Welcome to "Meet the Musician," a behind-the-scenes blog series getting to know the Houston Symphony's exceptional musicians. In this series, we take you up close and personal with the artists who sit on stage at Jones Hall every weekend. Read on to learn more about the inspirations, challenges, and musical passions that drive these remarkable artists. And, of course, you'll learn some fun facts along the way! Dive in and help us celebrate the diverse stories and experiences that make each musician an integral part of our symphonic family.
Name: Joan DerHovsepian
Position: Principal Viola,
Hometown: South Milwaukee, Wisconsin
How long have you been playing your instrument, and what do you love most about it?
Most violists begin by playing the violin and switch later, but I chose viola from the start, at age 10. I was taken with the viola’s resplendent tone and have always loved the versatility of a middle voice to connect, color, and give structure to the parts around.
Can you tell us about your journey to being appointed Principal Viola for the Houston Symphony?
The audition process for any position in the Houston Symphony is highly rigorous. I’m guessing each of us in the orchestra would place our auditions at the top of our Life’s Toughest list. I’ve spent considerable time in every seat in our viola section. I first joined the viola section (6th desk) in 1999, hired by Christoph Eschenbach. Then 3 years later, I moved by audition to the 4th chair. In 2010 during the tenure of Hans Graf, I won the audition for Associate Principal Viola. This past May 2023, I was appointed Principal through the formal audition process with our Music Director, Juraj Valčuha.
Do you have any hobbies or favorite activities?
I love traveling and would be happy living out of a suitcase most of the time. My trusty viola is the vehicle that takes me to all kinds of places I would not see otherwise.
What do you love about Houston?
When Erik and I first moved to Houston over 20 years ago, I was overwhelmed by this gargantuan city. Then I found myself singing its praises to out-of-town friends and family and realized somewhere along the way I had become a Houstonian. I am proud of the arts community and struck by the generosity of its people to help one another through tough times. Our daughter received an excellent education in Houston, greatly enriched by this city’s diversity.
What does it mean to you to be part of this great legacy of principal violas?
My predecessor, Wayne Brooks, is a viola hero for me. His leadership has been a source of musical motivation since my very first day with the orchestra. It is my greatest joy to perform with and support my Houston Symphony viola colleagues, super-star violists, and humans every one.