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. He has also performed with ensembles including the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Illinois Symphony & Chamber Orchestra, New Philharmonic Orchestra, the North Shore Chamber Arts Ensemble, Renovo String Orchestra, the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and many others. Dr. Serna is an active soloist performing concerti and 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, Black Tulip, Burning River Baroque, the Callipygian Players, the Chicago Early Music Consort, Duo fantaisie en Echo, the Madison Bach Musicians, the Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra, New Comma Baroque, the Newberry Consort of Viols, the Oriana Singers, the Second City Musick, the Spirit of Gambo – a Chicago Consort of Viols and many others. Dr. Serna has performed Johann Gottlieb Graun’s Concerto for Violin, Viola da Gamba in 2014 and the U.S. premiere of Rudolph Dolmetsch’s Concertino for Viola da Gamba and Small Orchestra in 2012, continuing to premiere concerti, perform recitals and championing a variety of new works for the viol. In performance, Phillip has appeared on WFMT Chicago 98.7FM, Wisconsin Public Radio WPR, Milwaukee Public Radio 98.7FM and 91.9FM WUIS Public Radio and can be heard on CD releases from Clarion, Cedille, Soundbyte and Varèse Sarabande Records. Dr. Serna was recipient of several of the Viola da Gamba Society of America’s 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, 2011 and 2013 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 and is an active contributor to the Contrabass Conversations Podcast and the online bass resource www.DoubleBassblog.org. In Early Music publications, Dr. Serna has served as outreach editor for the VdGSA News – the Newsletter of the Viola da Gamba Society of America, where he edited and wrote numerous articles, and has contributed to Early Music America Magazine.
Dr. Serna maintains a private teaching studio stretching across the greater Chicago-area where he is instructor of double bass and viola da gamba at Valparaiso University. At Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL, he works as Historically-Informed Performance coach for their viol consort and Illinois’ first public-school period-instrument Baroque ensemble. Committed to community engagement and educational outreach, Dr. Serna is founder and music director of Viols in Our Schools, an Early Music program which earned him Early Music America’s Outreach Award in 2010. Dr. Serna is in demand as an adjudicator and clinician in the Midwest and has appeared as double bass faculty at the Chicago Bass Festival, the Butler Midwest Bass Day and Whitewater Winter Bassfest. Dr. Serna presented ‘Making Your Baroque Solos More H.I.P.’ in conjunction with Jessica Powell Eig’s performance ‘The Cuckoo’s Egg …or Just Plain Cuckoo? Transcriptions of Early Music for Double Basses‘ at the Historically Informed Performance Summit at the 2013 International Society of Bassists Convention at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. On viola da gamba, Dr. Serna has also appeared as faculty at the VdGS Third Coast Memorial Day Workshop, the Whitewater Early Music Festival the Music on the Mountain Winter Workshop and has served on staff as Ad Hoc Consort Coordinator and Scholarship Student Coordinator for the Viola da Gamba Society of America’s Summer Conclaves.
Dr. Serna is a member of the International Society of Bassists (ISB), Early Music America (EMA) 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.