By Dawn Aerts
Iron County Today
Miriam Wagstaff enjoys growing African Violets, watching old movies like ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’ and in sharing her musical talent through solo or collaborative performance playing the violin and the viola. At the age of six, Wagstaff started playing the piano, but it wasn’t until her violin teacher, Megan Cottam, moved into her small hometown that she discovered a special connection to the string instruments.
“It was wonderful to have a teacher close by, so I continued those lessons and practiced with Suzuki books for five years,” she said.
She also studied with the Intermountain Suzuki Strings Institute summers; and began to play various venues, with the Lyceum Symphonic Strings at their music festivals and in 2014, with the Lyceum Philharmonic Orchestra. An early passion for chamber music, led her play and master the violin and viola, known for its ‘inner voice.’
“I would say that I love connecting with an audience, bringing out certain emotions in music,” said Wagstaff of her past work in solo and collaborative venues. “I still play the piano and have started to take voice lessons.” But it’s the heartfelt joy she finds in chamber music that continues to guide her in auditions and through a wide range of performance.
In the past few years, Wagstaff has earned recognition as a formidable youth artist, in youth concerto and in major orchestral competitions.
“I would say that outside of music, I like spending time outdoors, or with my two cats,” said Wagstaff. She adds that there are also opportunities to travel to rural areas, or to towns that might be under-served in musical arts. “So I’ve met so many musical friends up north, and across Utah.”
In her spare time or breaks from homeschool, Wagstaff will often perform at musical gigs or festivals that take her to smaller towns like Cedar City, or to larger performance and competitions in Lehi, Provo, or Salt Lake City.
“One of the many highlights for me was to play in the Young Artists competition, with the Utah Valley Symphony (2016); and in the All-Star Evening soloist with the Utah Symphony, in Salt Lake.”
Wagstaff is inspired by musicians, teachers and other artists. “My current teacher, Monte Belknap, a Brigham Young University professor, has made a big difference in my music,” said Wagstaff of studies that began at BYU in 2015. “He continues to bring out what you, as a musician want to do and the direction you hope to follow as an artist.”
In the larger world of chamber music, Wagstaff is most inspired by the work of internationally-known, Israeli-American violinist, conductor and teacher, Itzhak Perlman – acclaimed for his talent and music in the movie, “Schindler’s List,” and who has earned 16 Grammys and 4 Emmys over his celebrated career.
“For me, chamber music invites collaboration among musicians, to share your talent with others,” said Wagstaff of orchestra and chamber experience. “But it also gives you your own voice, using your instrument, so I always enjoy the small, intimate experience in that setting.”
On quieter days, Wagstaff enjoys botany, growing 12 exotic plants at home, or relaxing with a movie classic or literature. Though she admits that homeschool is often described as lacking real-world connection, Wagstaff’s calendar is filled with music, the outdoors, and a full schedule of lessons, practice, competition, or performance.
“We grow our own food, so I like to prepare natural, organic recipes,” said Wagner of the summer ahead, “If all goes well, I hope to put together an octet of musicians to come together for two weeks to work on their music and then perform – It’s wonderful when you and the audience feels that moment together.”
Caption: Miriam Wagstaff, known for her heartfelt music, is a Tropic, Utah violinist and violist who has a passion for chamber music, and to collaborate with musicians or full-orchestras to share her talent. She will return to Cedar City for future performances, and has been a featured string player at the Frontier Homestead Museum Christmas event.