If you were—or are—a middle school or high school student in Central Oregon who plays the viola or violin, there's a good chance you've received some instruction from Julia Bastuscheck. She's been working with young musicians since moving to Bend in 2009, after "retiring" from a 21-year teaching career in Juneau, Alaska, where she also conducted the Juneau Youth Symphony.
Bastuscheck has been involved with the Central Oregon Youth Orchestra since its inception in 2012. She's a COYO co-conductor with Eddy Robinson, who also leads the orchestras at Bend's Mountain View High School and Sky View Middle School. A highlight for the young COYO muscians came in June 2015 when they were selected to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
COYO currently has about 75 students, ages 10 to 18. Any young player who wants to can join the junior symphony, but students must audition to play in the youth orchestra, "so they have to play at a certain level," Bastuscheck says.
She has some advice for students considering picking up an instrument, or continuing to play: "They should get a good teacher, practice, listen to the teacher's advice and play with as many different groups as possible, play as much as they can with other kids. It's important for them to know what good sounds like."
Bastuscheck says she enjoys providing young musicians with the symphony orchestra experience they might not get in school, running rehearsals in the same no-nonsense, professional manner as an adult orchestra, "to give them that more extended, professional experience." Over the years she's substitute-taught music classes in nearly every Bend and Redmond school. She also teaches at the Cascade School of Music in Bend and gives private lessons, currently coaching eight viola students and three violinists.
Bastuscheck started playing the viola at the age of 9. By age 11, she was playing in the San Jose Youth Orchestra in California. She says she chose the viola because she wanted to play in the All City Orchestra in Palo Alto and had heard they were looking for violists. When she was 15, her family moved to Bellingham, Wash. Bastuscheck went on to earn a bachelor's in music from Western Washington University, and later, a teaching degree from the University of Washington. That's where she met her husband, Nathan, with whom she and others started a "renegade orchestra" called the University Chamber Orchestra.
Husband Nathan is also a musician who plays the tuba. One of his regular engagements is the downtown Oktoberfest every year with the Mirko Pressler Band—always a crowd favorite. And during the holidays, Nathan can sometimes be heard playing carols on his euphonium throughout the aisles of Costco, where he works. The instrument is like a smaller version of a tuba, but a tad more portable.
On a 2006 camping trip to Steens Mountain, she and Nathan, a native Oregonian, passed through Bend, deciding to move here from Juneau. When not playing or teaching music, Bastuscheck enjoys hiking, camping and traveling.
Bastuscheck also performs with two orchestras. She's the principal violist for the Juneau Symphony, flying there for concerts four times a year. Traveling from Bend to Juneau, an over-1,800-mile one-way jaunt, has earned her "MVP" status on Alaska Airlines.
She also jumps in the car and heads down Hwy. 97 a few times a year to play as a section violist with the North State Symphony, performing concerts in Redding and Chico, Calif. Both orchestras "are really rewarding and satisfying to play in," Bastuscheck says. "For the first time in my life I feel I'm actually playing more than I'm teaching, and I really like it." She's been playing the same viola, which she calls her "ax," since 1974.