By Shelley Hill Young
Livia Sohn was seated as first violin at The Newport Music Festival in Rhode Island. Though she had been playing since she was 4, she was still in college at Juilliard and recalls being a bit nervous because Geoff Nuttall was seated as second violin. She had never met him, but she knew his group, the St. Lawrence String Quartet. She wasn’t sure how he would react to the seating arrangement. “He was so kind. I thought in my mind he was being kind because I was young; he was trying to make me feel comfortable.” But, she says, “If you ask him, he says that he knew that I was the one.”
The couple got married in 2010 in a private garden in Charleston on the last day of the Spoleto festival, where Geoff serves as the artistic director of the popular chamber music series. The couple, who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, spend three-and-a-half weeks each year in Charleston, along with their sons, ages 5 and 10. The city has become a second home for them. Livia is playing violin in 18 of 33 chamber music concerts during Spoleto. And Spoleto organizers say she is instrumental in a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that is required to coordinate the series, which involves 19 musicians playing 41 pieces of music over 17 days.
One afternoon last month, for example, Livia spent several hours in the Stanford University library searching for the music for the aria “Vedro con mio diletto” from Vivaldi’s opera Giustino in the archives and then literally copying each line, blowing it up and pasting it on one page for each musician.
Livia says the artists know to call Geoff if they have questions about the music. But “if it’s something nuts and bolts, like, ‘What time do I need to arrive?’ they’ll call me.”
From Spoleto, Livia, who had her first public performance at age 8, travels to Florida for a recording session with modern violin ensemble MoVE. She maintains a busy concert schedule performing at chamber music festivals, as a guest violinist and with the trio Latitude 41.
“Music is one of those things that you live it, you breathe it. It’s not something you do. It’s part of you,” Livia says. “You wouldn’t do it unless you were driven by something greater than yourself.”