Great Viola Etude Challenge Online

June 7 - July 26, 2021
Mondays at 1 p.m. Central Time (for approximately one hour)

Etude Marathon Recital, 1 p.m. on Sunday, August 15, 2021
Boutell Memorial Concert Hall and Livestream


The NIU Viola Studio and Professor Anthony Devroye present the Great Viola Etude Challenge Online, an eight-week virtual summer course for technical improvement and musical inspiration.

In eight themed online sessions, the viola studio will present a broad range of the viola etude repertoire, at intermediate and advanced levels, for Professor Devroye's feedback and practice tips.

The repertoire is delivered/posted in advance. In each session, three selections will be studied:

  • Selection A will be presented as a play-along, and all registrants are encouraged to be prepared to play the piece (on mute) alongside the NIU violist
  • Selections B and C will be more advanced, and registrants are encouraged to prepare these at whatever level their time and ability allow. In this way, the course is fully individually customizable.

As we go, we will discuss all the ways etude practice can serve your violistic and musical goals and present practice strategies to achieve them, plus uncover an enormous amount of material to broaden your musical perspective and whet your appetite for years of personal musical growth and development.

A Marathon etude recital is planned for August 15, 2021, starting at 1 p.m. live on the concert hall stage and including recorded performances from participants, with the entire recital to be livestreamed as well.


Registration deadline: Friday, June 4, 2021

Participant cost: $40
Participants can be violists of any age: student, pre-professional, professional, educator or amateur.

Recital Performer cost: $100*
*Recital Performers are rising high school juniors and seniors (entering 11th or 12th grade this fall). Recital Performers will receive a 30-minute online private lesson with Professor Devroye on an etude of their choice, scheduled by mutual agreement, and can then perform this etude (in person, online, or prerecorded) in the Viola Etude Marathon recital at NIU on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021, at 1 p.m.

Online Registration Form Paper Registration Form

Schedule and Syllabus

Most selections are in public domain; other selections will be sent to registrants in advance (selections subject to change).

Bow Stroke Mastery, June 7

  • Mazas: Op. 36, No. 6, Allegro non troppo
  • Kreutzer: Forty-Two Studies, No. 4 (online books call this one #3)
  • Palaschko: Op. 36, No. 2, Allegro con spirito

Legatissimo, June 14

  • Hans Sitt: Op. 116, No. 1, Molto adagio
  • Dont: Op. 37, No. 1
  • Campagnoli: Forty-one Caprices, Op. 22, No. 6

The Rhythm/Character Connection, June 21

  • Palaschko: Op. 86, No. 24
  • Mazas: Op. 36, No. 26, "Polonaise"
  • Jorge Variego: "Modular Tango" from 18+3 Etudes

Shifting Landscape, June 28

  • Kreutzer: 42 Studies, No. 11 (online books call this one #10)
  • Campagnoli: Forty-one Caprices, Op. 22, No. 20
  • Hermann: Op. 22, No. 10

Cross-Training, Tuesday, July 6 at 4 p.m. (different day/time due to July 5 holiday)

  • Mazas: Op. 36, No. 22
  • Bruni: Twenty-Five Studies, No. 5, Allegretto
  • Garth Knox: Sul Ponticello

Double Trouble, July 12

  • Bruni: Twenty-Five Studies, No. 11, Allegro scherzando
  • Hermann: Op. 22, No. 6
  • Lillian Fuchs: Fantasy Etudes, No. 7

Earbenders, July 19

  • Uhl: Thirty Etudes, No. 11
  • Kimber: 20th Century Idioms, "Quartal" and "Harmonics"
  • Vieux: Chromatic Etude #2, "Secondes"

Rep Prep, July 26

  • Hoffmeister: Etudes for Viola, No. 6
  • Salonen: Pentatonic Etude


Bring your viola and get ready for an unforgettable experience with Anthony Devroye of the Avalon String Quartet and the NIU Viola Studio.

About the NIU Viola Studio

  • Viola students at NIU play in the NIU Philharmonic and study chamber music under the tutelage of the Avalon String Quartet, NIU's ensemble in residence. Rigorous coursework in music is complemented by the full spectrum of offerings from NIU's seven colleges on the 20,000-student DeKalb campus.
  • The Northern Illinois University School of Music offers B.M. degrees in music performance and music education, B.A. degrees, a master of music (M.M.), and a performer's certificate (PC). Recent students have hailed from Chicago, northern Illinois, Minnesota, California, Arizona, Spain and South Korea.
  • Alumni have pursued further study (including at the doctoral level) at major universities; teach privately and in schools, including at the college level; and perform in professional ensembles in Chicago and beyond.

The guest artists for 2021 include:

  • June 28 (session 4 - "Shifting Landscape")
    Basil Vendryes, principal viola, Colorado Symphony; University of Denver
  • July 12 (session 6 - "Double Trouble")
    Daphne Gerling, University of North Texas
  • July 26 (session 8 - "Rep Prep")
    Mick Wetzel, Los Angeles Philharmonic; Cal State University

Frequently Asked Questions

This is a lot of repertoire! Am I required to learn it all?

No! It is indeed a lot of rep, some of it very demanding. Take this course at your own pace. It is best if you can be familiar with the play-along selection (A.) every week, and try to play along on mute with the NIU violist presenting. Beyond that, you may dabble in the other selections as much or little as you feel able.

If you are preparing every selection in full, that will make for a robust and challenging course of study for your entire summer. It's good to learn at least a few lines of each piece presented, but there will never be a playing test or audition.

How will these etudes help me as a violist?

Each session will present multiple etudes around a common theme, for example, specific bow strokes, complicated string crossing, double stops, intonation/chromaticism, modernist techniques and more. All through the course connections will be made between technical/mechanical work and the musical repertoire we ultimately want to use it for. Having a clear introduction to the multitude and diversity of etude books out there (and their historical, technical and musical context) will give you a launchpad to confidently incorporate etudes into your viola development for years to come.

These are a lot of sessions; what if I can't make it to all (due to travel, work, other music camps, etc.)?

All sessions will be recorded, and registrants can have access to any completed session at any time.

Will I need to purchase music or anything else?

No, materials are either available in public domain or will be emailed to registrants or otherwise made available to you online.

What is the difference between registering as a recital performer or participant?

"Recital performer" is only available to rising 11th and 12th graders. These students will select their own etude to perform on an Etude Marathon recital at NIU in August, which can be done in person (health guidelines permitting) or remotely. Recital performers will receive a half-hour lesson with Professor Devroye at some point over the summer (scheduled individually).

Participants have all the same access to class sessions, materials, and Q&A, but do not play in the final recital. Participants are encouraged to attend the final recital or watch online.

I am a teacher, how would this course fit in with my other plans for my student(s) this summer?

The course is designed for maximum flexibility and can either complement other repertoire goals you have for your student(s) this summer or can give them a very full practice plan for two whole months.

I'm all Zoom-ed out! You want me to sit through more Zoom sessions?

So are we! It's been a difficult year, with all of us adapting to new ways of doing things and online contact is never as good as in person. However, the online platform has demonstrated real potential for delivering music instruction in ways that are not otherwise possible, so let's make the most of it! With one-hour sessions, the aim of this course is to minimize screen time and maximize the breadth of material covered and the productivity of your practice schedule.

What did participants enjoy the most about the recent NIU Viola Studio Online Boot Camp?

"I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have received more instruction from you! Your students did a wonderful job performing for us all. I'm glad that I was able to pass along an opportunity to my students who are hungry for more viola material! (The three girls who attended most regularly are 2 freshmen and a sophomore -- the future looks bright!) I think your structure -- including technique, etudes, Bach, viola solo repertoire, talking about auditions, and including guest speakers, a composer and conductor, gave a very full scope of what our musical studies encompass. This was really wonderful."by Allison, violist, high school music teacher and NIU alumna

"I can't thank you enough for hosting these Viola Boot Camp Sessions! I really enjoyed attending and there were always good insights into the craft of viola playing and broader musicianship."by Jacob, undergraduate music major, Minnesota

"I enjoyed it all but was especially interested in the technique ones. Group playing is hard on Zoom but I love getting to play with different people any chance I get so I welcome any of it!"by Victor, high school sophomore, Illinois

"First, thank you and your studio students for allowing me to join in on the fun. I truly loved every minute and all the presentations. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed each session. They motivated me to play every day!"by Lynn, adult amateur violist

"In addition to all the valuable information and material, the feeling of community you created in these sessions was palpable. Even watching those months after the fact, I felt like I was right there in the room with all of you."by Ann, violin/viola pedagogue and registered Suzuki teacher trainer

Contact Us

College of Visual and Performing Arts
Office of External Programs

Music Building 132

Kristin Sherman

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Online Office Hours

Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
(lunch from noon – 1 p.m.)

To protect the safety of our staff, students and families, we will operate remotely until further notice. Our staff will be available at their remote offices during normal NIU business hours and can be contacted via phone or email.

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