Davis plays his way into McGill University

Srinithi Raj, Features Editor

When Richard Davis was in third grade, he picked up his viola and joined his school’s “strings project,” the earliest opportunity in his school for music making. Although Davis believes the main reason he began his musical exposure in this program was due to the amount of spots available for violists, today Davis defines himself as a musician, and he will be attending McGill university this fall to study music composition and biology.

In addition to being an advanced violist, Davis is also a dedicated composer, spending time each day to work on new pieces.

“He loves composing. It’s just what he wants to do. He comes down [to the band room] and he composes every morning during the year. He’d come down at seven o’clock and sit at the piano, work on a few things, and work through his ideas a little bit. For his Capstone, he wrote a viola sonata,” orchestra teacher Kenneth Culver said.

Music, however, was not always the direction Davis wanted to take; initially, he was set on pursuing computer science and other technology-related fields. But over the years, as Davis gained more musical exposure, his interest in the field grew.

“Two years ago, I went to Leipzig, Germany and I played in a concert at the Bond House there. That was by far the best performance of my life. It was electrifying, and refreshing to know that such quality was possible from high school musicians,” Davis said.

Soon, music was not just an extracurricular, but rather a platform for Davis to express himself in a unique manner.

“I see music is an integral part of my life. I can’t stop listening to it. And when I’m not listening, it’s going through my head. Music is kind of like a confidant; I can pour into my music what I’m feeling at the time, almost like an avenue available to me,” Davis said.

While he was just starting out his first few years of viola, he saw that after some time and patience, he was able to gain more musicality.

“Part of me becoming better involved me becoming a better listener. I’ll hear someone playing and I’ll know how much better it is than [my own playing], and how far away that is. So I’m simultaneously getting better, and also becoming more in awe of musicians around me,” Davis said. 

Culver has also witnessed growth as a musician and as a person in Richard over his four years at WA.

“I would say for Richard that his technique came first. And then he grew into his musicality more and more as he went through high school. And that, in turn, has now given his technique another boost. He’s also gotten to be a better and better leader; his classmates look up to him,” Culver said.

As soon as Richard took up viola more seriously, however, he soon learned of the physical preparation it takes to perform at such a high level.

“The number of hours a week is as many as possible. When I was preparing for auditions, it would probably approach 20 hours of practice. Every Sunday, I have a six hour rehearsal, and I have an hour lesson every Monday,” Davis said.

Yet, Davis remains optimistic about the results of the hard work whenever he practices, even when it can sometimes be difficult to meet others’ expectations.

“From my parents and some of my classmates, the expectations tend to be less. But from my teachers and peers who are on a similar musical level to where I’ve gotten, the expectations are outlandishly high and and I’m sure it’s hard to live up to them sometimes. But it’s worth it because I’ll get better,” Davis said.

Despite any hurdles Davis has faced along his journey, Davis believes that the main reason he has continued to incorporate music in his life is quite simple: he had never legitimately considered quitting.

“It was such a part of my life, that removing it would have left such a hole that I couldn’t comprehend,” Davis said.

Before Davis leaves for McGill, he wants to remind people that there is always something new that can be learned through hearing music.

“I just recommend to everybody to always listen to some sort of music and explore. I recently found a piece of local music that changed my life, and I have never heard something before deserving of an award. So yeah, go out there and explore,” Davis said.