History has interested me for some time, particularly those accounts which document precedents in mankind's quest for improvement and a better life. The International Viola Congresses in Europe and North America, which began in 1973, were by-products of the first successful comprehensive organization of violists. These colloquia qualified both as historic and as stimulus for improving the life certainly of violists, if not other musicians, critics, instrument builders, and historians. It was my impression that especially the early congresses appeared to be marked by attendees who quite literally "hungered and thirsted" for contact and interaction with their fellow violists on a large scale, and thus affirmation as musicians who played the viola!
An astonishing array of literature, performers, and instruments and the interaction of violists determined to be taken seriously by the musical public have been continuing traits of viola congresses. Each gathering of violists has portrayed a unique personality by virtue of geography, program and premier performances of new compositions for viola. Although several excellent scholars appeared to be investigating the violin's "elder and wiser sibling" from the standpoint of performance technique, musicianship, literature, pedagogy, and instrument design, no one seemed to be documenting either the traditional activities or the precedents concurrent with the annual viola celebrations called "viola congresses," or the organization called the "American Viola Society." Noting that my contemporaries and I were rapidly becoming the "older generation" of violists and, determined that we should convey written as well as stylistic legacies to our progeny, I began collecting and organizing viola congress data in 1986 to chronicle the activities of the viola societies.
There is every reason to presume that the International and American Viola Societies will continue as viable organizations, despite problems maintaining membership and the increasing expense of international congresses. While it was originally hoped that this book would deal with both European and North American congresses, the volume of data requiring organization limited the scope of this project, regretfully, to activities in the "new world."
It is hoped that this book will be more than the mere recitation of facts, impressions and statistics regarding our gatherings, that it may serve as a point of origin--one compilation of violists in the final quarter of the twentieth century. I trust that future updates on viola activities will indeed come into being, and that active violists in the 21st century will be capable of measuring themselves by the exhaustive efforts, high professional standards, and creativity of the viola community chronicled herein.