Richard Parnas, Principal Viola player for the ASO, is no exception. Parnas grew up in Saint Louis, MO eventually moving to Philadelphia to attend the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music. Although he entered on a violin scholarship, the draw of the viola made him switch instruments the first week of school. Indeed, he believes that a “person always knows whether he prefers violin or viola.” After spending four years in the Navy and one season with the Saint Louis Symphony, Parnas began a 35 year career at the National Symphony Orchestra as Principal Violist in 1955. In 1992, he became Principal Violist for the ASO and has held the post for the last 15 years.
Parnas has played a spectrum of music under conductors who favored the classics to those that preferred the contemporary. However, in the future, he believes orchestras will have to “mix up the seasons with some modern pieces along with the Beethovens and the Mozarts” in order to be successful. To this end, Parnas is looking forward to playing Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis with the ASO in 2008. Written by modern English composer Ralph Vaughn Williams, the piece features “really nice parts for the violin and viola.”