Drew Alexander Forde (aka That Viola Kid) on Insecurities, Burn Out, and Finding Your Own Unique Musical Identity

A graduate of The Juilliard School, violist Drew Alexander Forde has performed as a soloist and chamber musician all around the world. Perhaps better known by his alias, That Viola Kid, Drew is one of the most-followed classical musicians on social media.

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Hi Drew! Tell us a little about yourself. When and why did you start playing the viola, what are some of your favorite moments of your career, etc?

I started playing viola when I was 12. I was a 6th grader in middle school at the time. That’s actually pretty old for starting an instrument and it really bothered me—so I worked super hard to catch up with other kids who’ve been playing since they were 4 haha. Some of my favorite moments of my career were performing in Singapore, playing for a Mac Miller album, and touring the country with the Sphinx Virtuosi.

Have you ever felt burnt out on music? What do you do to get back on track and stay motivated?

I’ve definitely felt burned out many times in my career. I think it’s really important to find non-musical things that you want to develop so you can have adequate time away from your craft. When you go off and learn new things, the lessons learned can profoundly help you by teaching you different perspectives that can positively inspire your main craft.

It's not every day that you meet a musician who is both a classical violist and a hip-hop artist. How did you find your own unique musical identity? 

I really find a lot of my musical identity by being honest about what I like musically, instead of what people expect me to like. I think many people listen to the same music as their friends simply because it's socially acceptable. However, with the internet, we have interesting platforms like Spotify and Pandora that algorithmically assist us in finding new music, which makes me really excited. So, I listen to Classic Rock, R&B, Hip-Hop, sometimes even country, and Classical Music for the most part. I’ll even listen to Pop and adult alternative every once in a while—as well has music in Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Russian. Yesterday, I even came across a Hip-Hop/R&B song that was in French…I think haha. So, I’m just extremely curious and open-minded about music and I find it easy to fall in love with many different types.

As one of the most-followed classical musicians on social media, what is it like to interact with such a large online community?

Interacting with my community is one of my life’s greatest joys. I love people, and I feel so fortunate to have a platform like mine. I still haven’t gotten used to it yet, though. I still feel like I did when no one watched me, but I’m much more self-aware now. So, I feel that’s why I’ve been a little more skittish with my posting recently, and I’m currently working through that =)

What does being a successful musician mean to you?

I make it super clear to emphasize to people to find their own definition of success. For me, I think I’ll feel successful when I don’t have to wonder when my next gig is. I’ll feel successful when I can tour the country with my music and meet and interact with more of my Instafam IRL.

What advice would you give to your younger self about your biggest insecurities?

Believe it or not, I’m much more insecure than I’ve ever felt in my life. My younger self was much more musically bold—mostly because I wasn’t aware of how big the world is and how deep the rabbit hole of musical artistry goes. What I would say to my younger self, though, is to be patient and enjoy the journey. I would tell myself to trust the process and not worry about the outcome—because before I know it, my time on Earth will be up. Living in the moment is definitely something I would re-emphasize to myself. =)

The Lotus Chamber Music Festival provides a unique educational experience for accomplished young artists by combining a summer music festival with a holistic wellness retreat. Have you ever heard of anything like this? What do you think about the concept?

I’ve heard of a couple of similar ideas—some centered around Yoga, and other centered around more of the academic side of musical wellness, but nothing exactly like the Lotus Festival. I think it’s an essential element to life that we need to focus more attention on. We’re not taught how to live lives of wellness in school. That’s just not something that’s particularly valued in our society as a whole, and I’m personally open to learning how I can be better at it myself =)

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To learn more about Drew, visit http://thatviolakid.com.

Chenoa Orme-Stone