Rebeccah Parker Downs, SSO Principal Cellist

Rebeccah Parker DownsRebeccah Parker Downs was appointed principal cellist of the Springfield Symphony at the beginning of the 2007-2008 season. She stays active as a professional chamber musician, orchestral musician, and private lesson teacher. She earned two graduate degrees in cello performance, an Artist Diploma and a Master of Music, from University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) as a student of Yehuda Hanani.

Rebeccah has studied pedagogy with the renowned pedagogue Kurt Sassmanhaus at CCM, which honed her teaching skills that had been developed over eight years of experience. She began teaching private lessons at music shops, and was quickly asked to join the faculty of a nearby college's preparatory department. Since that time Rebeccah has continued to teach gifted young students seeking a future in music or simply an opportunity to expand their experiences. While she teaches primarily traditional lessons, she also incorporates many elements and teaching materials from Suzuki methods. She enjoys conducting master classes with larger groups of her students to encourage camaraderie and healthy competition.

Rebeccah plays on a William Whedbee cello thanks to the generous contributions of the Medici Foundation.

What other groups do you perform with? I served as principal cellist in other orchestras including Chautauqua Festival Orchestra, Brevard Repertory Symphony Orchestra, Rocky Ridge Music Festival Orchestra, and have performed under the batons of Keith Lockhart, Hugh Wolff, and Paavo Jarvi. I recently returned from a summer in Italy performing as a member of the Lucca Opera Festival and in chamber music concerts; and regularly perform around the country with my husband, Benjamin Downs, an accomplished pianist, as a part of the Piace Duo.

What are your hobbies? I enjoy cooking with my husband, tango dancing, visiting the dog park as often as possible with our terrier mix, Barkley, and camping on occasion.

How did you get involved with music? Music has always been an integral part of my life. My parents both graduated with music degrees and my father went on to get his doctorate in voice performance. Before I was born my parents would regularly place headphones on my mom's stomach. I had no choice! I had to enjoy music or go crazy in a household that still fills all their free time with listening, studying, and performing music. My sister and I started piano lessons in first grade and had to continue till we were out of high school. I fell in love with the sound of the cello in fourth grade. The cello is one of the instruments that is closest to emulating the human voice. Since choosing the cello, my goal has been to play my cello like my dad sings.

Who are your biggest musical influences? My family has had a profound impact on assisting and encouraging my musical advancement from the very beginning. Also my husband, Ben, has had a vital role in shaping me into the musician I am today. Ben is a very gifted pianist and the two of us have been collaborating together for over eight years. I absolutely love working and learning with him! His depth of musical knowledge and insight never ceases to inspire and amaze me.

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? I don't think I've ever wanted to play another instrument other than cello. However I've often wished I was blessed with a better singing voice, mostly because I really enjoy singing.

What is your most memorable experience on stage? Probably my most memorable stage experience was several years ago when I had the opportunity to play principal cello for two performances of Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah with my dad sitting right in front of me singing the lead role.

What is in your CD player now? Right now I have the Bowman sisters in my CD player and Don Juan, Haydn Cello Concerto in D Major, and Mozart Symphony #40 on my iPod.