Michelle Lackey Collins

Hometown: South Bend, Indiana
Member of the Nashville Symphony since 1994

What do you like best about playing viola?
I love playing the harmony, and I love being in the middle of the orchestra and hearing everything surrounding me.

How do you define the viola's role in the orchestra?
It's one of those intangible things — if you didn't have the violas, you'd miss them; and when you do have the violas, they complete the sound of the orchestra. The timbre of the instrument is warm, and it rounds out the lower and the higher sounds of the other strings, so we blend really well. We've gotten used to not being the stars, and we're OK with that. Which means that when we do get a moment to shine, we can really belt it out.

Who has had the greatest influence on you as a musician?
My parents. They taught me how to love music, and when they saw that I was serious about pursuing it, they were very clear about the realities of what it would take to get a job.