet and Mark Dix (founder of the Downtown Chamber Series, which won the 2019 Mayor’s Arts Award in the “Music Artist” Category and the 2012 Mayor’s Arts Award in the “Music Organization” Category). An environment of masked performers and safely-distanced audience members was a first but this could not squelch the excitement which both musicians and music lovers felt about this return of live music.
The Downtown Chamber Series has persevered to become a mainstay of the Phoenix music scene and one of the most embraced programs of the city. Trista imparts, “Performing at these smaller venues with a more casual setting allows audience to sit closer to the performers, which makes it easier to interact with the audience during the concerts. In a traditional setting, musicians return to back stage immediately after concerts but at these concerts, the audience can approach the musicians and ask questions about the programs, the series, or even the musicians themselves. This significantly helps people to better understand what we, as musicians, do in our profession and what we are trying to bring to society through our music. The ticket prices are quite affordable, even free to students. I think we’ve all learned how important music is to us and that it is a shared experience which enriches all our lives.”
Writer: Arlen Gann