Paula Skolnick-Childress


My undergraduate degree is in fine arts.  Art and music were my passions and for a long time and I flip-flopped between the two.  In the end, I chose music. Art is usually done as an individual.  But music is in the moment and shared with an audience and other musicians and includes the entire gamut of color, sound, emotion…and even dance!

Playing the cello is like dancing from the waist up.  I have always loved to dance.  In fourth grade, my parents said I probably wouldn't be able to do a tour jete at age 60 but would still be able to enjoy playing a musical instrument.  I listened and chose the cello.  Of course they never intended for me to become a professional musician. The life is too difficult.

My four Russian grandparents understood difficulty. They had the courage and vision to leave their homes with nothing and emigrate to America in order to give their children a chance to blossom with a new future. Their example of resilience has helped me learn to adapt.  Because of a performance-related injury half way through my career, I sought medical help and in the end had to rethink many aspects of playing in order to continue with what I love so much. 

Still, playing the cello has always felt slightly “against the grain.” I am 101% left-handed and sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong universe.  The first time I picked up the cello, I held the bow in my left hand.  This seemed natural because it makes the cello speak. But in a right-handed world developed by right-handed people, no teacher would let me play this way.

Regardless of which hand I use, performing with the BSO has been an incredible journey. My husband, Hampton, and I have enjoyed traveling and touring with the BSO. I’ll never forget the BSO’s performance in East Germany under Sergiu Comissiona. The BSO was the very first American orchestra to perform in East Germany 30 years after the Iron Curtain was established. The atmosphere was electric with tremendous ovations and flowers being thrown onto the stage. Our encore was Aaron Copeland's arrangement for soprano and orchestra of the Quaker song "Simple Gifts.” It begins with the words "’Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free..."  I will never forget this concert!

Professional Bio