March 15, 2010
Cellist Matt Haimovitz, 39, gained international fame by age 13. A few years later, he was making classical recordings and performing at Carnegie Hall.
This afternoon, he will perform a concert here with some close colleagues to benefit the Kansas City String Quartet Program, which for 17 years has nurtured local young musicians seeking excellence in classical music.
And if anyone knows how tough and competitive that quest can be, it is Haimovitz, who teaches cello at McGill University in Montreal and coaches chamber musicians.
“I would not want to be one of these kids right now trying to get into these schools like Juilliard or Colburn,” Haimovitz said during a telephone interview from New York.
“It’s just getting so competitive,” he said. “The level of talent is so high. But I’m incredibly encouraged by the level of string playing I’m seeing. And the students who get into this, it’s like they can’t live without it. They are trying to aspire, and they’re completely self-aware and open to what’s going on in the world, the challenges they are facing, the economy, etc.”
Haimovitz also planned to work with young cellists this weekend in a master class, which is part of the string quartet program. Today’s “It’s a String Thing” concert is at 3 p.m. at Pembroke Hill’s Centennial Hall Performing Arts Center.
Haimovitz will be accompanied by two members of the string quartet program faculty, his long-time duet partner, violinist Andy Simionescu, and violinist Elizabeth Suh Lane, the program’s artistic director and head of faculty for the past decade. They will be joined by their friend Nokuthula Ngwenyama, an internationally acclaimed violist who will be making her Kansas City debut.
Chris Kline, co-president of the string quartet board, said the program has flourished because of its mission to expose young musicians to excellence. The program focuses on the cooperative study and performance of chamber music. Each summer, it brings faculty from orchestras and universities throughout the nation to the Pembroke Hill campus to teach local teenage violinists, violists and cellists.
Suh Lane’s and the program’s stellar reputations attract internationally renowned musicians such as Haimovitz to participate, and many others come each summer to teach at the camps.
“The students must audition for these camps,” Kline said. “They must learn to play together, and they learn a tremendous amount of self-control, teamwork, leadership and how to present themselves professionally and gracefully as musicians to their teachers and to the outside.”
“It’s all about exposing these kids to highly renowned, passionate musicians,” Kline said. “The fact that Matt is coming from Montreal is a huge plus. And he’s great with kids. It’s a lot of fun for everyone.”
Looking at his own 15 students, Haimovitz said, he was impressed by their range of interests. Some want to be in orchestras, some want to be in string quartets, and others want to learn about the technology of music, work with composers and even make new instruments.
Haimovitz also is encouraged that many young musicians are more flexible. For example, they might choose a career in jazz or bluegrass instead of classical music.
Haimovitz is well known for his wide-ranging repertoire. Among his best-known interpretations of contemporary music are his howling solo cello version of the Jimi Hendrix electric guitar rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and his take on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” arranged as a quartet for four cellos.
When he came through Kansas City two summers ago, he played at the Brick, a downtown bar and grill better known as a venue for indie, alternative rock.
“There’s a renaissance of imagination and enthusiasm with young musicians these days,” he said. “And fortunately, there’s no lack of talent out there either.”
By Ann Spivak
View article at The Kansas City Star