We Are NY Phil: Associate Principal Viola Rebecca Young

[“Pop Goes the Weasel” played on viola] I’m Rebecca Young. I’m the Associate Principal Viola of the New York Philharmonic. Humor was big in my family. Always trying to get the kids to laugh, and that’s how to keep them engaged. That’s how to teach them something. It’s how to get through a tough time, or anything like that. And so, I’ve always used humor. My goal in my career is always to make my stand partner, Cynthia Phelps, laugh. Cindy and I have a whole language. No one knows this, hopefully, but when we point to this part of the stand and take our bows and point over here, that means, “thank you.” If you point over here, it means, “sure enough.” You point up here, it says, “sorry.” Some of the best moments that I have at work are when I’m successful in making her laugh. When I was a kid, learning music was fun for me, or I wouldn’t have done it. You know, what you love when you’re a kid, you very often go back to. I was going to the Young People’s Concerts from the time I was two years old. Leonard Bernstein was conducting, and I remember some of the music that they were playing, which was “The Planets.” Never forgot that sound but, and I don’t remember what he said, but I remember his voice, his passion for music. My mother told me — of course, I don’t remember — but she told me I used to roll up the programs and hold one here and hold one here and pretend like it was a violin. I switched from violin to viola. I was in pre-college Juilliard already, and one of my mom’s friends said, “You know what? They need violas at the pre-college. And you’re tall. You’ve got long arms. Why don’t you try that?” And I went, “okay.” I was a good kid. And I picked it up, and it was like my voice. I always loved singing the middle voices. I got involved with the Very Young People’s Concerts because the person who was hosting got a job with another orchestra. And they came to me and said, “Please do this. You’re like the biggest kid we have, and it would be great to have a kid doing a show for kids.” The more we can do to keep things active and moving, and interactive too, we find we have them, the whole time. It’s really fun. It’s rewarding to have figured that out. That’s why the VYPCs, the Yery Young People’s Concerts, are my favorite role at the Philharmonic. Because it’s fun!

Yvette Parker


  1. One of my favorite NY Phil memories is attending an open rehearsal a few years back and watching the violas strum like guitars during Bolero. I play violin, but my teacher is a violist and I have come to appreciate the viola voice a great deal.

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