Violist Meredith Kufchak ’16 Goes the Distance: Wins Principal Viola at Dallas Symphony

Meredith Kufchak Photo Credit Sylvia Elzafon

The road to becoming the Principal Viola of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra took Meredith Kufchak ’16 on a journey of thousands of miles across the United States. And she didn’t win just one job; she won three.

From her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, where she began formal training at age four, Kufchak was empowered to go the distance (1,156 miles to be exact) for college, from Columbus to the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, Texas. “College was interesting for me...I was 17 when I went to college. Three of my other siblings Matt, Heather, and Rachel were all there at the same time when I was a freshman,” Kufchak said.

These formative years planted the seed in Kufchak’s mind that a career as an orchestral player was a path she could see herself pursuing.

After four years of undergraduate study, Kufchak made her next move—this time nearly 2,000 miles—to attend her top choice school, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, to get her Master of Music degree in Chamber Music Performance studying with Jodi Levitz. “SFCM is unique in that you don’t have to have a pre-formed group to be a part of the Chamber Music program,” said Kufchak, “It’s one of the only programs in the country to do that.”

When asked how she realized SFCM was the place she wanted to be, Kufchak said she knew immediately that she wanted to be in San Francisco. “Honestly, I was just blown away by the city. Totally in love—it is so colorful and vibrant. There’s so many incredible people,” said Kufchak. “Everyone is being one hundred percent totally themselves. It is just one of my favorite places in the world. There isn’t a city that I have fallen in love with quite like San Francisco.”

The feeling was mutual. San Francisco loved Kufchak back as she thrived in the Bay Area, performing regularly with the Santa Rosa Symphony, New Century Chamber Orchestra, and as Principal Viola of the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra. She recalled the moment which kickstarted her impending success: her end-of-semester jury performance evaluation. San Francisco Symphony violists Jonathan Vinocour and Yun Jie "Jay" Liu happened to be on her jury panel. Impressed with her playing, they asked her to send over her resume and then invited her to sub with the San Francisco Symphony for a week. One week of subbing quickly turned into becoming a regular face around Davies Symphony Hall, which led to Kufchak meeting SFS Violist Matthew Young, who she says was very important in her journey.

“He really helped me prepare for an audition I was taking,” Kufchak said about Young. “We got to know each other well. He actually changed my playing a lot after I left school. I wasn’t having lessons as much...Matt helped the puzzle pieces fall into place.”

With Young’s guidance, Kufchak rigorously prepared for what would shape up to be six auditions in a six-month time frame. She went on to win three of those six positions which yielded yet another 2,500-mile cross-country move upon winning a tenure track position with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. She also landed a contract with the St. Louis Symphony. After an enriching season in Pittsburgh, Kufchak made her final move as she won the position of Principal Viola with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra ahead of the 2019-2020 season.

While her achievements and her skill are extraordinary, Kufchak’s deep appreciation for the people she made music with along the way shines brightly. Reflecting on what advice was given to her and what advice she might share with others, Kufchak paused for a moment, “I think it is the people I met along the way that made all the difference for me, and I am so grateful to SFCM for those connections.”

Kufchak has one more new experience to look forward to: her first performance under the baton of the Dallas Symphony’s new Music Director Fabio Luisi is still to come, January 31 – February 2, 2020 in an opera-in-concert performance of Strauss’ Salome. If you find yourself in Dallas that weekend, be sure to attend the performance at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center and say hello to their delightful new Principal Violist.