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Equally skilled as a soloist, chamber and orchestral violist, Kimberly Sparr has garnered praise for her versatility and virtuosity across the United States and beyond. She has performed with numerous orchestras and festivals on three continents, and currently serves as the assistant principal viola of the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra and is a member of the festival's Chamber Players.
“Sparr's warm viola sound was so sublime that is was difficult to face what was going on in the real world,” the Boulder Daily Camera said. Now Sparr, an associate professor of viola at Texas Tech University's J.T. and Margaret Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts, is leading an effort to expand the repertoire of the instrument itself.
Volt, for example, a piece she commissioned by composer Ned McGowan, features her improvisation in counterpoint with pre-recorded computer sounds. In a multi-media presentation of Rusty Banks' Liquid Fire, Sparr's electric viola responds to pulsating rhythms and sounds as images of molten lava play out on a video screen behind her. Other recent solo viola commissions include works by Molly Joyce and Caroline Mallonee. Sparr also recently spearheaded a major project with the Atlantic Chamber Ensemble, of which she is a founding member: Project Beck, which included collaborating with 20 composers.
In the meantime, her chamber music collaborations include performance with Lara St. John, Boris Allakhverdyan and Simone Dinnerstein; as well as for organizations including New Music Raleigh, Festival Mozaic, the Lake George Music Festival and Washington Musica Viva. She has also held artist residencies at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute where she has worked as both a soloist and with her partner in the Amistella Duo, cellist Natasha Farney. Sparr recently collaborated with European artists through “Expressions for Justice" in the Netherlands.
The Aspen Music School honored Sparr with a three-year New Horizon Fellowship where she studied with Heidi Castleman and Victoria Chiang. She has also won fellowships at the Tanglewood Music Center of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Sarasota Music Festival.
As an orchestral violist, Sparr was the assistant principal violist of Virginia's Richmond Symphony; and has performed with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Washington National Opera and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in California, among others. Her festival participation includes New Hampshir Music Festival e in Plymouth, N.H.; the Verbier Festival Orchestra in Switzerland; the Festival Mozaic and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in California; Florida's Sarasota Music Festival; and the Lake George Music Festival in New York. She has also toured Europe and Asia with both the Verbier and National Symphony Orchestras.
Sparr has also soloed with the Amarillo Virtuosi, the Pittsburgh Civic Orchestra and the Texas Tech University Symphony Orchestra. Next season, she will perform a concerto with the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra.
Kimberly grew up in Pittsburgh, where she was exposed to viola and piano in elementary school. A cut pinkie finger sustained while carving a pumpkin led back to the viola, and this time she didn't want to play anything else. An alto in the church choir, she found that she liked “being in the middle of the sound” as well as the instrument's unique spectrum of colors and ability to plug harmonic gaps anywhere in the orchestra.
Sparr earned her Bachelor of Music degree from The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, where she studied with Martha Strongin Katz. She holds a Master of Music degree from the New England Conservatory, where she studied with James Dunham, and a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Maryland, studying under Daniel Foster. In 2001, she was named a Piatigorsky Foundation Artist and received the Gunther Schuller Award from New England Conservatory.
She lives in Lubbock, Texas, with her husband, composer & guitarist, D. J. Sparr, their son, Harris, and two dogs. She plays with Scabaret (“three bad mamas and a microphone”), an eclectic mix of songs for voice, keyboard and viola.