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Lawrence Wheeler

Associate Professor of Viola

Lawrence Wheeler is a professor at the University of Houston Moores School of Music, where he has taught since 1977. Former principal viola of the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, he has served as co-principal of the Minnesota Orchestra and guest principal with the Dallas Symphony, the Houston Symphony, and the Santa Monica Symphony. He has appeared as soloist with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Icelandic National Symphony, Texas Chamber Orchestra, Hilton Head Chamber Orchestra, and the UNAM Philharmonic in Mexico City. In 2005, he gave the 2nd US performance of the Theofanidis Viola Concerto, with the composer conducting.  

Familiar to Houston audiences through numerous solo, recital and chamber music appearances, Wheeler has given viola recitals in New York at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, in London at Wigmore Hall, at International Viola Congresses in Stuttgart, Houston, Iceland and Los Angeles, as well as recitals in Mexico City and throughout Texas. In 2015, he and pianist Tali Morgulis gave the 2nd US performance of the Viola Sonata by Boris Pigovat. His chamber music performances have included concerts with the Tokyo, St. Lawrence, Pro Arte and Tallis String Quartets, the Mirecourt Trio, and with Da Camera of Houston. He has performed in recital with many eminent musicians including Fredell Lack, Kenneth Goldsmith, Frank Huang, Emanuel BorokJoan KwuonErick Friedman, James BuswellLynn Harrell, Desmond HoebigLazslo VargaRuth Tomfohrde, Albert Hirsh, and Abbey Simon.  

For several years he was violist of the Lyric Art String Quartet, whose compact-disc Classical Hollywood was nominated for a Grammy Award. With pianist Ruth Tomfohrde, he made the first recordings available on CD of the George Rochberg Sonata, the Bernard Heiden Sonata, and the Paul Creston Suite, released by Albany Recordings. Other CD’s include works with the Texas Festival and Picasso quartets. Wheeler’s recorded performances have been heard nationally on NPR and internationally on the BBC. His articles have appeared in The Strad Magazine, Strings Magazine, and his reviews have been published online on The Classical Review and Slipped Disc. He has published a fully edited and realized edition of the Telemann Viola Concerto (the first of its kind in 300 years), Suite for Viola and Piano by Alexander Tcherepnin (arranged by Wheeler), and his own Caprices for Solo Viola, Op. 1. His book, Mazas Selected Etudes for Viola (published by Carl Fischer Music in 2017), has for 3 straight years been selected as a required etude book by the Texas Music Educators Association. It is used by 500 Texas high school violists each year, and has sold 1,000 copies.  

For 19 years Wheeler directed the Greater Houston Youth Orchestra, which he founded in 1990 with Kenneth GoldsmithHe has been conductor of string ensembles at the University of Houston and the High School for Performing and Visual Arts and has guest conducted several Texas Region orchestras, as well as the Texas Private Schools All-State Orchestra. An advocate of music education, he has sent more of his high school viola students to Texas All-State orchestras than any private teacher of any instrument, including sixteen Symphony, three Philharmonic, and two String Ensemble first-chair players. His YouTube videos of Texas All-State viola music and live performances have been viewed more than 170,000 times. His former students include international violin soloists Hilary Hahn and Leila Josefowicz; Concertmaster and Associate Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, Concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony, First Associate Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, members of the Cleveland Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, and the Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera Orchestras; at Da Camera, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center; and are faculty at the Berklee College of Music, Sam Houston State University, Ohio State University, Vanderbilt University, and Harvard University. Several are teaching music in Houston area schools.  

A graduate of the Juilliard School, Wheeler studied viola with Leonard Mogill, Francis Tursi, Bruno Giuranna, Walter Trampler and William Lincer, and chamber music with Claus Adam, Samuel Rhodes, and Felix GalimirFor five summers he taught at the famed Meadowmount School for Strings, and for twelve summers at the ENCORE School for Strings, where he worked with many of the most gifted of the younger generation of string players, including Leila Josefewicz, Hilary Hahn, Cheryl Staples, Robert Chen, Frank Huang, Juliette Kang, and Laura FrautschiHe has also taught and performed at the Musicorda Music Festival in Massachusetts, the Bowdoin Music Festival in Maine, the Harpa International Music Festival in Iceland, the Texas Music Festival in Houston, and the Round Top Festival Institute in Texas. He has given viola masterclasses throughout Colorado, at the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, Oberlin College, and the Cleveland Institute of Music.  

Wheeler plays a Carlo Antonio Testore viola made in Milan, Italy in 1741.