By Cody Douds
Bradley and Kara Welch created beautiful and meaningful lives as classical musicians. Bradley is the resident organist at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO), artist-in-residence at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree.
Kara started the flute when she was eight. She plays second flute at the DSO, is a member of SMU’s music faculty and has received many accolades for her achievements. Together, they are proudly raising two children, Ethan and Avery, who also show an aptitude for music.
Bradley was brought up in Knoxville, Tenn., and Kara was raised in Zion, Ill. before moving to Garland, Texas in the eighth grade. Since the classical music world is notoriously competitive, both sets of parents showed concern that their young musicians might struggle for self-reliance. Thanks to encouraging teachers, their parents were reassured of their children’s prospects. Kara is now starting her 24th season with the DSO. Bradley earned the Artist Diploma from Yale University. The couple are grateful for the inspiring mentors they’ve had throughout their lives.
Day-to-day, the musician’s lives resemble most people’s — except more sonorous. A workday begins by taking their two children to school followed by hours of rehearsals for the weekend’s performances. Contrary to public perception, most weeks require preparation of new music rather than familiar pieces. The couple fill their home with beautiful sounds by listening to performances on repeat, reviewing sheet music and accustoming themselves to timing. At rehearsals, they practice harmonizing with other instruments and grasping the conductor’s vision. While the routine may seem monotonous, the variety and vibrancy of a life lived with music motivates the couple.
Recently, Bradley performed a concerto by American composer Samuel Barber called “Toccata Festiva.” Concertos allow Bradley the opportunity to display his individual skills and receive appreciation.
Kara anticipates the DSO’s 2024 spring performances of Richard Wagner’s “Ring Cycle.” The performances will feature “Das Rheingold” (“The Rhinegold”) and “Die Walküre” (“The Valkyrie”), the first two parts of a four-part epic sequence based on Germanic and Norse gods and heroes. Wagner’s masterpiece is regarded as one of the major musical accomplishments during the past two centuries. Whether it is highlighting personal talent or participating in legacies, the Welchs’ enthusiasm for music continues.
The privilege to perform moving pieces excites the couple and appearing internationally is also considered an honor.
In 2024, Kara will return to Europe for the fourth time, touring Spain, Germany and Austria. Her favorite international location to play is the Musikverein in Vienna, Austria. In the Musikverein’s Golden Hall, frescoes of Apollo, the Greek god of music, and the nine muses suspend above the performances. Kara said: “You could feel the first bass pizzicato vibrate the room. It filled the halls with the most beautiful round sound.” Locations associated with figures such as Mozart, Mahler and Schubert animate Kara’s heart for music, she said.
Bradley’s favorite memory of touring Europe occurred in France with Highland Park United Methodist. They performed in Chartres Cathedral and Notre-Dame, both superlative achievements of French Gothic architecture.
Bradley, accompanied by Kara, privately practiced in Chartres at night. He rehearsed until two in the morning, almost solitary in the historic cathedral. He said: “You think about how music has been bouncing off these walls for almost 1,000 years. It’s spiritual.” Everything in a cathedral points up — arches and spires — and even music itself was raised to a higher level of fulfillment, Bradley said.
Iconic music and spectacular venues aside, the Welchs fundamentally wish to share the power and beauty of music. In the spring of 2020, Bradley sought to stay engaged with audiences who were deprived of live concerts because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With Preston Hollow Presbyterian, he began a video series called “Preston Hollow Sessions,” where he interviewed and accompanied various artists — his wife included. Bradley believes this series was “healing and nourishing” for a society that was experiencing hardship.