Joël Belgique, Principal Viola

Born in Lansing, Michigan, and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, by French parents, Joël Belgique first studied violin, but at the age of 13 found his voice when he switched to the viola. He studied with Mikhail Boguslavsky, and later with David Holland at the Interlochen Arts Academy. His viola studies went on to include undergraduate work at the Eastman School of Music, and the Cleveland Institute of Music and later receiving a Masters Degree from Brigham Young University. His principal teachers were Heidi Castleman, Clyn Barrus, David Dalton and Laurent Nouvelhomme.

Joël was appointed principal violist of the Oregon Symphony in 1998 after leaving a position with the San Diego Symphony. With the Oregon Symphony some of the solo works he has performed include two performance of both Strauss’ Don Quixote, and Berlioz’ Harold in Italy, Telemann’s Concerto in G, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. During the summer of 2002, he was a guest artist for the International Viola Congress. Held in Seattle, he led the Oregon Symphony’s viola section in a performance of the U.S. and Canadian national anthems and two other works, as well as a duo performance of George Benjamin's Viola, Viola with stand partner Charles Noble.

He helped to establish the not-so-serious viola ensemble, The 4 Violas ( This unusual group performs in some of Portland’s most distinguished brew pubs and has developed a cult following. The group was invited to perform several concerts at the 2004 International Viola Congress in Minnesota and his arrangements such as the 1812 Overture for 4 violas and multitple-sized pop-guns, and the Strauss mock tone poem, Also Sprach Sancho Panza were huge hits. Other arrangements include, The Hustle , Macarena and A Fifth of Beethoven -or- the four take the fifth. They also performed a complete cycle of Hindemith Viola Sonatas, to a capacity crowd, no less.

As a chamber musician, Joël has collaborated with such artists as Elmar Olivera, Leonard Pennario, Igor Gruppman, Bayla Keyes, Ralph Matson and in Portland with the Ethos Quartet and the Third Angel Ensemble. He is a strong advocate of new music and as a member of Portland’s premier new music ensemble Fear No Music (, he has performed works by Schnittke, Svoboda, Penderecki, Berio, Kurtag, and others. With the other principal players from the Oregon Symphony, he was a member of the Oregon Symphony String Quartet which performed regularly throughout the region. For the past 3 years, he has been invited to perform and coach at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts where he presented major pieces of chamber music with other faculty and coached adult chamber musicians and ensembles.

Joël also performs as a member of the Harvey Rosencranz Orchestra, the small string ensemble that records and performs with Pink Martini. He can be heard on their two latest albums and has concertized in Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, and most recently in New York City where the band played in Carnegie Hall and on “Late Show with David Letterman”.

As well as maintaining a private studio of some of the regions finest young violists, Joël is on faculty at Portland State University. He is currently working on his first recital CD which will include sonatas by Jacob Avshalomov, Rebecca Clarke, Tomas Svoboda, and Marion Bauer with renowned pianist, Cary Lewis.

For more about this musician, click here.

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