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Mother’s Day Q&A with Theresa Rudolph

Theresa Rudolph joined the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as Assistant Principal Viola in 2011, and is currently performing as Acting Principal Viola. She is also the mother of three young children. In honour of Mother's Day, Theresa provides us with a glimpse into what it's like to juggle performing and parenting.

Klara, Anthony, and Alex

Tell us a little about your kids.

We have a daughter, Klara, who will be 4 next month, and 21-month-old twin boys, Alex and Anthony.

What does a typical day look like for you and your family? 

Every day is pretty wild! Our boys are at an incredibly cute and fun age, but also very demanding and dramatic. Having twins is a rollercoaster. Everyone gets up around 7:00am, and then it's a full and intense day until post-concert (on non-concert nights, it's post-practising) for my husband and me, which is around 11:00pm or midnight. My husband is also a musician, so we balance our irregular rehearsing, performing, and teaching schedules with family time and our childcare needs. Our daughter attends preschool, and we have a wonderful babysitter who accommodates our schedules, plus my amazing parents who help us on a regular basis. 

How do you and your partner successfully balance your careers and your family life?

We spend every day striving for balance...some days are more successful than others! I make up a family schedule, and make sure there is time in each day for both of us to spend time with our kids. It's a nice bonus if it's all five of us together, and we aim for at least one fun family outing per week. We do the bulk of our practising when the kids are asleep; on non-concert nights, I am always up late practising...and then writing emails, doing scheduling, cleaning up, and getting ready for the next day. It takes constant vigilance to make it all work.

How would you say motherhood has changed you (as a person and an artist)?

I am definitely more patient, creative, and open-minded since becoming a mother. My children inspire me to constantly push what I had previously thought were my limits and do better. I've also discovered that I can function on a lot less sleep than I thought! Before having kids, I worried that it would be too difficult to balance being a mother and being the musician I strive to be. And it does take constant dedication and work to carve out time to practise, especially when I'm exhausted. But, I find that I am now a more expressive performer, and I am even more grateful for the artistic outlet and sense of self that music gives me. I tend to sweat the small stuff less, mostly because I don't have much brainpower, time, or energy left over to obsess about things. I am more confident in my choices, as a leader, teacher, and musician. And I am much more efficient in the practice room!

How did your own mother influence your career? 

My mother, Kathleen Rudolph, is how it all began! She started me in Suzuki violin when I was 3 years old, and also introduced me to the viola. She's always been my champion, making sure I had access to the best teachers and training possible, and taking me to numerous chamber music concerts when I was young. I had the wonderful opportunity to experience great symphonic repertoire by going to hear both of my parents play in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra growing up. My mother has always been fiercely in my corner, and whenever there were disappointments or things were tough, she would inspire me to be patient and keep going. She was always a compelling and confident performer and I loved hearing her concerts, and getting to perform with her on occasion. Both by her musical example and her support of my career, she is a big reason why I'm a musician. 

Does music play a role in your parenting?

We have found that turning on music when the kids are fussy is a very helpful tool—it either helps refocus them or turns things into a dance party! We make a point to play great music for them, which is often whatever we are studying at the moment, as well as their favourite children’s songs. On non-concert nights, my daughter has lately been asking me to play for her before bedtime, which has turned into a sweet routine. Brahms is her favourite, as well as mine. :)

TSO Acting Principal Viola Theresa Rudolph and her daughter, Klara

Are your kids involved in any musical activities (e.g., learning to play instruments, taking classes)?

Music education is so valuable, so once they are a bit older, we plan for all of them to play the piano and sing in a choir. And if they show interest in another instrument, we will follow their lead! At the moment, Klara is enjoying taking ballet classes. My husband is Hungarian, so we take the kids to a music class on Saturdays where we sing Hungarian children's songs. (Well, the Hungarian speakers sing them and I try to learn!)

Have your kids ever attended a TSO concert? What did they think of it?

We have brought Klara to several of our Young People's Concerts, and she loves them! I think her favourite part is seeing her grandfather, TSO percussionist John Rudolph, playing all the cool percussion instruments. I'm looking forward to bringing Alex and Anthony next season!

What is the best parenting advice you've been given or can give?

The best advice I can offer other mothers is to give yourself grace. Sometimes the responsibilities of raising our little people can feel overwhelming, and we as parents are bombarded with so much information, judgement, and advice from so many different sources, a lot of it conflicting. The best thing we can do for ourselves and for our families is to give ourselves grace. Love yourself, love your kids.

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