New York City native Baird Dodge, who joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a violist in 1996, moved to the second violin section later that same year. He was appointed principal second violin by Daniel Barenboim in 2002.

Dodge has a special interest in contemporary music. He often has performed works by his father Charles Dodge, including the premiere of his Violin Etudes at Columbia University’s Miller Theater in 1994 and a recording of the Viola Elegy for New Albion Records in 1992. In 2006, he premiered and recorded Carillon Sky,a chamber concerto written for him by Augusta Read Thomas, on the CSO’s MusicNOW series with Oliver Knussen conducting. He also has championed the works of composer James Matheson, giving premieres of several pieces, including the Violin Concerto, with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the CSO in 2011.

Why did you choose your instrument?

I used to tag along to my older sister’s piano lessons at a Suzuki music school, and I think I was drawn to the fact that the violinists had their own instrument that they could pack up and take anywhere.

What work are you most looking forward to performing this season, and why?

The work I’ve looked forward to most this season is Janáček’s Sinfonietta. I have so many favorite composers and pieces, but this one is singular somehow. I first encountered the piece by playing it soon after I joined the CSO, and loved it so much that I immediately bought a recording, which I listened to exactly once: it didn’t hold a candle to the live experience. And yet the violin writing is infuriatingly awkward and difficult, and much of the piece consists of abrupt or tricky transitions and confounding ensemble difficulties. I can’t even really pinpoint why the piece stirs me so.

With which other musician would you most want to play a duet, and why?

I would have loved to play a duet with Leonard Bernstein. I’ve always heard about his powerful music-making and charisma. To me, he represents the reach that classical music can have — how irresistibly it can engage and reward us. The Citizen Musician initiatives and work with Civic Orchestra musicians have been really rejuvenating for me, making me feel that I have something positive to offer to a world whose problems can be so overwhelming and seem so intractable. And all such activities are a welcome reminder that the work we do as performers, which can sometimes seem self-serving, has a unique power to make deep human connections.

 Offstage, I like to:

Watch my daughter’s soccer games, read, watch TV or movies, hike, jog. A nap at the right time is hard to beat.


HOMETOWN: New York City.


EDUCATION: Swarthmore College (B.A. in chemistry) and SUNY Stonybrook.

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