The Rife family has played music together as long as they can remember, but never have all four of them shared the stage in public.
On Saturday, Tucson Symphony Orchestra violinists Wynne Wong and David Rife and their cellist daughters Melissa, 28, and Molly, 25, will perform as the Rife Family Quartet for the 12th annual Academy for Cancer Wellness Music & Memories concert. TSO principal violist Ann Weaver will join them to perform the first movement of Franz Schubert’s Cello Quintet in C major.
“It’s an incredible piece of music. It’s glorious,” Wynne Wong Rife said. “We’ve never performed it as a family. We’ve read it as a family, but we decided to perform it as a family.”
Rife has played in the TSO’s second violin section since 1986, her husband since 1983. Oldest daughter Melissa started playing violin at 5 or 6 years old, but it didn’t quite work out for her.
“She expected that when she put the bow to the string it would sound like David because she was so used to hearing him practice,” her mother recalled. “When she put the bow to the string and it didn’t sound like him, she threw the violin down in disgust and said, ‘This thing doesn’t work’.”
At 7, she discovered the cello and never looked back.
Molly’s music life started with a book.
“She played a book with a knitting needle that she played for hours. She walked around the house with one of my knitting needles and would play it like a violin,” mom recalled, relishing the retelling of her daughters’ childhood musical adventures. “I thought that we would start her on violin because I played viola and we could have a quartet.”
That also didn’t work. By fifth grade, Molly had joined her sister on cello.
Melissa earned her cello performance degree from Indiana University and lives in Tucson. Molly earned her bachelor’s in cello performance from Arizona State University and a master’s degree from DePaul University in Chicago, where she continues to perform with several ensembles.
“They are amazing cellists and very accomplished, very easy to play with,” said their mother. “We usually play for fun. We are all just so in tune to each other. We never really have to say anything. We just kind of play together and it works out,” Rife said.
Saturday’s Music & Memories concert benefits the Academy for Cancer Wellness’s Under-Insured Cancer Patients Endowment Fund, which provides financial assistance to Southern Arizona musicians and other artists being treated for cancer.
The event includes a silent auction with items up for bid including instruments, artwork, trips and gift certificates for restaurants, golf and salon services. Former Wildcat and current Phoenix Suns player Channing Frye also autographed a basketball and the Arizona Diamondbacks have donated auction items.
Also performing Saturday TSO principal trombonist Michael Becker, principal tuba player David Morgan, bassoonist Jessica Campbell, violinist Anna Gendler, oboist Sara Fraker and saxophonist Derek Granger; pianists Shu ching Cheng and Chai Chung Ko; and the Powe Family.