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patty heller

Patricia Heller


Patricia Heller joined the San Francisco Opera Orchestra’s viola section in 1986. She can be seen in the Company video of “Orlando Furioso” with Marilyn Horne. Patty’s first public performance was in second grade when she astonished her classmates with a note-perfect “Way Down Upon the Swanee River” on her mother’s silver clarinet. No doubt it would astonish an audience even now if you put a clarinet in her hands.


Patty settled on the viola for her life’s work at the age of 12 when, in the middle of the viola section in the Colorado All-State Orchestra under the baton of Abraham Chavez, she realized that a seat in the midst of an orchestra, altogether vibrating in C Major, is the best place in the world to be. Beethoven’s master work “Fidelio” has been one of the highlights of her performing career and she is eagerly anticipating the moment when San Francisco Opera’s new Music Director takes the helm, bringing back that powerful C Major “Yes!” to the streets of San Francisco. 


After viola studies with Lee Yeingst, Max Aronoff, and Katò Havas, Patty traveled the world with her composer/pianist husband Duane Heller as the Highwater Duo, commissioning and performing music for viola and piano. Lately, she makes her home in Daly City and enjoys the sublime pleasure of making music with her now-grown daughter. Their casual ensemble Scottish Thistles has been heard in many Bay Area living rooms, and is expanding to overtake the area around Utica, New York.

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