Lauded musician shares what sparked her passion, Amy Robb, Hamburg Sun

A weekend of Mozart and those inspired by him, titled ‘Happy Birthday Mozart!’ will take place 10:30 a.m. Friday Jan. 15 and 8 p.m. Saturday Jan. 16 at Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle in Buffalo.

Hamburg resident and Principal Violist of the Buffalo Philharmonic Valerie Heywood will be performing Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, along with Salieri’s Overture to Der Rauchfangkehrer, Haydn’s Overture to Orlando Paladino, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 5 and Symphony No. 39.

Mozart’s Sinfonia is very close to Heywood’s heart, as it was what sparked her passion for the viola, and classical music: “I was in third grade…I remember the date so well I was sitting on the living room floor, I heard this piece on the radio, Lillian and Joseph Fuchs, playing this recording on the radio, and it was the second movement, the slow movement, that I absolutely fell in love with. A year later I started playing viola because of this very piece,” said Heywood. “Classical music is in my blood. When all else fails in life there’s always that. It makes everything better.”

We all have that one point in our lives, that one poignant moment that will define, or at least guide, who we are forever after. For Heywood, it was a living room in Detroit, surrounded by the sounds of Mozart. Lillian Fuchs, whom Heywood first heard mention of on the radio so many years ago, eventually became her teacher when she attended Juilliard. It all seemed to come full circle, a perfect collection of events that led to these musicians working and learning from each other.

Although this isn’t the first time Heywood has performed Sinfonia, it will be the first time under Concertmaster Dennis Kim.

Prior to the performance, Buffalo Suzuki Strings will be performing across the way in the Mary Seaton Room for guests to enjoy. Heywood recalls watching them perform on other occasions noting their earnestness to do their very best: “All really cute, such perfect little forms…it’s fun to watch them…some of them are little tiny kids,” joked Heywood. Some of the students with Suzuki Strings even became students of Heywood’s, who also runs private lessons out of her home. “I try to meet with them once, talk about what they’ve done and what they want to accomplish, want to find out if we click, almost always it works out,” said Heywood of prospective students. The Principal Violist is no stranger to teaching, formerly instructing at Fredonia and UB.

When asked what advice she would give to aspiring musicians out there, the answer was honest and to the point: “I do tell all my students, even the ones going to conservatories to think very hard about it…have to be very patient in our own progress and in life…you have to want it beyond anything else. If you do find a place it is a very happy and fulfilling life.”
Visit or call the box office at 885-5000 to get seats.