Local violist earns her way into Juilliard

But the hardest work begins now, Claire Satchwell says.

Santa Ynez Valley native Claire Satchwell was recently accepted into Juilliard’s School of Music and will be studying the viola this fall.

By Raiza Giorgi

Being accepted to Julliard School is a prestigious honor, but Santa Ynez Valley native Claire Satchwell said the work really begins when she gets there this fall.

“A lot of people have praised me for getting into Juilliard, and I am super proud, but I know that is where I will probably work my hardest because I am not perfect as a musician and I am always wanting to get better,” the 18-year-old viola player said.

Satchwell also received a large scholarship from Juilliard, but she needs to raise $23,000 a year of additional support.

“My parents have really sacrificed to help me with my music career, and my siblings have been so supportive,” she said.

As a way to help her parents she decided to put on a concert to help with the costs of tuition. She will be performing at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, at St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church, 2901 Nojoqui Ave. in Los Olivos.

She will be accompanied by pianist John Scoville in the concert sponsored by Santa Barbara Strings. There is a suggested donation of $25, with tickets available at the door. She will be performing selected works from Bach, Brahms and Hoffmeister, among other composers.

Satchwell is the daughter of Alan and Christi Satchwell of Solvang. Her father is well known locally for his role as worship and music director for the Blue Angels Choir at the Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church in Ballard. Her mother works for the Cancer Center in Santa Barbara.

Satchwell said she has loved growing up in the church environment and said her first connection to music was singing in her father’s choir.

“I started playing the violin when I was really little and ended up joining the Santa Barbara Strings. When I was 10 they needed a voila player so I switched to that and have been playing it ever since,” she said.

The viola is similar to the violin, but it is slightly larger. It provides the middle voice between the violin and the cello, which is an octave lower.

“At first I really hated practicing and I think back at my family having to listen to me practice,” she said with a laugh.

Her teacher with Santa Barbara Strings, Mary Beth Woodruff, encouraged her to keep going and as she improved suggested she attend music camp at Interlochen Arts Academy in northern Michigan.

“It was life changing because it was a camp filled with kids just like me that aren’t so much into athletics, but want to improve their craft. I ended up getting into their school and went there the last three years,” she said.

Music had become her passion, so she jumped at the opportunity to study it day and night.

“My day at Interlochen started around 6:30 a.m. and I would get home about that same time of night. Of course I had all my advanced studies on top of music classes like history and theory, but I think it gave me the best challenge of doing it all on my own,” Satchwell said.

She lived in a dormitory where she had to do her own laundry, make time to study and practice her viola.

“You really learn a lot of how hard a person can work when they have to be their sole motivator. I didn’t have my parents around to push me. I had to do it, which was the best gift,” Satchwell said.

She had a sense of family by spending weekends and attending church with a Michigan family.

The opportunity to audition for Juilliard was the most memorable day of her life, she said. She flew into New York the day before and ended up getting a cold.

“I wouldn’t change it because maybe if I hadn’t had a cold I wouldn’t have got in. I can’t over-analyze it too much,” she laughed.

She got to the school an hour before her audition time to warm up and ended up getting scolded for being in the wrong room. Her 10 a.m. audition ended up being at 10:30 because three other students had been given the same time slot.

“I’ve played before a lot of people, and those few judges were the most scary because they were deciding my fate. I even messed up a line of the song and apologized, and they let me correct myself,” Satchwell said.

Juilliard’s string department is the largest department within its music division, representing about one-third of its total enrollment. Students come from all over the world to study with members of a faculty that includes internationally acclaimed soloists, world-renowned chamber and orchestral musicians, and leading teachers.