Denise Dillenbeck has toured Europe and America with the Philadelphia Orchestra, was a member of the Oregon Symphony, and has played with the Seattle Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Pennsylvania Ballet Theater, Philly Pops and others. She was a soloist with the American Festival Orchestra on a tour of China. Currently concertmaster of the Yakima Symphony, York Symphony and the Northwest Sinfonietta, she was associate concertmaster of the Tacoma Symphony, and has served as concertmaster for orchestras in America, England and Germany.

Denise performs chamber music for violin and percussion with her husband Mark Goodenberger, and presented contemporary classical music as a member of Third Angle New Music Ensemble. She has performed chamber music on concert series and festivals around the world, such as the American Church of Paris, Siletz Bay Music Festival, Westminster Choir College, Bravo Summer String Institute, Max Aronoff Viola Institute, Charles Castleman’s Quartet Program and Icicle Creek Summer Academy.

Passionate about teaching, she has worked with dozens of violin students and young string quartets, and has taught college courses on music, including a course on viewing world history and literature through the prism of Beethoven. As a teaching artist in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Community Partnership Program, she led elementary school students in experiential music learning, and directed workshops on aesthetic education. She is quoted at length in Eric Booth’s book “The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible.”

As a soloist, Denise has recently played concerti by Bernstein, Saint-Saens, Sibelius, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Prokofiev, Mendelssohn and Bach, with the Sinfonietta Nova, Boise Baroque Orchestra, Gonzaga Symphony, Yakima Symphony, York Symphony, Lake Union Civic Orchestra, Olympia Symphony, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra, Washington-Idaho Symphony, Salem Chamber Orchestra, Tacoma Community College Orchestra, Central Washington University Orchestra, Lake Chelan Bach Festival Orchestra, Gettysburg Chamber Orchestra, and has upcoming engagements with the Central Pennsylvania Symphony, Bellingham Symphony and Rainier Symphony Orchestra. She has recorded solo and chamber works for the Albion and KOCH International labels.  Denise studied at the New England Conservatory and the University of Minnesota. She was a Fellow at Aspen, Dean of Charles Castleman’s Quartet Program, program coordinator of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Strings International Music Festival, and has played for the Oregon Bach Festival, Ernest Bloch Festival, Chautauqua Music Institute, Musicorda and the International Congress of Strings. The San Francisco Chronicle hails her playing as “simply first-rate.” [Photo by PhotoNuvo]

The Role of the Concertmaster: As the ‘first chair’ violinist in a symphony orchestra, the concertmaster is the leader not only of the violin section, but of the entire string section and in some ways the orchestra as a whole.  S/he communicates performance style to the string section by physical example and aids in synchronization across the ensemble through gestures and eye contact with other key musicians. In some orchestral music performed without a conductor, the concertmaster actually conducts through this body language while playing. When a conductor is present, the concertmaster remains his or her primary collaborator in realizing the musical interpretation of a composer’s work. 

The concertmaster leads all string sections in determining how music will be played, providing markings for all other string players before rehearsals begin that allow them to move their bows together in unison. This is more than mere choreography – changing the direction or placement of the bow, or the number of notes connected through a single gesture, can profoundly change the sound and feeling of a piece of music, so these decisions are critical to achieve a particular quality of performance. The concertmaster also often serves as artistic advisor to the music director on matters ranging from technical performance detail to hiring and other personnel decisions, and s/he functions as the principal artistic representative of the orchestra when a guest conductor takes the podium. 

On stage in concert, the concertmaster’s more ceremonial functions include supervising the tuning process, and then leading the orchestra in rising and sitting together for applause. When audience members are allowed to be seated between movements of a longer work, it is often the concertmaster who observes the process and signals the conductor (whose back is to the audience) when it is safe to resume the performance. At the end of a concert, s/he decides when the applause has faded sufficiently for the musicians to stand and leave the stage.  It is customary for conductors and soloists to shake the hand of the concertmaster at the conclusion of a concert in recognition of the prominent role s/he plays as artistic collaborator throughout the preparation and performance of a symphonic program. (© Yakima Symphony Orchestra 2013)