Believe it or not, Dylan Caldwell wasn’t all that nuts about the viola back when his mom first signed him up for orchestra class. The double major in music education and music performance, in hindsight, suspects she did it at least in part to keep him running with a good crowd. “I started playing the viola around nine years ago in my first orchestra class. I didn’t like it very much at the time, but of course, I learned to love it.”
Caldwell has come a long way since that first class. One recent milestone along his journey: a very interesting scholarship awarded to him in the form of a brand new viola from the Baroque Violin Shop in Cincinnati, Ohio. “My current private instructor, Dr. Eliza Jeffords, entered me into the scholarship. I owe it to her!” Caldwell says.
In the highly competitive world of music, talent alone won’t get you far. You also have to have pluck, so to speak, and Jeffords, director of stings and a professor in TLU’s School of Music, says that’s what sets Caldwell apart. “Dylan is persistent in accomplishing his goals—he can always be found working in the practice room, and his love for music is evident in his playing. He is truly deserving of his recent recognitions and the gift of this new viola will only further his ability to reach the next goals!”
But the viola scholarship is only the beginning. Caldwell is also a recipient of the New Braunfels Music Club scholarship, which is awarded to one TLU student every year, rotating between choir, orchestra, and band students. He was put forward for the award based upon the recommendations of the TLU School of Music faculty.
He had the honor of performing for Erika Eckert, professor of viola at the University of Colorado, who taught a masterclass as part of TLU’s Viola Day. “She is an amazing teacher,” Caldwell says of Eckert. “She is also an amazing player as well. The masterclass itself felt good—I was nervous at first of course, but it does help to realize that everyone is there to help you. Overall, it was one of my favorite experiences with my instrument.”
Finally, Caldwell recently auditioned for—and was accepted into—the Mid-Texas Symphony as a TLU/Mid-Texas Symphony Orchestral Fellow. “The audition was very nerve-racking at first,” he says, adding that “once I got in the audition room, my nerves did dissipate a little. The environment was very relaxed and welcoming, and I felt pretty good about the audition after it was over. Once I realized I got in I was very happy.”
Caldwell is on track to graduate from TLU in the fall of 2026 and plans to pursue a career as a music educator. “I’d love to also perform in a local symphony while I am teaching to further my skills and show my students what they could eventually do with music.”
What are his words of advice for fellow musicians considering attending TLU? “Come on!” he says. “We’ll always want and need more musicians here, and all of the professors are great at what they do, especially the string professors! (I’m totally not biased.) The smaller scale of the school allows for great attention to detail, and all of the professors and students in the music department love it here.”
For a chance to hear Caldwell play with the Mid-Texas Symphony, make plans to attend their next concert on February 15th at 7 p.m. in the New Braunfels Civic Center.