Timothy - profile

Timothy Summers

1st violin

When and where was your first concert with the MCO? Paris, France – Leonore with Mark Minkowski in 2005. Met a lot of people there. Married one of them.

What is the most difficult aspect of your job? Locationlessness can be wearying. The travel we do is extremely interesting and, as orchestral tours go, rather comfortable. But as tours drag on, there are many times when one wakes up imagining how nice it would be to have stronger roots, or at least a stronger idea of where the bathroom is.

What is the best thing about being a musician? The best thing about being a musician is the music. That’s not exaggeration or some sort of mystical, tricky tautology. This music stuff is continuously mysterious and nutritious, and in the MCO we get to play along with some of the most celebratory and exploratory musicians who ever gave music their time - I guess I'm referring to the composers, especially.

But also the orchestra itself, like any good band, has an unusually alert group of fantastic musicians listening closely, and there's nothing quite like the feel of when it really takes off. There are always things to think about, reach toward, and to hear collectively as we build sound out into the air. That part of being a musician is plenty nice.

How do you spend your free time? Lately I've been spending quite a bit of time doing computer programming. I spent a few years doing that professionally, and now do it privately - more or less recreationally – building music visualization/theory stuff for the iPhone. It feels like a long-term project, and it's very portable.

What CDs would you want with you on a desert island? - Beatles: Hard Day’s Night. I always loved this disc, from the first chord.

- Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf, with Peter Ustinov and the Philharmonia Orchestra. I used to listen to it endlessly when I was small, and I suppose it would connect nicely with all the hunting and trapping I’d have to be doing, being on a desert island and all.

- Bach: Keyboard Partitas. I’d need something that was endlessly interesting, full of permutations. Maybe on piano, with Glenn Gould. I think any set of instrumental suites – violin, keyboard, cello, violin/keyboard, etc. would do wonders for shipwrecked ears. But the keyboard ones would be probably the most compact and rewarding.

- Miles Davis: Kind of Blue. I’d need something blue, surely. Or maybe Bill Evans’ Explorations. Maybe both of those. The focus is so intense, so tone-oriented.

- Mozart: String Quintets with Arthur Grumiaux, et al. I’ve found that these recordings have an astonishingly sharp bead on changes of mood in Mozart’s music. It happens so quickly, with so little effort but so much consequence.

I don’t know if you’re supposed to really think about being on a desert island while considering this question, but… if I were actually on a desert island… well… it’s a pretty weird scenario.


Violinist Timothy Summers has been a member of the first violin section of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra since 2009, and has performed on violin, viola, and occasionally mandolin with the orchestra at venues across the world. For fifteen years, he has been co-director of the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival, which he also founded in 2000, and is second violinist of the celebrated Orpheus String Quartet.

Tim recently appeared as a chamber musician in concert at the Wiener Festwochen, the Schumann Festival in Düsseldorf, at the Berlin Philharmonie, at Schloss Elmau in Germany, and at Ferrara Musica in Italy. He has performed as a chamber musician at festivals across the US and Europe, including those in Aix-en-Provence, Lucerne, Trasimeno, Savonlinna, Bonn, Taos, Tanglewood, Banff, Sarasota, and Token Creek, Wisconsin. He has also performed extensively as an improviser with electronics and collaborated with the Sasha Waltz & Guests dance Company in Berlin, Ferrara, and Kolkata, India, and participated for several years in the Emmanuel Music cycle of Bach Cantatas in Boston, led by the late Craig Smith.

Tim currently teaches violin on the faculty of the Universität der Künste (UdK) Berlin. He has also taught violin and chamber music at the Liceu in Barcelona, the Musikene in San Sebastian, the Curs Internacional de Musica in Cervera, the Savonlinna Music Academy in Finland, the Orchesterzentrum in Dortmund, the Filarmonica Joven de Colombia, and the Britten-Pears Institute in Aldeburgh, England.

In 2005-2006, Tim was an artist-in-residence at the Danish Institute of Electroacoustic Music in Århus, funded by a grant from the Fulbright Commission. He has worked for several years on improvisation and computer programming projects with improvisation artist Steven Nachmanovitch. He recently developed a small suite of music learning tools (PitchMemory, IntervalMemory, ChordMemory) and music reference tools (PocketHarmony, ModeMap, StringYoga) for the iPhone . He has also worked as a teacher and developer of educational mathematics software at the University of Virginia's Center for Technology and Teacher Education.

Tim holds a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard University and an M.M. in violin Performance from The Juilliard School. He was a student of Ronald Copes and Robert Mann at Juilliard, Mark Rush at the University of Virginia, James Buswell at the New England Conservatory, and Robert Levin at Harvard.