“…a longtime fixture in the American Early Music scene” exhibiting “sonic warmth and extreme clarity” that is “agile and full of character” with “precise historical chops…” – International Society of Bassists’ Bass World, 2022
A “Versatile Musician…” with a “consistent and unified approach to phrasing, cadences, and overall stylistic interpretation…” – Early Music America, 2021
“…perhaps the hardest-working guy in early music” – VdGSA News, Fall 2020
“I find Serna’s entrepreneurship progressive, impressive, and inspiring. His output embodies the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that continues to keep the early music community alive and energetic in the digital age.” – VdGSA News, Fall 2020
In addition to performing contemporary, solo, orchestral, and chamber repertoires on double bass, Dr. Phillip Serna has emerged among 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 dissertation, ‘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 diversity of ensembles including the 5th Wave Collective, Camerata Chicago, Chicago Wind Symphony, EChO – the Evanston Chamber Opera Company, Illinois Philharmonic, Illinois Symphony, Lake Forest Symphony, Musicians for Michiana, the Naperville Winds, New Philharmonic, Northwest Indiana Symphony, Renovo String Orchestra, South Bend Symphony, Southwest Michigan Symphony, the Zohn Collective, and many others.
Co-founding Black Tulip, New Comma Baroque, the Spirit of Gambo – a Chicago Consort of Viols and ViolMedium, Dr. Serna has collaborated with a myriad of distinguished historical-performance ensembles, most notably Ars Antigua, the Bach Collegium of Fort Wayne, the Bella Voce Sinfonia, Burning River Baroque, the Callipygian Players, the Chicago Early Music Consort, Duo Fantaisie en écho, Flutes of a Feather, L’Ensemble Portique, Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, Les Touches, Madison Bach Musicians, the Newberry Consort, the Second City Musick, Sonata à Quattro, Urbana 415 and others. Dr. Serna has performed at the 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 Dolmetsch’s Concertino in 2012 and Abel’s Concerto Violo de Gambo in 2018, to the 1st complete performances of Telemann’s 1735 Fantasias, Dr. Serna repeatedly distinguishes himself as a champion of literature new and old for viola da gamba. In performance, he has appeared on many prestigious concert 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, Midweﬅ415, New Focus and Varèse Sarabande Records including Shattered Glass – New Music for Viola da Gamba by Women Composers, available in 2024.
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 as the Online Editor for Early Music for the International Society of Bassists , on the editorial board of the Online Journal of Bass Research, and has contributed articles to the Bass World – the Official Magazine of the International Society of Bassists, the American String Teacher, to the Contrabass Conversations Podcast, and the online bass resource DoubleBassblog.org. In Early Music publications, Dr. Serna has served as outreach editor for the VdGSA News – the Newsletter of the of the Viola da Gamba Society of America, and has contributed to Early Music America ‘s 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 served as assistant director and sponsor of viol consorts and Illinois’ first public-school period-instrument program at Adlai E. Stevenson High School which has appeared at the Illinois Music Education Conference (IMEC), the Midwest Clinic, the American String Teachers Association Conference, and presented a fringe concert at the Boston Early Music Festival. His online virtual viol consort project – Consorts-Minus-One – has been recognized in major string music publications the world over.
Dr. Serna is in demand as an adjudicator and clinician in the Midwest and 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 ‘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. The two reunited presenting ‘Take a Walk on the Viol-Side – An Introduction to Period Bass’ for the Young Bassists program and performing ‘The Great Dooble Bass – Music for Violone & Viols’ at the 2019 International Society of Bassists Convention at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana.
On violas da gamba, Dr. Serna has served on the faculties of the Madison Early Music Festival, Music on the Mountain Winter Workshop, the Whitewater Early Music Festival and is music director of Viols in Our Schools, an education initiative that earned him Early Music America’s 2010 Laurette Goldberg Award for Early Music Outreach. Dr. Serna is a member of the International Society of Bassists (ISB), Early Music America (EMA), New Music Chicago (NMC) and served 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). Phillip currently serves as acting-principal double bass & personnel manager of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra and lives in Plainfield, IL with his best friend and wife, Magdalena, along with their daughter Natalia and their dog, Ellie.
For more information, download Phillip Serna’s Performance Resume or Professional Resume, sample his Double Bass Solo Repertoire, sample his Viola da Gamba Solo Repertoire, or feel free to contact him at https://www.phillipwserna.com/contact.