“A viola da gamba is added to the [Schola Antiqua vocalists] in the three motets included to great effect. It is neither too intrusive in the mix of voices nor too far in the background as to be ineffectual…the blend of the voices combined with the subtle presence of the viola da gamba makes this a wonderful conclusion to an enjoyable listening experience.” – Notes, June 2011
“…with the addition of gamba, are some of the most well-balanced and lovely moments on the recording…” – Early Music America Magazine, Fall 2011
“Smooth & polished…” – Centerstage.net
In addition to performing contemporary, solo, orchestral, and chamber repertoires on double bass, Dr. Phillip Serna has emerged as one of the nation’s leading advocates of Early Music performed on viols – violas da gamba. He earned his Bachelor of Music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 1998, later completing his Master of Music & Doctor of Music degrees at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music in 2001 and 2007, respectively. His doctoral project, ‘Original Crossover? Popular Ballad-Tunes as Art-Music for Viols in Seventeenth-Century England’ focused on solo and ensemble settings of English ballad-tunes for viola da gamba as well as lyra viol transcriptions for double bass.
On double bass, Dr. Serna has performed under the batons of conductors including Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Christoph Eschenbach, Neeme Järvi and David Robertson as a member of Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He performs with a wide variety of ensembles including the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Illinois Symphony & Chamber Orchestra, Musicians for Michiana, New Philharmonic Orchestra, Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, Renovo String Orchestra, the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, and many others.
In addition to co-founding the Chicago-area ensembles New Comma Baroque and the Spirit of Gambo – a Chicago Consort of Viols, he has performed with many historical-performance ensembles including Ars Antigua, the Bach Collegium of Fort Wayne, the Bella Voce Sinfonia, Black Tulip, Burning River Baroque, the Callipygian Players, the Chicago Early Music Consort, L’Ensemble Portique, Les Touches, the Madison Bach Musicians, the Newberry Consort of Viols, Sonata à Quattro and others. Dr. Serna has performed at the Bach Institute at Valparaiso University, Bach Week Festival, Chicago Early Music Festival, Handel Week Festival, Madison Early Music Festival, Peoria Bach Festival, and was featured at the Gamba Gamut, a fringe event hosted by the Viola da Gamba Society of America at the 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2015 Boston Early Music Festivals. From the U.S. premieres of Karl Friederich Abel’s Concerto Violo de Gambo in 2018, to premiering Telemann’s complete 1735 Fantasias, to Rudolph Dolmetsch’s Concertino for Viola da Gamba and Small Orchestra in 2012, and a variety of other concerti and experimental works, Dr. Serna has distinguished himself as a champion of the literature for the viola da gamba. In performance, he has appeared on many prestigious Early Music series including the Academy of Early Music, Byron Colby Barn’s Early Music at the Barn Series, Gotham Early Music Scene’s Midtown Concerts, the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center’s Mainstage Series, Morton Arboretum’s Winter Chamber Series, SoHIP Boston: the Society for Historically Informed Performance and many others. He has appeared on WFMT Chicago, Wisconsin Public Radio, Milwaukee Public Radio, and can be heard on film and video game scores by Neil Acree, Andrew M. Edwards, Scott Glasgow, and Kubilay Üner alongside CD releases from Clarion, Cedille, and Varèse Sarabande Records.
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 serves on the editorial board of the Online Journal of Bass Research (OJBR) and has contributed articles to the Bass World – the Official Magazine of the International Society of Bassists, the American String Teacher and contributor to the Contrabass Conversations Podcast and the online bass resource DoubleBassblog.org. In Early Music publications, Dr. Serna served as outreach editor for the VdGSA News – the Newsletter of the Viola da Gamba Society of America, and has contributed to Early Music America Magazine.
Dr. Serna maintains a private teaching studio spanning the greater Chicago-area teaching double bass and viola da gamba at Valparaiso University and North Central College; double bass, viola da gamba and viol consort at the Music Institute of Chicago and the J.S. Bach Academy of Music at Bethany Lutheran Church and School; and serves as assistant director and sponsor of viol consorts and Illinois’ first public-school period-instrument program at Adlai E. Stevenson High School. Dr. Serna is in demand as an adjudicator and clinician in the Midwest and has serving on the faculties at the Chicago Bass Festival, Ball State Bass Day, Butler Midwest Bass Day, OPUS Chamber Music Camp, and the 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 violas da gamba, Dr. Serna served on the faculties of the Madison Early Music Festival, Music on the Mountain Winter Workshop, and the Whitewater Early Music Festival. Committed to community engagement and educational outreach, Dr. Serna is the founder and music director of Viols in Our Schools – earning him Early Music America’s 2010 Laurette Goldberg Award for lifetime achievement in Early Music outreach.
Dr. Serna is a member of the International Society of Bassists (ISB), Early Music America (EMA) andserves as president of the Viola da Gamba Society Third Coast (VdGS 3rd Coast), the Chicago-area 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 and their dog, Chewie.
For more information, download Phillip Serna’s Curriculum Vitae or Performance Resume, sample his Double Bass Solo Repertoire, sample his Viola da Gamba Solo Repertoire, or feel free to contact him at http://www.phillipwserna.com/contact.