/ News / Meet Curtis Symphony Orchestra soloists Hae Sue Lee and Oliver Herbert

Student soloists Hae Sue Lee and Oliver Herbert break new ground as student soloists in Strauss's tone poem Don Quixote

Oliver Herbert

Don Quixote, one of Richard Strauss's epic tone poems, includes extensive solo parts for viola and cello representing characters in the plot of the classic Cervantes novel. When professional orchestras program Don Quixote, the principal violist and principal cellist are often featured, but student orchestras commonly engage solo artists for these roles, which require virtuosic and sensitive playing on the level of any major concerto. So when it was announced at Curtis that auditions would be held to select soloists from among the student body for the October 29 performance of Don Quixote, it was a resounding statement of trust in the maturity of the potential soloists in the cello and viola studios. At the September auditions, violist Hae Sue Lee and cellist Oliver Herbert were named as the soloists.

If you’ve seen Curtis advertisements and billboards around Philadelphia promoting the current season, you may recognize Oliver, a third-year student from San Francisco who is currently the de facto "face of Curtis.” Already a veteran of such celebrated music festivals as Verbier, Ravinia, and Caramoor, he’s also appeared as a soloist with major orchestras, recently making his solo debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. When he performs Don Quixote's cello solo on October 29, he’ll represent the eponymous hero in his surreal quest to revive chivalry. Look for more from Oliver on Instagram, where he'll soon begin sharing a first-hand view of the student experience as a Curtis ambassador.

Hae Sue LeeThe equally extensive part for solo viola represents Don Quixote's loyal squire Sancho Panza. While Don Quixote serves as the protagonist in Cervantes’s story, Sancho Panza is no less important. He’s a relatable, distinctly middle-aged "everyman" figure, often tasked with interpreting Don Quixote's misunderstandings and balancing his heavy-handed speeches on chivalry with a broad, earthy sense of humor. At first glance, Hae Sue Lee might seem an unlikely choice for the part—and at 17, she'll surely be one of the youngest violists ever to perform the role. She rose to the top in the auditions after carefully studying the approach of one of her two teachers—Curtis president Roberto Díaz, renowned for his interpretation of the Sancho Panza role. "I listened to recordings of Mr. Diaz's performances and also worked with him,” Hae Sue says. Mr. Díaz related his experiences playing the work in their lessons and passed along valuable tips, “like how to be clear when leading a section or in ensembles, since I'm not always playing alone."

“He taught me to really enjoy playing this character."

For tickets or more information, visit www.curtis.edu/Orchestra.