Leslie Perna’s career as a violist has taken her all over the world. Perna, who is associate professor of viola at MU’s School of Music, initially focused on the violin. She received a bachelor’s degree from the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music in Cleveland in 1984 and a master’s degree from Boston University in 1986, both in violin.
Perna said she drifted toward the viola because she appreciated its role in classical music and its richer and darker sound.
“Viola is more interesting to me because its part leads the melody where it has to go,” she said. “I also like to create the harmony, which is often the viola’s job.”
Shortly after taking up viola, Perna joined the Boston-based Artaria Quartet. The group toured Europe and North America and made an appearance on ABC’s “Nightly News” program after participating in a National Education Association musical outreach program in Tifton, Ga.
“It was very exciting to appear on national television, but I didn’t feel nervous about performing,” she said. “We had already played about 300 concerts in nine months.”
Perna has also recorded five albums and lived in Japan while working with the Yamagata Symphony. Since coming to MU in 1995, she has taught applied viola and chamber music, played with the school’s Esterhazy Quartet and directed the Missouri String Project for nine years. The project is designed to introduce third-and-fourth grade students to stringed instruments through instruction by MU students.
Perna said she enjoys sharing music because it is a different way of communicating.
“Music goes beyond what words can say,” she said. “I can play things and show you things in music that I can’t put into words.”