Eva-Charlotte Roslin: Dialogue with an Adventist conductor from Sweden

She is young. She is beautiful. And she is a gifted musician. Thousands of Adventists stood entranced as she played her violin for two lunch-hour concerts at the General Conference Session in St. Louis. Eva-Charlotte Roslin is Sweden’s youngest qualified female conductor. She is also an accomplished violinist, with a master’s degree in the field. In addition, she serves as the music director for the Swedish Union of Seventh-day Adventists.

Eva-Charlotte was born in the small Swedish town of Grenna. Although she has just one younger brother, she feels she grew up in a large family surrounded with love. “I have five cousins of my own age,” says Eva-Charlotte. “As we grew up in Grenna, we lived near each other, went to the same school, worshipped in the same church with our parents, and did many things together. We had lots of fun. There was always something going on.” Such an atmosphere gave Eva a sense of security and a feeling that she could grow up and achieve her goals in life. At 15 she left the little town to follow her dream of becoming a conductor. Her immediate and extended family provided the support she needed. “With that and God’s grace,” says Eva-Charlotte, “I completed a B.A. in conducting and went on to complete the master’s degree in violin.”

Eva recently released two compact disks: one to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Adventist Church in Sweden, and another with her Grenna family and friends, singing some of their favorite Christimas songs.

Dialogue interviewed her during a break in her busy program.

Do you come from a family talented in music?

You can say that music is in my genes. My maternal grandfather’s grandfather was a famous folk musician or fiddler in Dalarna. We even have a popular folk song named after him— Carl Herman and I—the Carl Herman being my great, great, great grandfather. My parents are interested in music, both sing in a local choir, and Mom plays the piano, but that is about all.

How did you become interested in music?

It all started when I was four. Tamira Johansson, one of my friends from church, wanted to learn the violin using the Suzuki method. I have no idea why she decided that she was going to learn using that method, but soon her mother discovered that the only way was to have a teacher come from a near-by town and teach a group. As a result, all the children from church met at my uncle’s home for violin lessons.

The Suzuki method teaches students first to play by experimenting with the instrument, listening to the teacher and to tapes, and playing by ear. It is only later that you learn the theory and begin to read music.

My mother is highly motivated and believes that if something is worth doing it is worth doing well. She took time to spend an hour a day with me to help me practice my violin. At the same time I began to learn the piano, and once again mother was there by my side.

When did you decide you wanted to be a conductor?

When I was nine I wrote a school essay, “When I grow up I want to be a conductor.” That was my dream, but I also dreamt of being an architect or a lawyer. The turning point came when I was eleven—something clicked and I no longer needed my mother’s encouragement to practice. I was sufficiently motivated to practice a minimum of two hours a day by myself. I could see the rewards and became fully focused on music.

At 14 I began to take lessons from a Hungarian professor in Örebro. Again my mother supported me by driving the 340 km round-trip every Sunday. Before this teacher would accept me as a pupil, he wanted my promise that I would apply to music college. As a result, when I finished junior high school I applied to music college in Gothenburg and Stockholm, even though I was three years too young and had not yet completed high school. To my delight, I was accepted in both places and as a 15-year-old started attending the Royal University College of Music in Stockholm.

How did you qualify to be a conductor?

I spent seven years at the Royal University College of Music: four years taking a master’s in violin and three years taking my B.A. in conducting. They were challenging years. There were not enough practice rooms at the school, so I used to get up at 5:15 every day to be at the college by 7:00 when it opened. Between 1999 and 2002 I spent the summers in St. Petersburg taking conducting classes, and then in 2002 I spent six months studying conducting in Vienna.

Do you travel much?

My study involved travel to Vienna and St. Petersburg. In addition, I traveled to many places in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark. I also spent time in Belgrade and Montenegro, in the former Yugoslavia, as part of the World Peace Orchestra. There we played with musicians from all sides of the conflict.

I also lead a string quartet, which I formed with three friends—The Grand Quartet. It got its name because we formed it initially when we worked as house musicians at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm as a way of supplementing our income while we studied. When we visited Belgrade we were invited to perform on television.

A few months ago, I attended the General Conference Session in St. Louis where I played in the orchestra, performed at two of the lunchtime concerts and also in the main auditorium. It was a privilege to be able to play with so many other Adventists and contribute to the worship.

What are the greatest challenges you face in your work?

A conductor must get the whole orchestra to buy into his or her idea of how a particular composition should be played. To meld the musicians into a cohesive group where each one feels valued for their contribution, but also recognize that they are interdependent—that’s the challenge. Often it is hard work, but when you see the result at the end of a performance it is worth all the effort.

I measure the success of any performance by whether we were able to make the public lose themselves in the music. To forget the outside world and just live for the performance.

Do you have any opportunities to witness in your work?

Everyone has opportunities to witness all the time. The question is whether we are open to grasp those opportunities. Generally, conductors are viewed as arrogant people and difficult to get along with. By not living up to the stereotype and by being sympathetic and open I have many chances of witnessing to people I work with.

You conduct a very special choir. Can you say something about it?

The Grenna Singers is celebrating its 25th anniversary. I have been involved in this musical group from the start, from the time I was old enough to sing. Essentially, it is made up of my extended family. It was formed to sing at evangelistic meetings and other church events. There are three generations of singers, and the few who are not relatives of our family members who sing are members of the church family in Grenna. I have known them all my life and they feel like family. We have just recorded our first compact disk, The Joy of Christmas. I have spent the last few weeks closeted in the editing studio working on this project, and the disk will soon be ready for release. We also have a series of concerts planned to run up to Christmas. This is a tangible way to witness and at the same time seek support for ADRA.

Who are your role models?

My earliest role model was my mother. Without her encouragement and dedication I would not be where I am today. The other is Herbert Blomstedt. As an Adventist conductor, he has been an inspiration, proving that it is possible to be an Adventist and a world renowned conductor. He has also taken an interest in me personally, inviting me to visit him in Switzerland and allowing me to sit in on some of his rehearsals with the Leipzig Orchestra.

What would you like to say to Dialogue readers?

My motto is “You become what you think!” I believe in miracles. I would encourage all Dialogue readers to think big, reach for the skies, and be open to let God use you. Then you will see miracles in your life and in the lives of those around you.

Audrey Andersson is the executive secretary and the communication director of the Swedish Union of Seventh-day Adventists, Stockholm. Her email address: audrey.andersson@adventist.se.

Eva-Charlotte Roslin has a website: www.evacharlotteroslin.com. Her email address: evacharlotte@mail.com.