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Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg
I have never attended one of Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg's concerts and walked away disappointed.  The lady puts more intensity, fire and passion into her performance than any other classical violinist I have seen!  Whether you agree or disagree with her interpretation of a piece there is little doubt that you will be entertained by her rendition of it.
Young Nadja
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg was born January 10, 1961 in Rome, Italy.  She grew up in a very musical Italian family.

"When friends came over, after dinner we all went into a room and made music. Everybody played something except me."

So when she was 4, Nadja's mother (who played piano) bought her a violin, a bow, and some rosin for about $40.  Was it because of her love for the violin and its music?  Nope!  Mom's best friend taught violin!
When she was eight years old Nadja, her mother, her brother and her grandparents moved to Cherry Hill, New Jersey (just outside Philadelphia where she attended the Curtis Institute).  Her total English vocabulary consisted of "Yankees, America and Hot Dog."

"I stood out right away because I was being raised very Italian in a non-Italian place... and also because I played this 'geeky' violin."

But Nadja's intense interest in the music went a long way toward overcoming the "stigma" attached to the violin.
She tells of bringing an album of Brahms's Violin Concerto to school when the other kids were interested in pop singers like David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman.  The students were critical of her music and of her instrument, but Nadja persevered. 

"That's sometimes the sort of thing a young person who loves classical music has to go through. You have to fight for the respect."

The change in attitude that she describes came about after her fellow students finally heard her play at a student concert.  Then "they thought it was the coolest thing."

The major influence on Nadja musically at this time was her grandfather.  Together the two of them would listen to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio Saturday afternoons as her grandfather explained everything happening in the opera.

Click for information on Nadja On My Way--The Early Career of Violinist Nadja Salerno Sonnenberg
Nadja tells of her childhood and early career in her book, Nadja On My Way
Nadja moved to New York and began to attend the Juilliard School of Music, studying under famed Violin Teacher Dorothy DeLay.  But she went through a period of severe depression.

According to Nadja, Miss DeLay was
"so understanding and psychologically smart about this period. I would go to my lessons and talk, and she would ask me, 'You think you might want to play something next week, Sugarplum?' and I'd say 'No, I don't think so.'"
There was tremendous doubt in Nadja's mind as to whether she could actually commit herself to the violin as a soloist.  She finally determined that she would enter the 1981 Naumberg Violin Competition.  She decided that if she reached the finals shey would continue to pursue the violin.

Having not played for nine months, she had a great deal of work to do in a short time.  The competition was only 2 1/2 months away.  Nadja started practicing 12 hours per day.  Not only did she have to get back into form on the violin she had to learn the repertoire!

Nadja not only reached the finals, she won the competition.  She was, in fact, the youngest ever winner of the contest.
Nadja's solo career has been a real roller coaster.  The public either loved her for her skill, verve, and fire, or they hated her for her "antics" on stage.  It's not that she ever did anything wrong, far from it!  Her skill on the violin is incredible.  Nadja just was not the traditional demure young lady on stage that many audiences desired from a lady violinist!
In 1983 Nadja received an Avery Fischer Career Grant.  In 1988 she was nameed Ovation's Debut Recording Artist of the Year.  1999 Saw her receive the Avery Fisher Prize, which is awarded to an an instrumentalist who has demonstrated, "outstanding achievement and excellence in music."  That same year she received an honorary Masters of Musical Arts degree from New Mexico State University, the first honorary degree the university ever awarded.

But has her career been one of continued achievement, success and joy?

Consider the incident with "the finger."

Christmas Day, 1994 Nadja was in her kitchen chopping an onion.  An accident occurred where she accidentally sliced off the tip of her right pinky.  Skilled surgery reattached the finger tip, but it gave her a tremendous amount of pain, and required a great deal of recuperation.

Not one to simply play the standard repertoire, or play strictly for the large, well-known orchestras, Nadja can be found playing with smaller organizations like the Allentown Symphony Orchestra.  And she has had a tremendous collaboration with the Assad Brothers, who play the guitar.  She has also worked with renowned fiddler Mark O'Connor.

Nadja has recently branched out even further.  In 2005 she started her own recording company,
NSS Music (Click to Visit the NSS website). Innovative recordings and just plain good music have been Nadja's hallmark since I first started following her years ago, Quality has only improved! Visit Nadja's website to learn more about her and her music at http://www.nadjasalernosonnenberg.com/ You can also visit the website of the New Century Chamber Orchestra, of which Nadja is Music Director at http://www.ncco.org/
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