Student Spotlight: Brynn Dally

With Sonoma State University’s beautiful concert hall, it’s no wonder people are interested in our music program. However, it’s rare to see somebody as involved with the Green Music Center  as junior Music Performance major Brynn Dally.

Not only does she act as the orchestra’s first chair cellist, Dally also performs in a string quartet, won the 2018 Sonoma State Concerto Competition, and works as an usher in the Green Music Center. Dally’s attachment to music began at an early age.

“My parents are professional musicians, so as a little kid, I would grab my dad’s violin. There are a lot of pictures of me playing it like a cello,” said Dally. “When I was four they were like, ‘You have to start learning an instrument.’”

Junior cellist and Music Performance major Brynn Dally smiles as she practices along with her band The Circus Phreeks. (STAR // Brandon Sparks)

Junior cellist and Music Performance major Brynn Dally smiles as she practices along with her band The Circus Phreeks. (STAR // Brandon Sparks)

While it would make sense that a cellist’s first instrument would be a cello, that is not the case. At 4 years old, Dally took piano lessons, but decided she was not interested. After attempting violin, she decided she wanted to play an instrument where she did not have to stand. That’s when she found an instrument that clicked. At just five years old, Dally was surprised one day with the gift of a cello.

“It wasn’t my my birthday or anything, but when I got home there was a cello right next to the piano,” said Dally, “I didn’t think anything of it because my parents both teach lessons as well as doing gigs and stuff, so there’d be a lot of people in my house and a lot of small cellos, so I didn’t get it until my dad told me it was mine.”

From then on, Dally worked on being the talented musician she is now. She performed in school orchestras from elementary school to senior year of high school. It was in these later years when she found herself fulfilling major leadership roles, like in her senior year when she was president of the orchestra.

Now at Sonoma State, she is still leading the pack as first chair cellist in the orchestra. This important honor comes with a litany of responsibilities.

“I had this saying when I was younger, ‘If you’re early you’re on time, if you’re on time you’re late, and if you’re late you’re in the way,’ so I always try to show up early,” said Dally. “I have to make sure everyone has the same bowings, everyone has the music. I lead everyone in on time.”

Members of the local community  are also in the cello section so it is her responsibility to ensure they get any changes to the music. Her sweet personality and professionalism as first chair do not go unnoticed by those around her.

“Brynn is my favorite kind of leader – she leads her section by example with kindness and calm,” said Director of Orchestral Activities Alexander Kahn. “She is the kind of musician who is generous towards other musicians, rather than competitive with them. She prepares her parts thoroughly, and this provides an example for all of the rest of the members of the section to emulate.”

Being first chair cellist means having a lot of skill on the cello and Dally has certainly proved that. In April of last year Dally won the Sonoma State Concerto Competition by performing Saint-Saens “Concerto No.1 in A minor.”

“It was slightly scary because I didn’t really want to do it, but my teacher told me to try,” said Dally. “I didn’t think I was going to win because the other people I heard were really good, but the next morning somebody told me congratulations, and I found out I won.” 

Now that she has won this prestigious award, the orchestra will be highlighting her by performing the concerto she played at the competition during their next performance on April 27. Winning awards is great, but it’s her motivation and drive that really convince people just how amazing she is.

“She’s very talented and she works hard. Those two in combination can create a really great musician,” said fellow Music Performance major Spencer Causey. “You can’t just have one without the other, you definitely need both.”

On top of orchestra, Dally also is the cellist of a string quartet featuring two violinists and a violist. Having these various activities keeps her busy, but even when she isn’t directly performing at the Green Music Center, Brynn is working as an usher at the events.

“I’m at the GMC pretty much every day, including the weekends,” said Dally. “I like getting involved with things here because, I’m only here for one more year.”

As a leader and engaged member of the orchestra, Dally hopes to see more people sign up for the group next year.

“If you think you don’t have time, you probably do, as long as it works in your schedule,” said Dally. “It’s Monday and Wednesday nights from four to six. I mean if you can only make one rehearsal maybe talk to Dr. Kahn and see if something is possible.”