Renaissance Woman: Meet Maricopa’s violist, author, agriculturalist

Laura Olivieri plays viola and transcribes music for Maricopa Music Circle chamber orchestra. [Kyle Norby]

: Maricopa Music Circle Holiday Musicale
When: Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: University of Arizona – Maricopa Agricultural Center, 37530 W. Smith-Enke Road
How much: $12 at the door ($5 children under 12) cash or check
Preorders and info:, 520-316-6268[/quote_box_right]She plays, she writes, she studies grain crops. Laura Olivieri has talents in many fields. Dec. 14, she will be among the musicians of the Maricopa Music Circle ensemble and Maricopa Chorus performing the annual Holiday Musicale.

MMC is scheduled to play perennial favorites like Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” a ragtime version of “Jingle Bells” and Mark Lowry’s “Mary, Did You Know?” Maricopa Chorus, led by Don Raflik, will join the ensemble with traditional carols, and audience members will be invited to join a sing-along of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from “Messiah.”

“Violists, like bassoonists, are relatively rare,” MMC co-founder Judith Zaimont said. “So, it’s especially nice that our city’s chamber orchestra has Laura in our ever-changing mix.”

A published author, Olivieri not only plays viola for MMC but has also transcribed and arranged music for the ensemble, notably their popular medley of music from Star Wars. She also designed the poster and handbills for the program.

What to know about Laura Olivieri

Hometown: Muskegon, Michigan
Maricopan since: 1998
Family: I live with my wonderful 19-year-old son Chayton and my best friend Kathy West. My parents, Pat and Gil Line, visit Maricopa often during the winter. My brother’s family, Steve and Ashley Ochs and my niece and nephews come from the Northwest Valley for concerts, farm days and holidays.
Education: Associates of Arts in biology, Muskegon Community College
Profession: Research technician in plant ecophysiology for the USDA at the Maricopa Agricultural Center for 27 years. “We have studied many different crops, but mainly cereal grains like wheat and barley and their responses to changing environmental conditions. Right now, our project studies how four different grain crops respond to increased temperatures. Understanding changes in physiology, grain yield and biomass helps address global food security issues. It’s about feeding people now and in the future.”

  • Photo by Kyle Norby

    I’ve been with Maricopa Music Circle since 2012 and have been honored to work with such a wonderful group of talented professionals.  Everyone is so dedicated and inspirational.  They really encourage individual growth and arts-forward community spirit.

  • For performance purposes, I only play viola. But I tinker with other stringed instruments: guitar, piano and bass and will even try a wind or brass instrument, if its owner will let me.
  • I started playing in fifth grade – 11 years old. I saw that viola in music class, and I was hooked!
  • I think music is a form of universal expression for people and holds a lot of emotion and memories. It can be soothing, invigorating, romantic or even angry. Think about it. If you hear a song you love that you haven’t heard in many years, it takes you right back to that time. Even if you’re not really into a particular genre, it can remind you of someplace you were or someone you love.
  • I love classical, 1920s-1940s Big Band, jazz and I’m a ‘70s-‘80s baby, so classic rock is great too. My son and I always played a game when taking road trips in the car called “Mom, the human jukebox.” We’d listen to the classic rock station and see how fast I can come up with the title, band name and year of each song. It always blew his mind that I know most of them.
  • I really enjoyed playing Mozart’s duos for violin and viola; the counterpoint is so mathematical, and the viola part is rich and challenging. I’ve also enjoyed Shostakovich, Debussy, modern movie themes like Star Wars, and mid-20th century arrangements for MMC like La Vie en Rose, Moon River and Diga Doo.
  • As a teen, I played at Interlochen Fine Arts camp in the summers, and that was really fun. Locally, we’ve played at many churches, The Black Box Theatre and finally the main stage at the high school’s Performing Arts Center for ArtsFest Maricopa this fall. But for several years, MMC has been performing at the University of Arizona’s Maricopa Agricultural Center. It’s a cozy and relaxed atmosphere with a lot of Maricopa history. I hope everyone will come see us with Maricopa Chorus in December.
  • I started writing poetry and short stories in high school. I find that writing helps process feelings, aspirations and dreams. Performance poetry, like Maricopa’s poetry slams, really helps people relate to each other and can be very dynamic and fun. Most of the poems I’ve written recently speak to the challenges of being a busy single parent, the obstacles of life and love, and even some funny memories. I’ve also published a children’s book to help young children who have lost a loved one. I wrote it to help my son, who lost his father when he was 3 years old. It’s called “Where Are You? A Child’s Book About Loss.” It’s hard for a parent to know how to help little ones who are grieving. I’m really proud of this work and am glad to see it being used to help other children.
  • I’ve been coming down to Maricopa Agricultural Center’s research farm since 1992, when 347 was a two-lane road and Maricopa had only about 1,200 residents.

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Kyle Norby
Photo by Kyle Norby