Steven Brija


Photos by Matt Dine


2018 Belmont University Classical Performers Competition


Prague Summer Nights, 2018; Domaine Forget, 2021; DC Bass, 2021

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career?

When I was in high school, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in music, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. I had really great mentors and teachers who inspired me, so I initially studied Music Education. It wasn’t until my junior or senior year that I realized my passion was in performing, though I still feel that teaching will remain a part of my career as a bassist. 

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply?

One of my close friends was a member of TŌN from 2020–22. 

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century?

One thing I would like to see is more orchestras rejecting longstanding concert attire traditions. Many orchestras such as the Cleveland Orchestra have stopped wearing tail coats for concerts, and they manage to look just as well put together in concert black. I think it is really powerful to see that TŌN has stuck to a unique and modern look that distinguishes it from other orchestras. 

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Rinat Ibragamov was a huge influence on my bass playing throughout my undergraduate degree. His recording of the Bottesini concerto is out of this world.

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most?

In orchestral music, I am drawn in by the unique tone colors of composers like Antonín Dvořák and Jean Sibelius. I also really enjoy early music, especially listening to Bach on a period cello or viola da gamba. 

Outside of classical repertoire, I really enjoy the music of bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons. He integrates a percussive and flamenco style of bass playing into a variety of cultural sounds while maintaining his roots in French Jazz. 

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it?

By far my favorite piece is Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2. I first played it at the Prague Summer Nights music festival, and I immediately fell in love with the airy textures and the range of emotional expression.

What has been your favorite experience as a musician?

When I played Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 in Tabor, Czechia, the end of the piece was magical. The audience stayed silent for at least ten seconds before bursting into a thunderous applause that soon turned to a unison applause. The combination of that applause which followed up one of the most incredible symphonic finales ever written made the experience so bizarre and yet so wonderful. 

Favorite non-classical musician or band

Renaud Garcia-Fons

If you could play another instrument, what would it be?

That would be a tough split between percussion (my primary instrument until high school), bass trombone (I played occasionally in high school), and viola da gamba.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why?

Renaud Garcia-Fons, Joseph Conyers, and Rinat Ibragamov.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us

I marched drum corps in 2015. I played tenor drums with the Colts Drum and Bugle Corps!

Piece of advice for a young classical musician

Take care of your body. If you don’t make time for it, your body is going to make time for you, and it is not pleasant.