Smalltown musician finds home for viola at BYU


    By Elizabeth Wardle

    Leslie Richards has viola pride.

    “My viola is fat,” said Richards, a senior majoring in music performance with a viola emphasis. “It”s got wide hips. That”s why I like it.”

    Richards decided to play the viola about the same time her sister, who is three years older, started playing the cello. It was because of her sister”s influence that she chose the viola.

    “She said not to play the violin because it was too high and squeaky,” Richards said. “The viola was the next best thing.”

    Richard”s family lived in Vernal, and the only music programs that were offered were through her elementary school program. She said when the elementary school”s budget was cut and the money for the music program went into the wrestling program, Richards drove to Salt Lake City for lessons. She would drive six hours round trip every weekend for her lessons. Waking up at 3:00 a.m. for 7:30 a.m. rehearsal really set the music apart, Richards said.

    In school playing an instrument becomes a routine, a part of everyday by going to class, doing your homework then practicing, Richards said. Having her lessons separate from school made it more special and without that kind of sacrifice involved she wouldn”t have decided to study music at BYU.

    “It is a real privilege to play the viola,” Richards said.

    Richards will perform in a recital Friday, one she has been preparing for since she was seven. More recently, she began preparing 3 months ago by choosing the first of her pieces.

    One of her favorite pieces she will be performing is by Bach, originally written for the cello but transcribed for the viola. As a freshman at BYU Richards played a lot of Bach because that”s all she wanted to play. Since then, her music teacher wouldn”t let her play Bach because she wanted Richards to expand her repertoire.

    “This is kind of my return to Bach,” Richards said.

    One thing that comes easier now is her ability to perform with ease in front of an audience. Richards doesn”t really get nervous before performances. Her hands tremble sometimes, but she said but mentally she”s not nervous. Her mental strength has developed from playing the viola for so many years, especially the last four being at BYU.

    Richards refers to herself as a “super senior” because it will take her four years plus one semester to finish her degree. The only thing Richards has to take to graduate is American heritage.

    For Richards, graduate school is on the horizon. She hasn”t decided where she will attend yet but she does have an idea of where she would like to go.

    “We”ll see who gives me the most money,” Richards said.

    Richards will perform Friday at 5:30p.m. in the Madsen Recital Hall of the Harris Fine Arts Center.

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