Marcus Thompson

Marcus Thompson

Marcus Thompson is an African American violist and viola d'amore player known for his work as a recitalist, orchestral soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and educator. Thompson is a founding member of the Boston Chamber Music Society and is currently a faculty member at MIT and the New England Conservatory of Music.

Early Life and Education

Thompson was born in New York's South Bronx. He began studying the violin at age six and, at the age of fourteen, entered The Juilliard School Pre-College where he studied with Louise Behrend. Thompson remained at the Juilliard School and eventually earned his doctoral degree in viola and viola d'amore studies. Thompson primarily studied with Walter Trampler while attending the school and was the first person to earn a doctorate in viola performance from Juilliard.

Music career

Thompson made his professional and New York debut at Carnegie Hall in the Young Concert Artists Series in 1968. Since then, Thompson has presented recitals at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston, Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, the Terrace Theater at theKennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Herbst Theater in San Francisco, numerous colleges and universities, and many other places. To mark the Hindemith Centenary, he performed a recital of the complete sonatas with piano for viola and viola d'amore composed by Paul Hindemith in Boston's Jordan Hall with pianist Judith Gordon.

As a soloist, Thompson has performed with many of the world's finest orchestras including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Saint Louis Symphony, the Boston Pops, the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Slovenian Radio Orchestra and the Czech National Symphony among others.

Thompson has also worked with some of the world's finest conductors including Charles Dutoit, Michael Tilson Thomas, Jah Jah Ling, Yoel Levi, John Harbison, and Paul Freeman among others. Thompson has also worked with some of the world's finest musicians, including violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

As a chamber musician Thompson has appeared as the guest of the Audubon String Quartet, Borromeo String Quartet, Cleveland String Quartet, Emerson String Quartet, Miami String Quartet, Muir String Quartet, Orion String Quartet, Shanghai String Quartet, and Vermeer String Quartet. Thompson has also collaborated with the Fine Arts String Quartet, Endellion String Quartet, St. Petersburg String Quartet, Biava String Quartet, Jupiter String Quartet, Vogler String Quartet, and Oregon String Quartet. He has participated in chamber music festivals in Rockport (MA and ME), Chestnut Hill (CT), Sitka (AK), Anchorage, Seattle, Northwest (OR), Los Angeles, Okinawa, Santa Fe, Vail, Dubrovnik, Spoleto, Montreal, and Rio de Janeiro. Among his career highlights are performances with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in a Live from Lincoln Center broadcast and at a Presidential Inaugural Concert at the Kennedy Center. He has also appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Amsterdam in Holland, and is a founding member of the Boston Chamber Music Society.

Thompson also makes frequent appearances with Baroque ensembles, such as the Chamber Orchestra of Albuquerque, as a viola d'amore player. Thompson plays a viola d'amore that was made in Bohemia (known today as the Czech Republic) in the mid 1700's. Thompson first encounter the viola d'amore was when he heard a performance of the Hindemith's Sonata for Viola d'Amore and Piano played by Walter Trampler and James Levine. The sound of the viola d'amore, even in a modern piece, was so enchanting to Thompson that he immediately fell in love with it. Since then, Thompson has dedicated his time to learning the viola d'amore with an attention to Baroque performance practices like inflected bowing, limited vibrato, and the use of harmonics. Thompson believes that playing the viola d'amore has enhanced his viola playing by widening the color palette and clarifying distinctions in musical expression.

Teaching career

Thompson serves as a member of the viola faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music, and as the Robert R. Taylor Professor of Music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He founded the university's performance programs in private studies and chamber music. He has been recognized for extraordinary teaching at MIT with an appointment as a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow.

His previous teaching appointments have been at institutions including The Juilliard School Pre-College Division, Oakwood College, Mt. Holyoke College, and Wesleyan University.

A frequent guest presenter of viola and chamber music master classes, he has recently conducted master classes at the University of Oregon School of Music, Williams College Music Department, Boston Conservatory (String Seminar), and for Project STEP at Symphony Hall, Boston. Mr. Thompson serves on the Board of Project STEP, is a member of Chamber Music America and the American String Teachers Association. He is also a member of the Viola d'Amore Society and of the American Viola Society. Mr. Thompson served as host director for the 1985 American Viola Society Congress XIII held at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.


Although Thompson has yet to make a solo album recording, he can be heard on more than 20 CDs by various musical ensembles. These include performances by the Amsterdam Chamber Music Society, the Boston Chamber Music Society, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, and the Slovenian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

External links


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