Principal Violist, Fort Wayne Philharmonic
As a young child growing up in Indianapolis, a musical future seemed preordained for Derek Reeves.
Since his mother was a violinist, as was his paternal grandfather, Reeves began playing the violin when he when he was two years old, something he says was in his DNA.
After earning a scholarship to study at Indiana University’s prestigious Jacobs School of Music, Reeves continued to play the violin but eventually came to think it might not be the perfect fit for him.
Switching to the viola
“I didn’t start playing viola until after college,” Reeves said. “I’ve never really stopped playing violin, but I was just never as comfortable physically with the violin. When I picked up the viola, I was much more comfortable.”
He gained insight into that conversion by reading Body, Mind, and Sport by John Douillard, providing him a perspective not addressed in his own education.
“That book helped me to crystalize the experiences I had, but it’s not something that’s addressed in modern pedagogical settings — the physicality of playing an instrument.”
For a time, Reeves freelanced with orchestras and ensembles, playing both violin and viola.
He then auditioned for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic on viola in 2003 and won a spot with the orchestra. The following year he auditioned and earned the position as Principal Violist. He has augmented that work with a spot in the Alicia Pyle Quartet and a variety of Philharmonic ensembles.
Uniting with Marshall
He has also worked extensively with Marshall White and the Voices of Unity.
“I met Marshall in 2004 when I had just begun teaching at what was then IPFW,” Reeves said. “After I was done teaching one day, I was practicing in a room in the CM building, and Marshall came in for a rehearsal he had scheduled after mine. We introduced ourselves, and I told him I had just started playing with the Philharmonic. We just hit it off.”
White began showing him some Voices of Unity performances, and Reeves said he “was just blown away” by the caliber of talent in the choir and the band. But Reeves had a suggestion for White: to consider adding orchestration to the program.
“I thought it would be great for them to add another performing element, and I offered to provide them with some string arrangements,” Reeves said. “He brought in some string players, and we’ve been working together ever since. The more I’ve learned by working with Unity, the more committed I am to their mission. So many people come through the ranks there and become exceptional human beings.”
White, former recipient of the Liddell Award, presented this year’s award to Reeves.
“Derek Reeves is the essence of artistic excellence in various musical genres,” White said. “He is dedicated and committed to providing and producing the highest quality of music production. He is well-deserving of the recognition and honor he’s receiving.”
Style and substance
When asked what keeps his experiences in Fort Wayne’s musical community fresh, he named two main reasons.
“One, I have an insatiable musical curiosity and love multiple styles and genres of music,” Reeves said. “Two, there is an incredible depth of talent and of talented individuals in this city.
“I’ve traveled all over the world, and there are people who think Indiana is a flyover state or that if it’s not in Indianapolis, it can’t be artistically excellent. Musically, Fort Wayne is as good as New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, or Chicago in terms of gifted musicians which are across the board in terms of genres. The depth of talent was the first thing that impressed me when I came here, and it’s enriched me tremendously.”