Marika Fischer Hoyt was a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra viola section for over 20 years until her passing in February 2023 following a courageous battle with cancer. She co-founded the Ancora String Quartet and the “Just Bach” series, and was a founding member of Madison Bach Musicians and Sonata à Quattro. She revived and led Madison’s Bach Around the Clock community music festival. She also performed with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and hosted classical music programming on WPR.

“Marika was a vibrant member of our viola section. Her love of music and her entrepreneurial skills inspired all of us,” says Music Director John DeMain. “She had such wonderful plans with her Bach group and, tragically, was prevented from seeing those plans fulfilled. We have and will continue to miss her greatly in the orchestra.”

Robin Ryan, violinist in the MSO, co-founder of the Ancora String Quartet, and longtime friend and musical colleague of Marika’s, shared these personal memories of Marika:

It was a joy to play chamber music with Marika. As a viola and second violin pair, we often served together to provide harmony and accompaniment or set tempos. She found great delight in accentuating a striking harmony or highlighting an interesting rhythm. She took just as much care to match bow strokes, vibrato, and intonation as she did to refine her viola solos. She loved blending the viola sound into the rich tones of the cello and creating the underpinning for soaring violin melodies. When it was the viola’s turn for a solo, she played with great expressiveness and a gorgeous, rich tone. This combination of beautiful solo playing, care for detail, and ability and willingness to blend made her such a wonderful chamber musician.

Part of what made Marika a wonderful musical collaborator was her complete support of fellow musicians. In a profession where musicians compete for seats in orchestra or solo opportunities, Marika didn’t dwell on comparisons. She exalted in fine performances by others.  Marika was game for playing most anything, as long as it was interesting. But she was not shy to share that her greatest passion was for Bach and Beethoven.

As I continue to play in Marika’s absence, I find an emerging legacy–her sheer joy in playing music with others stays with me. As the MSO played an excerpt from Beethoven’s Fidelio in our recent Beyond the Score® performance–a cello melody accompanied by viola–I couldn’t help but experience Marika’s joy.

If you are reading this article, you have benefitted in one way or another from Marika’s outstanding contributions to Madison’s musical community. Many other articles and tributes highlighting aspects of Marika’s entrepreneurial endeavors can be found by searching for her name online.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 8 at 2:00 p.m. at First Unitarian Meeting House in Madison, preceded by a musical prelude at 1:30 p.m.

Madison Symphony Orchestra members will perform a musical tribute to Marika at our April 14, 15, 16 “Dazzling Violin & Spring” concerts.

The musicians, board and staff of the Madison Symphony Orchestra extend our sincere sympathy to Marika Fischer Hoyt’s family.

Photo credit: Katrin Talbot