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Jenifer Houck, Viola

Originally from Pismo Beach, California, Jenifer Houck (Richison) began the violin at age five, under the tutelage of Diane Byington. Avidly performing around the Central Coast while growing up, Jenifer won prizes in several competitions, including the National Exchange Club. At age 11, she performed in the Disney National Youth Orchestra, under conductors Jung-Ho Pak, Daniel Hege, and Henry Mancini. During this time, Jenifer also actively performed in musical theater, commercials and TV shows. All four years in high school, Jenifer won spots in the All State Orchestra and Choir. Officially switching to the viola at 19, she completed her undergraduate work at Southern Methodist University as a student of Barbara Sudweeks. Jenifer has soloed with several orchestras, most recently, the National Repertory Orchestra. She was co-Principal of the New World Symphony, in Miami, Florida, and the Verbier Orchestra in Switzerland. Jenifer plays frequently plays chamber music around the metro, and enjoys traveling with husband, Alex. They have two bichon-toy poodles, Grady and Franklin. Jenifer joined the Kansas City Symphony in September of 2007.

Ten questions about me:

What is your hometown?

I’m originally from the central coast of California, Pismo Beach, more specifically. It was the best little bit of the state, and I’m so lucky to have grown up in between Los Angeles and San Francisco, yet still sheltered on a small beach town.

What is the most challenging work for your instrument?

The viola isn’t the most natural of instruments to navigate, so I generally feel like most pieces are slightly awkward in various parts. However, the flashiest of pieces aren’t usually the most difficult. Simplicity, such as Bach or Mozart, is so difficult to play well, much more difficult than millions of notes.

Are you the only musician in your family?

Nope! My mom was a pianist growing up, and in college. Also, my stepmother toured in a vocal quartet in college. My dad isn’t musically inclined, however, he was at every recital and performance growing up, and made sure he helped me practice as a kid, along with my moms.

What do you consider your greatest personal achievement?

Determination. It's not exactly a specific accomplishment, and has undoubtedly provided my parents with many headaches, but I believe my willpower and determination have enabled me to accomplish anything I have set my mind to do.

What year did you join the Kansas City Symphony?

I joined in January, 2008.

What is a "must-have" in your fridge?

Rosé. I love (almost) all wine…but there’s nothing like a crisp, Provençal Rosé on a patio!

What music selections would you recommend to someone who is new to classical music?

My favorite things to suggest for people who are new to classical music are to attend pre-concert lectures prior to listening to music. There isn’t one specific genre that I would suggest is the best to start with. I think becoming familiar with the techniques involved to play the piece, or the history behind the music presents a personal connection that engages the first time listener. Not to plug our concerts, but our Happy Hour and Uncorked series are the BEST experiences for the first time concert goer.

What is your Kansas City Barbecue "joint" of choice?

There are so many, but if someone made me only pick one, I would stick with Oklahoma Joe’s. I love trying new barbecue though, I’m very open-minded and will try anything!!!

Outside of rehearsals, tell us about your practice regimen.

I usually just work on upcoming music. When I am given music, unless I have played it before, I make sure there aren’t any sections that need months of work, and then generally pace myself in order of concerts.

What is on your ideal pizza?

I’ll eat just about anything, but my absolute favorite includes pineapple and prosciutto.