Dr. Phillip W. Serna (double bass and viola da gamba) is an active and enthusiastic performer of early music, as well as the contemporary, solo, orchestral, and chamber repertoires. He earned his Bachelor of Music studying with San Francisco Symphony member Stephen Tramontozzi at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 1998. He later completed his Master of Music & Doctor of Music degrees at Northwestern University School of Music in 2001 and 2007, respectively. At Northwestern University, he studied double bass with Chicago Symphony Orchestra member Michael Hovnanian and international soloist DaXun Zhang. Additionally, he studied viola da gamba with Newberry Consort founder Mary Springfels. Dr. Serna continues to study the viol at workshops and master classes with instructors including Erin Headley, Wieland Kuijken, Catherina Meints, Christel Thielmann and Brent Wissick. His doctoral project, ‘Original Crossover? Popular Ballad-Tunes as Art-Music for Viols in Seventeenth-Century England’ focused on solo and ensemble settings of ballad-tunes for viola da gamba as well as lyra viol transcriptions for double bass.
On double bass, Dr. Serna has performed under the baton of conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Christoph Eschenbach, Neeme Järvi and David Robertson as a member of Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Phillip performs with other orchestras including the Renovo String Orchestra, the North Shore Chamber Arts Ensemble, the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Illinois Symphony Orchestra, New Philharmonic Orchestra, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and many others. Phillip is an active soloist performing concerti and other virtuoso works by Bottesini, Deak, Koussevitzky, Rautavaara, Tubin and others.
In his role as an Early Music specialist, Dr. Serna regularly performs with period instrument ensembles such as Ars Antigua, the Bach Collegium of Fort Wayne, the Callipygian Players, the Chicago Early Music Consort, Duo fantaisie en Echo, the Madison Bach Musicians, the Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra, the Newberry Consort, of Viols, the Oriana Singers, the Second City Musick, the Spirit of Gambo – a Chicago Consort of Viols, the Third Coast Viols and many others. As a concert soloist on the viola da gamba, he performed the U.S. Rudolph Dolmetsch’s Concertino for Viola da Gamba and Small Orchestra in 2012 and continues to perform concerti, recitals as well as championing new works for the viol. In performance, Phillip has appeared on Chicago’s 98.7FM WFMT, Wisconsin Public Radio, Milwaukee Public Radio and WUIS NPR and can be heard on CD releases from Clarion, Cedille, Soundbyte and Varèse Sarabande Records. For his work through ‘Viols in Our Schools’, Dr. Serna received the 2010 Early Music America Outreach Award, which honors ensembles or individual artists for excellence in early music outreach and/or educational projects for children or adults. Additionally, Dr. Serna was a recipient of a Viola da Gamba Society of America Grant-in-Aid to Young Artists, and was a featured soloist at the Gamba Gamut, a concert hosted by the Viola da Gamba Society of America at the 2007 and 2011 Boston Early Music Festivals.
In 2007, Dr. Serna’s article ‘Early Strings in the Classroom/ Introducing Students to Renaissance and Baroque String Repertoire on Period Instruments’ on classroom outreach advocacy was published in the American String Teachers Association String Teacher’s Cookbook – Creative Recipes for a Successful Program. He has contributed articles to the Bass World – the Official Magazine of the International Society of Bassists, the American String Teacher, Illinois ASTA’s the Scroll, and is an active contributor to the Contrabass Conversations podcast and the online bass resource www.DoubleBassblog.org. In Early Music publications, Dr. Serna is outreach editor for the VdGSA News, where he has edited and written numerous articles, and has contributed to Early Music America magazine. An active podcaster in his own right, he produces the ‘Viols in Our Schools’ GambaCast video podcast brings high-quality performances of music for viols to the larger internet community at www.theGambaCast.org.
Dr. Serna is instructor of double bass and viola da gamba at Valparaiso University and is in demand as an adjudicator and clinician in the Midwest on double bass and viola da gamba and has appeared as double bass faculty at the Chicago Bass Festival, the Butler Midwest Bass Day and the Whitewater Winter Bassfest, as well as viola da gamba faculty at the VdGS Third Coast Memorial Day Workshop, the Whitewater Early Music Festival the Music on the Mountain Winter Workshop and as Ad Hoc Consort Coordinator at the Viola da Gamba Society of America’s Summer Conclave. He currently maintains an active teaching studio on double bass, viola da gamba, bass guitar and guitar students at Buffalo Grove High School in School District 214, Crown Point High School in Crown Point, IN, Portage High School in Portage, IN, Naperville North High School in Naperville School District 203 and Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville’s Indian Prairie School District 204. Dr. Serna formerly taught privately at Carl Sandburg High School in School District 230, Glenbard East High School and Glenbard South High School in School District 87, the Illinois Math and Science Academy, Maine Township West High School, Maine Township East High School, Maine Township South High School in School District 207, Willowbrook High School in DuPage High School District 88, Wheeling High School in School District 214 and the Sherwood Conservatory of Music in Chicago, IL.
Dr. Serna is a member of the International Society of Bassists (ISB), the American String Teachers Association (ASTA), Early Music America (EMA), the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music (SSCM) and is president of the Viola da Gamba Society Third Coast, the Chicago chapter of the Viola da Gamba Society of America (VdGSA). He lives in Plainfield, IL with his best friend and wife, Magdalena along with their daughter Natalia.
For more information, download Phillip Serna’s Curriculum Vitae, as well as these headshots by Jonnie Maunder Photography: