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Local violinist Yvette Kraft, 19, to be featured on NPR’s ‘From the Top’

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 20, 2021

From family gatherings at Christmas to national radio programs, Spokane-raised violinist Yvette Kraft, 19, has a passion for performance.

Nearing the end of her first semester at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Kraft is set to be featured on NPR’s “From the Top,” a weekly broadcast featuring profiles of young classically trained musicians from all over the country, later this month.

From a list of pieces Kraft submitted, the producers chose Edward Elgar’s “La Capricieuse” Op.17 and J.S. Bach’s “Violin Partita No. 1 in B minor, Sarabande & Double.”

A video recording of Kraft’s “From the Top” performance is available on the “From The Top” website and will air on the official radio show during the week of Nov. 29.

Also available on YouTube, the video is titled “FTT Live: Talented Teenage String Players” and features two other young artists – cellist George Wolfe-McGuire and violinist Célina Béthoux. Kraft’s solo interview with host Peter Dugan begins at 39:26. The Elgar begins at 41:05; the Bach at 50:08.

Born into a family of artists and enthusiasts, Kraft gained an early appreciation for music.

Her mother, Karen Kromholtz-Kraft, danced professionally with the Joffrey Ballet and now teaches at Ballet Arts Academy. Kraft’s sister, Xanthe, 27, composes and teaches music.

“Xanthe taught me how to harmonize,” Kraft said, mentioning how their other siblings, Olivia, 29, and John, 27, take the melody. “We love to sing together.”

Kraft started studying violin with Spokane Symphony concertmaster Mateusz Wolski when she was 5 years old.

“I loved the violin right from the start,” she said. But practicing was another story.

“We used to hide lollipops in her violin case,” Wolski said, the idea being that she could have the sweets as long as she opened the case. “She obviously was very gifted, but you know, practicing for the little ones is always challenging.”

Kraft admits it was true. “It was like pulling teeth for my mom to get me to put in the time every day.”

That all changed after a heart-to-heart with her teacher.

“I think I was around 8 or 9,” she said, remembering Wolski’s words at the time. “He said ‘You’re at a point where if you put in the work now, you’ll have the decision later whether you want to do it or not. But if you don’t put in the work now, that decision will be made for you. And the answer will be no.’”

Kraft quickly buckled down. And as her repertoire broadened – particularly when it came to Bach and Baroque music – she became increasingly motivated to improve.

“I had never really played anything where I could see that … gravitas, I guess,” she said. “It was so complex and moving – seeing the effect that it had on other people, how it can move people and uplift them. It creates an instant connection.”

Kraft made her debut performance with the Spokane Symphony at 11 years old.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Wolski said. “I mean, when you’re a teacher and you know a student is becoming really serious, you’re like a third parent. Because you have that relationship – weekly, sometimes biweekly lessons – you just feel like it’s your child standing there.”

Wolski has been able to watch Kraft continue to develop as a musician over the years in recordings and lessons during her visits to Spokane.

“Now … that occasionally can be almost intimidating because she knows how to play the instrument so well,” he said. “It’s absolutely joyous to see somebody going through something as challenging as playing violin.

“Not everybody develops a true love and commitment to it. But … once every few years, you might get a student who is actually serious enough and even rarer to have a student that commits themself to becoming as successful as Yvette has been.”

Since her debut with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, Kraft has performed as a soloist with the Spokane Youth Symphony, Interlochen Intermediate Orchestra, Seattle’s Philharmonia Northwest Orchestra, the Washington/Idaho Symphony and the Seattle Symphony. She has also performed in masterclasses given by Noah Bendix-Balgley, Augustin Hadelich, Josef Špaček, Vadim Gluzman, Ilya Kaler and Shlomo Mintz, among others.

Kraft has won concerto competitions in Washington, Idaho and Michigan. She was a 2019 SYAMFA Gold Medalist, a semifinalist in the 2019 Louis Spohr International Violin Competition and an MTNA National Finalist. She placed second at the Grumiaux International Violin Competition in the spring of 2020.

Kraft continued her studies with Wolski until high school when she began commuting between Spokane and Seattle for lessons with violinist Simon James, associate concertmaster emeritus of the Seattle Symphony. Kraft continues to study with James, who is now a faculty member at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

After she graduates from SFCM, Kraft hopes to pursue a career as a soloist.

“I really enjoy being able to have my own artistic opinion,” she said. “I want to be the master of my own ideas, to make the music the most beautiful it can be.”

For more information, visit yvettekraft.com.

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