Student at the piano

Phillip Serna

Phillip Serna

Phillip Serna Adjunct Instructor of Music – Bass 219.464.5274 VUCA


Phillip W. Serna is instructor of double bass and viola da gamba at Valparaiso University. He maintains an active teaching studio in the greater Chicago area and is also director of the Music Institute of Chicago Early Music Department’s viola da gamba education and outreach program ‘Viols in Our Schools.’ For his work through ‘Viols in Our Schools’, Professor Serna received the 2010 Early Music America Outreach Award, which honors ensembles or individual artists for excellence in early music outreach and educational projects for children or adults. To find out more about his educational outreach activities, please visit Professor Serna is an in-demand adjudicator and clinician in the Midwest on double bass and viola da gamba and has appeared as double bass faculty at the Chicago Bass Festival, the Butler Midwest Bass Day, and the Whitewater Winter Bassfest as well as viola da gamba faculty at the VdGS Third Coast Memorial Day Workshop, the Whitewater Early Music Festival, the Music on the Mountain Winter Workshop, and at the Viola da Gamba Society of America’s Summer Conclave.

Professor Serna is an active and enthusiastic performer of early music as well as the contemporary, solo, orchestral, and chamber repertoires. He earned his bachelor of music studying with San Francisco Symphony member Stephen Tramontozzi at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 1998. He later completed his master of music and doctor of music at Northwestern University School of Music in 2001 and 2007, respectively. At Northwestern University, he studied double bass with Chicago Symphony Orchestra member Michael Hovnanian and international soloist DaXun Zhang. Additionally, he studied viola da gamba with Newberry Consort founder Mary Springfels. His doctoral project, “Original Crossover? Popular Ballad-Tunes as Art-Music for Viols in Seventeenth-Century England,” focused on solo and ensemble settings of ballad-tunes for viola da gamba as well as lyra viol transcriptions for double bass.

On double bass, Professor Serna has performed under the baton of conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Christoph Eschenbach, Neeme Jarvi, and David Robertson as a member of Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He has performed with other orchestras, including the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Illinois Symphony Orchestra, New Philharmonic Orchestra, Northbrook Symphony Orchestra, the Northshore Camerata, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and Memphis Symphony Orchestra, among others. In his role as an early music specialist, Professor Serna regularly performs on violas da gamba (treble, tenor, and bass viol), period double bass/violone, and vielle with modern orchestras such as the Fort Wayne Philharmonic as well as with period instrument ensembles as Ars Antigua, the Chicago Early Music Consort, Duo fantaisie en Echo, the Madison Bach Musicians, the Newberry Consort, the Oriana Singers, the Second City Musick, the Spirit of Gambo – a Chicago Consort of Viols, the Third Coast Viols, and many others. In performance, Phillip has appeared on Chicago’s 98.7FM WFMT, Wisconsin Public Radio, and Milwaukee Public Radio. Additionally, Professor Serna was a recipient of a Viola da Gamba Society of America Grant-in-Aid to Young Artists and a featured soloist at the Gamba Gamut, a concert hosted by the Viola da Gamba Society of America at the 2007 Boston Early Music Festival. In 2007, Professor Serna’s article on classroom outreach advocacy, “Early Strings in the Classroom/Introducing Students to Renaissance and Baroque String Repertoire on Period,” was published in the American String Teachers Association String Teacher’s Cookbook – Creative Recipes for a Successful Program. He has contributed articles to Bass World magazine, the American String Teacher, Illinois ASTA’s the Scroll, and is an active contributor to the Arts Addict Blog, the Contrabass Conversations podcast, and the online bass resource In early music publications, Professor Serna is outreach editor for the Viola da Gamba News, where he has edited and written numerous articles, and has contributed to Early Music America magazine. An active podcaster in his own right, he produces the GambaCast podcast, bringing high-quality performances of music for viols to the larger internet community.

Professor Serna is a member of the International Society of Bassists (ISB), the American String Teachers Association (ASTA), Early Music America (EMA), the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music (SSCM) and is president of the Viola da Gamba Society Third Coast, the Chicago chapter of the Viola da Gamba Society of America (VdGSA). He lives in Plainfield, Ill. with his best friend and wife, Magdalena, along with their daughter, Natalia.