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Kristen Shoup - Viola


Hi!  My name is Kristen Shoup, and I have been a proud member of Grand Rapids Symphony's Viola section since 1992.  When I look back over the last couple of decades, I can't believe how much both the city and the GRSymphony have grown!  I am so glad to be part of this growth.


I started playing violin when I was 5 years old using the Suzuki Method.  Both of my parents were instrumental music teachers, so my fate was sealed as to whether or not I would play an instrument.   The odd part is that both of my parents are low brass players, so how did I end up on violin?  In Flint where I grew up, there was a place called the Goodie Barn that would buy off extra merchandise from businesses.  The Goodie Barn, unfortunately, had a fire that destroyed a lot of their stock.  Luckily, there was a pile of tiny little violin cases that survived, all containing a tiny violin and bow.  My Dad sorted through all these cases and picked out the best violin, bow, and case that he could find.  It turned out to be a pretty smart $35 investment.  Plus, I love the irony of my first violin being purchased at a fire sale!


I started playing in orchestra at 8, and it was soon discovered that I couldn't read any of the music!  I was great at finger numbers, but not so great at actually reading the notes.  I started piano lessons and switched to a traditional violin teacher and soon I was reading the notes with all the rest of the group.  That was the beginning of my orchestral career.  I continued to play in youth orchestras in Flint and Ann Arbor.  Of course, as a native of Michigan, when it came time to go to music camp, the obvious choice was Interlochen.  I ended spending 6 summers at camp.


I have a Bachelor's Degree in Music Education from Western Michigan University, where I also played with the marching band during my first two years.  Towards the end of my junior year, the violin lost its' hold on me.  I explored other options, and the viola was suggested.  Once I started playing the viola, got rid of that whiny E string, and reveled in the beauty and depth of the C string, I felt like I'd come home.  Or, as I like to say, I came over to the dark side!  What a wonderful feeling!  I went on to complete a Master's Degree in Viola Performance and Literature at The Eastman School of Music.


The viola has enabled me to have a career in both performing and teaching that I enjoy.  In 1992, I moved to Grand Rapids to marry my wonderful husband, Ted.  Those first few years, I subbed in 9 orchestras and was teaching as many private students as possible.  When I won my first contracted position with the Grand Rapids Symphony in 1994, I was able to actually work in my own city and give up all that driving.  I also started teaching orchestra (grades 5-8) for Grand Rapids Christian Schools that year.  I encountered some amazing students and fell in love with teaching orchestra.  In 1995, I was hired to start an orchestra program at Calvin Christian Schools.  I began with 10 high school students the first year, and ten years later when I left, the program had grown to 100 students in grades 5 through 12.  I joined the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony organization in 2001, and I've been the assistant conductor of the Classical Orchestra to this day.  In 2005, I was introduced to the wonderful world of West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts Association, a program held on Wednesdays at the Homeschool Building.  This program serves homeschoolers ages 8-18 by providing all types of musical opportunities.  We have four orchestras, four bands, choirs, handbells, recorder classes and many other options.  I conduct the two top orchestras and spent a couple of years conducting one of the bands.  Yet again, I have encountered wonderful students who both entertain and inspire me.


Grand Rapids is a wonderful community to live in and raise my family.  My husband and I have two daughters, Anna and Elizabeth, and two dogs, a Keeshond named Jasmine, and an obnoxious, evil, six-pound Pomeranian named Steve.  Our neighbors have become our family.  Just the way my colleagues in the Grand Rapids Symphony have become family.  The excitement of our growing city is finally being noticed nationally.  I hope that the GRSymphony continues to grow right along with the city.  That will attract young, new musicians to audition here and have the chance to move here, play with the Symphony and find out how wonderful life can be in Grand Rapids.

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