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Joël Belgique

At the age of thirteen, Joël Belgique found his voice when he switched from the violin to the viola. Born in Lansing, Michigan, and raised in Salt Lake City by French parents, he began his viola studies with Mikhail Boguslavsky, continuing with David Holland at the Interlochen Arts Academy. After undergraduate work at the Eastman School and a Bachelor’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music (where he studied with the renowned viola pedagogue Heidi Castleman), he earned his Masters in Performance and Pedagogy at Brigham Young University, working with Clyn Barrus and David Dalton.

Joël Belgique has been principal violist of the Oregon Symphony since 1997, and has appeared as soloist with the orchestra in works by Bach, Telemann, Mozart, Berlioz, Strauss, and Hindemith. The Classical Beaver, reviewing the Symphony’s 2011 performance of Hindemith’s Trauermusik, singled out Joël’s “trusty viola oozing mournful warmth and buttery sound.”

As a chamber musician, Joël has collaborated with Elmar Olivera, Leonard Pennario, Igor Gruppman, Bayla Keyes, Ralph Matson, and members of the Audubon Quartet, and is violist for the Oregon Symphony String Quartet, which plays many concerts throughout the region. For ten years he has been a core member of fEARnoMUSIC, an ensemble devoted to twentieth- and twenty-first- century repertoire (with a special focus on composers from the Pacific Northwest), performing works by Ligeti, Kurtag, Berio, Penderecki, Schnittke, Golijov, Desenne, and many others. He frequently gives duo recitals with his wife, violinist Inés Voglar, and together they have performed Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with the Columbia Symphony.

In addition to his posts with the Oregon Symphony and as faculty and coach for the annual Interlochen chamber music camp for adults in upstate Michigan, Joël has participated in the Spoleto Festival in Italy; the CrossSound Festival in Juneau, Alaska; and the Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego. He is regularly invited to the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Strings Music Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and the Astoria Music Festival in Oregon.

Joël has twice been a guest artist at the International Viola Congress; in 2002 performing George Benjamin’s Viola, Viola with his Symphony stand-partner Charles Noble, and in 2006 as C-stringus Pyromanicus, a member of The Four Violas (a comic ensemble of which he was a founding member), performing works that included Joël’s arrangements of the 1812 Overture (for four violas and pop-gun cannons), and Also Sprach Sancho Panza. In 2008, he was asked to be a tone-judge for the Violin Society of America’s annual instrument-making competi- tion, in the course of which he and two other judges played and examined just under a hundred violas!

Joël’s recordings on the North Pacific Music label include Jack Gabel’s Hellenic Triptych for solo viola and electronics, and Tomas Svoboda’s Trio Chorales for violin, viola, and piano (with former Oregon Symphony concertmaster Amy Schwartz Moretti and the composer). He has frequently performed and recorded as a guest with the Portland-based band Pink Martini, appearing with them at Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, Portland’s own Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and on Late Night with David Letterman.

As a teacher, Joël works with many of the area’s finest violists, young and old, and is on the faculty of Portland State University.