Robert Vernon served as principal viola of The Cleveland Orchestra from 1976 to 2016 and was the longest-tenured string principal in the Orchestra’s history. He performed more than 4,500 concerts with the Orchestra and recorded more than 200 works — virtually the entire standard repertoire — with five different record labels, and has made more than 110 concert tours with The Cleveland Orchestra.
As a soloist, Mr. Vernon has collaborated with many of the great conductors of our time, including Valery Gergiev, Pierre Boulez, Georg Solti, Simon Rattle, Lorin Maazel, Franz Welser-Möst, and Christoph von Dohnányi, among others. He has appeared as soloist in seventeen different works in over 120 concerts at home in Severance Hall, including three works commissioned for him by The Cleveland Orchestra. Mr. Vernon has appeared as soloist with The Cleveland Orchestra at Carnegie Hall multiple times, and has also had solo appearances at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Boston’s Symphony Hall. In addition, he has appeared as soloist with The Cleveland Orchestra on one European and two United States tours. Solo recordings include Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, Strauss’s Don Quixote, and Schoenfield’s Viola Concerto, as well as many chamber music recordings.
In addition to his solo appearances with The Cleveland Orchestra, Mr. Vernon has appeared as soloist with various orchestras across the United States and has performed and taught at leading North American music festivals, including Marlboro, Aspen, Sarasota, Yellow Barn, La Jolla, Blossom, Ravinia, Tanglewood, Nevada, Strings, and Heifetz International, among others. He was invited by Georg Solti to lead the viola section for the Solti Project at Carnegie Hall and travelled to Switzerland with Solti for the World Orchestra for Peace on the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.
A teacher as well as a performer, Mr. Vernon is a member of the faculty and co-chair of the viola department at the Cleveland Institute of Music. For the past seven years, he has also served as a member of the viola faculty at New York’s Juilliard School, from which he graduated with honors, having attended Juilliard with a full scholarship from the Martha Dwight Douglas Foundation. Mr. Vernon’s students hold positions as chamber musicians and teachers, and have won positions in more than 50 orchestras in North America, Europe and Asia — including eight positions in the viola section of The Cleveland Orchestra. Mr. Vernon has given master classes throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, South America, and Asia, and is featured on an album study tool for violists in the “Orchestra Pro Series” on Summit Records. He has also written a book on orchestral excerpts entitled “The Essential Orchestral Excerpts for Viola: Keys to a Successful Audition.”
The American Viola Society presented Robert Vernon with the Maurice W. Riley award for “Distinguished Contributions for the Viola through performance and teaching.” He was also recently presented with the “Career Achievement Award” by the American Viola Society in recognition of his distinguished career as Principal Violist of the Cleveland Orchestra, as soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and his contributions in the field of teaching. In October, The Cleveland Orchestra presented Vernon with its highest award, the Distinguished Service Award, for 2016.