Alexa Sangbin Thomson (NZ/USA) began her musical career on the violin, and spent the first years of her life in the Midwestern United States. From an early age, she played violin under the guidance of her father, Dr. John Thomson. She was a prizewinner in several American competitions and won her first major leadership role as Concertmaster of the South Dakota All-State Youth Orchestra in 2008.
After her family returned to New Zealand in 2009 she began to explore the viola more, although it took her awhile to find her true identity and “turn to the dark side.” In 2010 she had her solo concerto debut with the Nelson Symphony Orchestra playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. She officially committed to the viola as her primary instrument after the completion of her Bachelor’s degree in violin performance in 2013, and since the change she has found that she does not miss being a violinist at all!
Alexa completed her Honours year at the New Zealand School of Music in 2014, studying viola with Gillian Ansell of the New Zealand String Quartet. During her studies she performed as a soloist with the Wellington Capitol Performing Arts Orchestra, and also appeared again with the Nelson Symphony Orchestra with the Walton Viola Concerto. Also in 2014 she attended Australia’s Canberra Music Festival, the American Viola Society’s Primrose Festival, and the Aspen Music Festival. She was a finalist in the New Zealand School of Music Concerto Competition, and played in a quartet as a part of the “Recovering Forbidden Voices” conference, giving performances of Shostakovich and Steve Reich to “respond to the suppression of music in World War Two.” Alexa has given solo recitals in several different venues as part of the Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul and the St. Andrews on the Terrace recital series’, and has been praised for her “artistic phrasing and warmth of tone” in recent reviews.
Whilst in Wellington, Alexa played in the viola section of Orchestra Wellington and the Hawke’s Bay Orchestra. In 2015 she won a 100-call Fellowship with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and moved to Auckland, NZ, where her family currently resides. Following her Fellowship in Auckland she attended the Aspen Music Festival once again, and in the August of 2015 Alexa then started a year of study with Dr. Timothy Deighton at Pennsylvania State University in their Performance Certificate programme. During this year she undertook a project in New Zealand repertoire – which she is very interested in promoting – funded by the Judith Clark Memorial Fellowship. This project included giving the world premiere of Olga Parshotam’s (née Dorofaeff) viola sonata/concerto, in addition to making studio recordings of several solo viola works by eminent New Zealand composers.
In Pennsylvania she played as assistant principal viola for both the Pennsylvania Centre Orchestra and the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra. She also participated in masterclasses with Professors Angela Priester-Houde, Dimitri Murrath, and Michael Klotz, the latter of which invited her to attend the Miami Music Festival with scholarship for the summer of 2016.
Alexa is currently a Brown Fellowship recipient, pursuing her Master’s degree at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in Houston, Texas studying with Professor James Dunham. As a part of her fellowship she works with Ms. Rachel Buchman and helps to teach Dalcroze Eurythmics classes to children. Most recently, she went on tour with the Shepherd School of Music Orchestra to perform in Carnegie Hall, was a fellow of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in 2017, and, due to her musical outreach and promotion of New Zealand music, had a couple of featured articles in the ANZVS (Australia and New Zealand Viola Society) journal. In the Spring of 2017 she did a tour of Houston’s community venues with a presentation and repertoire from her project, “Viola Aotearoa: The Next Generation”, and was invited to perform the Anthony Watson Solo Sonata at the 2017 International Viola Congress in Wellington, New Zealand, where she continued her outreach in schools and senior centres in Wellington and Christchurch. It was at this congress where she also found the viola she currently plays on, made by Gabriel Bolioli in September 2017.
Alexa has been a recipient of the NZSM Director’s Scholarship, the Clare Galambos-Winter Scholarships, the Marian Rayward Scholarship, the Judith Clark Memorial Fellowship, the Freemasons Lankhuyzen/Whetu-Kairangi Music Award, the Dame Malvina Arts Excellence Award, and the Daraugh Anne Myers-Turner Endowed Scholarship, the Brown Fellowship and the Waikanae Society Music Award, and is extremely grateful for the support she has received towards her study and musical projects.
Aside from music, Alexa also enjoys philosophy, writing, and vegan cooking.