Doyle Armbrust, viola

Doyle Armbrust headshot with owl

Noted as “a well-connected pillar of the Chicago new-music scene” by The New York Times and extolled for his “arrestingly unconventional” writing by Alex Ross in the The New Yorker, the only impression violist Doyle Armbrust ever made in the pages of the Boston Globe regarded “falling helplessly on his behind.” Which is to say, it’s important to keep things in perspective.

As a founding member of the thrice-Grammy-nominated Spektral Quartet, he has performed on many of the country’s most distinguished stages, including Symphony Center, The Kennedy Center, Miller Theater, Big Ears Festival, The Library of Congress, and NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. Accused, but like, in a good way, of “obliterating the dividing line between past and present” (The New Yorker), Spektral has commissioned over 85 composers including sonic adventurers such as Augusta Read Thomas, George Lewis, and Anna Thorvaldsdottir, and collaborated with the incandescent talents of Theaster Gates, Miguel Zenón, and Julia Holter, to name a few.

Previous posts include principal violist of Firebird Chamber Orchestra, core member of both Ensemble Dal Niente and The Chicago Symphony’s Music Now series, a memorable five years with Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues, and a three-year fellowship with Michael Tilson Thomas’s New World Symphony. The moments he remembers most vividly are: trying to keep it together while playing in an orchestra backing Barbra Streisand, some particularly motivating backstage words from Pierre Boulez, and performing the Chicago premiere of Morton Feldman’s 6-hour String Quartet No. 2 without passing out.

When not playing board games or hiking the country’s national parks with his family – playwright Laura Schellhardt and 8-year-old shark enthusiast Arthur Darrow – Doyle pens liner notes, essays, and reviews in a (perhaps quixotic) attempt to defenestrate the notion that anything other than curiosity is a prerequisite for a captivating classical music experience. His writing has appeared in program books at The Chicago Symphony, University Musical Society (UMS), The St. Louis Symphony, and the Cincinnati Symphony, and can be found between the covers of Chicago Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Crain's Chicago Business, and The Chicago Tribune.