ESO 101: Ethan Filner

ESO 101: Ethan Filner
Image credit: Dale MacMillan

Meet Ethan Filner, Assistant Principal Viola in the ESO. This is Ethan’s first season with the ESO. He loves acid Jazz, basketball, and travelling the world.

When was your earliest recital and what did you play?
When I was five years old, I performed “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” for the local retiring school superintendent and a photo of it ended up in the local paper. I was famous! But my first full recital wasn't until the end of my first year at Indiana University-Bloomington, where I played Hindemith's Der Schwanendreher, Bach's 3rd Viola da Gamba Sonata, and this insane “Speed Etude” by Quincy Porter that still delights me to check back in on every once in a while.

How long you’ve been with the ESO?
This is my first season!

How many instruments do you know how to play?
Two: violin and viola. I probably shouldn't count the six chords I know on the guitar or the new age easy listening improv I like to space out with on a piano.

What is your musical guilty pleasure?
Acid Jazz and house music mixes like Stéphane Pompougnac's Hotel Costes series.

What was the last song/piece of music you listened to?
Solti conducting Chicago playing Beethoven's 8th symphony on vinyl.

What would your DJ name be?

Who would be your partner on the Amazing Race?
My wife. I'd totally drive her crazy but she'd keep us focused.

What would your personalized license plate be if you had to have one?

What is your pre-concert ritual?
For an orchestra concert, I like to get to the hall early enough to stop by Barney's [Musician Lounge] for a cup of coffee and to check in with my colleagues before eventually heading out onstage to warm up. Before a chamber music concert, I like to check the program to make sure our names are spelled correctly and the prepared repertoire is listed accurately - you never know! For any performance: a good swipe or three of fresh rosin on the bow!

What is your favourite sports team or player?
It's a toss up: As a kid, I had a poster on my bedroom wall of Spud Webb flying up for a dunk - I always felt like the runt among my brothers and it was awesome to see such a relatively small guy do what he could do on the basketball court. But I also loved watching Bill Laimbeer on the Pistons defend against a shooter by standing stock still in the lane, arms reaching straight up high like a tall, solid tree, just daring his opponent to try to overcome the obstacle.

How many different cities have you lived in?
12 or so, if memory serves. Many more individual homes than that.

What is your favourite city (or a country) you’ve travelled and why?
This is a tough one. I was in a string quartet for 15 years; we toured a lot all over the U.S. and quite a bit in Europe, mostly Germany. There's something about every city that makes it special. The Dome in Cologne is amazing; so are its beer halls. The colours of literally everything in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico are fabulous. The unbeatable vibrant history of Vienna's streets and architecture. The unforgettable views from and over the river in Budapest. The tiny country church in Brownville, Nebraska where our afternoon concert audience had spent the morning biking several miles from another village to hear us play. The beautiful and wild spectacles of Key West, Florida, and Provincetown, Massachusetts (on Cape Cod), the otherworldly charm of Nantucket. The grandeur of nature in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. What a world!

Do you have a nickname?
Would you believe me if I said I'd never had a nickname? Yeah, I didn't think so.

What is your favourite orchestra other than the ESO?
I think the National Arts Centre Orchestra sounds fantastic and does some reality interesting stuff.

What do you do in your free time?
I'm not sure what that is, exactly. I like to bike, I like to read chamber music with friends, I like to listen to >gasp!< political news podcasts. For a special occasion, I like to bake sweet treats.

What food would be on your rider as a rock star?
Chocolate and peanut butter. In any combination.

Rapid Fire section

Coffee or tea?

Pancakes or Waffles?

Facebook or Instagram?

Coke or Pepsi?

Cats or dogs?
Do I really have to choose?

Dine-in or take-out?
Dine-in. Fresh!

Apple or Android?

PC or Mac?

Morning or Night?

Call or text?
Text. Thank goodness for text.

Beethoven or Mozart?

Schubert or Dvořák?

Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff?

Book or movie?

Mountains or ocean?

Wine or beer?

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Musical or opera?

Quarantine Edition

What keeps you busy while you are isolating at home?
We just moved out of an apartment and into a cozy little house in the west end, and our current project is setting up for the next months and beyond of gardening.

What is the best part about being at home and/or working from home?
Being with our kids more every day, with virtually no deadline pressure to get specific work done, or to have to leave for work - it's a perfect time for getting to know each other and ourselves better, and for giving our bodies a chance to reset away from the continuous stress of a typical concert season.

What is the hardest part about being at home and/or working from home?
Everything I just said.

What is your go-to comfort food?
Pesto pasta with chunky sautéed mushrooms and asparagus, topped with freshly grated Asiago cheese. Yes, I think that would do.