Brant Bayless

Principal Viola

The Sue and Walker Wallace Chair

Born in Kansas and raised in Ponca City, Oklahoma, Brant Bayless came to Utah after completing his studies in New York City. After early piano lessons and singing in his father's various church choirs, Brant started the viola at age 12. Winning the Governor's Scholarship to Interlochen Arts Camp in 1992 gave him his first glimpse of the musical world outside Oklahoma. After two years at the University of Kansas studying with Michael Kimber, Brant found his way to New York. Invited to study on scholarship with Pinchas Zukerman and Patinka Kopec at the Manhattan School of Music, Brant finished his bachelor's degree in 1997.

Brant started his career while still at Manhattan as the violist of the Arcata String Quartet. His performances with the Arcata were heard throughout the US and Europe, including concerts at New York's Town Hall and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie and London's famed Wigmore Hall. The Arcata's Beethoven Cycle at Wave Hill, the Bronx estate of Arturo Toscanini, and their many recordings, some of which are available still, continue to be memorable highlights. In 1998, the Arcata inaugurated a residency at Utah State University, a position that they held for three years.

Since joining the Utah Symphony in 2001, Brant has immersed himself in the vibrant musical community in Salt Lake City. From his regular performances on the NOVA and Intermezzo chamber music series, to a teaching post at Westminster College, occasional appearances with Canyonlands New Music Ensemble and Salty Cricket Composers Collective, masterclasses and teaching at institutions statewide, and such special events as the William Primrose Memorial Recital he gave at BYU in 2005, Brant remains busily committed to his art even when off the Abravanel Hall stage.

Summers take him further afield. Brant regularly performs at the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Bellingham (WA) Festival of Music, and the Strings Festival in Steamboat Springs (CO). This summer he will return to Bozeman, MT, playing with members of the Muir Quartet, and will also accept an invitation to teach at the Killington Festival in Vermont.

As guest violist, Brant traveled to Brazil in 2010 with the Fry Street Quartet, performing at the Oficina de Musica de Curitiba. More recently, he played as guest principal violist with the St. Louis Symphony under their music director David Robertson.
As concerto soloist, Brant has made regular appearances with the Utah Symphony: in March 2012 with conductor Jun Markl in Takemitsu's “A String Around Autumn”; in August 2010 with conductor David Lockington in Bruch's “Romance” and von Weber's “Andante and Rondo Ungarese”; and in October 2008 with then Music Director Keith Lockhart and Concertmaster Ralph Matson in Mozart's “Sinfonia Concertante.” Also recently of note was his NOVA series performance of Berio's “Chemins II” in March 2011.

His viola is attributed to the Milanese maker Luigi Bajoni from 1858. Having fallen in love with the mountains and deserts of Utah, he spends as much time as possible hiking, cycling, and seeking out backcountry ski descents. Brant was recently married to the cellist Anne Francis Bayless.

Roberta Zalkind

Associate Principal Viola

Roberta Zalkind, Associate Principal Viola and Adjunct Professor at the University of Utah, began her musical career with the piano when she was eight years old. At sixteen, she decided to study the viola. Her father wanted to find the best teacher for her, which led her to Manuel Compinsky. He initially refused to teach her, insisting that she was "too old to begin playing a stringed instrument," but after hearing her play without any formal training, he took her as his student. After two years of intense study, she entered the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and then the University of Southern California, both with full scholarships. Her most influential teachers include Compinsky, Frank Bundra, and Louis Kievman.

Roberta joined the Utah Symphony in 1981 and won the Associate Principal position in 1988. She has participated in numerous music festivals, notably the Grand Teton Music Festival, which she has played in for more than twenty years. Along with her symphony duties, she is an active viola teacher, soloist, and chamber musician in Salt Lake City, as well as a board member of the American String Teachers Association. She is married to Larry Zalkind, Principal Trombone, and they have three children—Benjamin, Matthew, and Aaron—as well as an adorable miniature poodle, Charley.

Julie Edwards


Born and raised in Rapid City, South Dakota, Julie Edwards began studying viola in the public schools at age 9. Encouraged at age 10 by her orchestra instructor not to quit viola and switch to flute, because "Everyone needs violas, if you play viola you'll always have work, but flute players are a dime a dozen," Julie made up her mind to pursue a career in viola and went on to receive Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in viola performance from Indiana University, where she studied with Atar Arad. After college, Julie began a series of moves that took her to locations that needed violas, including Chicago and Pittsburgh, and became a member of The Louisville Orchestra. Julie is currently a violist in the Utah Symphony, and hopes that everyone still needs violas.

Joel Gibbs


Joel Gibbs joined the viola section of the Utah Symphony in 2011. He is also a member of the Grant Park Orchestra in Chicago, and a former member of the Dallas Symphony and the Louisville Orchestra. He is originally from St. Louis, Missouri.

Mr. Gibbs holds performance degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, having studied with Lewis Rosove, Myron Kartman and Yuan-Qing Yu. In his free time, he enjoys running and hiking, and he hopes never to run out of new territory to explore in the Wasatch Mountains.

Whittney Thomas


First prize winner in the 2006 Pasadena Showcase Instrumental Competition, and second placesenior laureate of the 2007 Sphinx Competition, violist, Whittney Thomas just completed a two-year fellowship in Japan playing with the Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra.

Her past summers have included participating in the Schleswig Holstein Orchestral Academy asthe principal viola, where she toured Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain and Turkey; as well as the Sarasota Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, Aspen Music Festival, the La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest, and many more.

As an avid chamber musician, Whittney collaborated closely with Midori Goto for three years,playing and performing extensively throughout the United States. She has also performed with several wellknown artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Arnold Steinhardt, Isabelle van Keulen, ChoLiang
Lin, and Kathleen Winkler. Ms. Thomas has performed in masterclasses given by Richard O’Neill, Kim Kashkashian, Andrés Díaz, the Takacs Quartet, members of the Cleveland Quartet and the American String Quartet.

Born in San Diego, California, Whittney began her studies on the violin at age 8 and discovered her love for the viola nine years later. In 2009, she earned her Bachelor’s of Music degree at the University of Southern California under the guidance of Donald McInnes and studied with Martha Strongin Katz at the New England Conservatory. Ms. Thomas plays on a 2003 Zanetto model by Mario Miralles made on loan to her through the Maestro Foundation. When she is not practicing, she enjoys cooking and baking and would like to extend her interests to many of the Salt Lake pastimes like hiking and skiing.

Elizabeth Beilman


Elizabeth Beilman joined the Utah Symphony viola section as well as the Grant Park Orchestra viola section in the 2015 season. Previously the Principal Violist of the Sarasota Orchestra, she was also a member of the Sarasota String Quartet. Heralded as “a violist of exquisite tone and musicianship” by June LeBell of the Sarasota Observer, Elizabeth was awarded the President’s Prize by Yuri Bashmet at the 2013 Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition.

Ms. Beilman has performed as Principal Viola of the North Carolina Symphony and Opera Santa Barbara. She has also made regular appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Santa Barbara Symphony, SchleswigHolstein Festival Orchestra, and New York String Orchestra, among other ensembles.

Recent highlights include solo appearances with the Sarasota Orchestra and the Burbank Philharmonic. She collaborates frequently with her brother, violinist Benjamin Beilman, including recent performances of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with the Dearborn Symphony Orchestra and recitals at the Rabun Gap Music Festival, Chamber Music Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Society of Musical Arts. She is also the winner of the Chicago Viola Society’s solo competition, the 2013 Hennings-Fischer Young Artist Competition and laureate of numerous international competitions including the Coleman Chamber Music Competition and the Irving M. Klein International String Competition.

Born in 1987 in Washington DC, Ms. Beilman began studying the violin at age 5 and switched to the viola when she was 16. She received her undergraduate degree with honors from the Julliard School of Music in 2010, where she studied with Heidi Castleman and Hsin-Yun Huang, and was awarded the John Erskine Prize for artistic and scholastic achievement. She received a Master of Music degree in Viola Performance from the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music in 2012, where she studied with Donald McInnes and was a recipient of the Harvey Erickson Endowed Music Scholarship.