jennifer koh tackles 10 questions

jennifer koh is coming to town this sunday and monday to accomplish something that doesn’t happen very often.  she’s going to play not one, but two pieces of music for orchestra and soloist: a violin concerto by american samuel barber and a 2-movement rhapsody by hungarian béla bartók.  she still found time to answer the beaver’s questions… much thanks to jennifer!

how would you describe the violin concerto you’re going to play?

I think I would describe it to anyone as a beautiful and passionate piece with a very fast ending!

how come the violin is so awesome?

I love the flexibility and expressive range of the violin.  And I love the fact that composers are continuing to find ways to expand that range!

what’s so great about experiencing classical music live?

Concerts have an incredible ability to bring people together in a single moment.  Music consists of sound which disappears in less than a millisecond and in a live concert, one can feel the focus and energy of a group of people listening and breathing and existing together in a single moment of sound.

beautifully put!  hey, our band recently performed jennifer higdon’s percussion concerto.  she also composed the singing rooms for you – what was that collaboration like?

Jennifer Higdon has written two pieces for me – String Poetic for violin and piano AND The Singing Rooms!  I loved String Poetic and asked her if she would be interested in a crazy project.  I have always been amazed by large scale works like [Arnold Schoenberg’s] Gurre-Lieder and [Olivier Messiaen’s] Turangalila and I wanted to explore the world of text and voice and orchestra with a solo violin. She was game to write in a totally new medium and Singing Rooms came into being!

sounds very sweet.  if i were to buy you a drink, what would you order?

Single malt Scotch – Lagavulin to be specific!

hey – that’s my answer!  besides scotch, any particular preparations or rituals before a concert?

I drink a lot of water.  People who have witnessed it backstage search for a hump on my back to check if I’m storing it anywhere.  I think a couple stagehands actually nicknamed me “The Camel”!

wasn’t that a nickname for one of haydn’s symphonies as well?  maybe i’m mistaken.  well, as an ohioist, i have to ask: what do you miss most about oberlin college?

My time at Oberlin was about existing in a space where every moment was about learning and experience.  I majored in English Literature and became absolutely immersed in my studies.  I completely immerse myself in music now and I feel fortunate to be a musician because every day is always about learning and discovery but I do miss the days of total immersion in books!

you were an english lit major?!  wow, and i thought that was going to be a throwaway question.  fascinating.  now i really want to hear the singing rooms!  alright, let’s see… could you talk a bit about music messenger?

Music has changed my life to the point that I cannot imagine my life without it.  I was very lucky my parents happened to think music could be an interesting hobby for me.  The only reason I am currently a violinist is because that was the only instrument that had an opening at our local music school.  I truly believe that any child that comes into this world should have the opportunity to at least experience music live and in a tactile way.  I first created Music Messenger so that I could reach out to kids in schools without music programs but it eventually expanded to any and all schools that requested the program!  I coordinate with local presenters in the different cities and communities I perform.

very cool – thank you for doing that work.  anything excite you in the world of pop music these days?

I am excited by good music in any form – classical, jazz, rock.  I’m currently obsessed with Bill Frisell and Zakir Hussain but I don’t think they’re considered pop…. I also really love Radiohead.  Are they considered pop?

sure, i’ll give it to you.  so, what’s it like playing with coach kalmar?

I love playing with Carlos, although we haven’t played together in Portland the last couple times I’ve been there.  I am looking forward to our other collaborations together this coming year!

shoot – looks like you’re not with maestro carlos this time ‘round either.  but you know who you are playing with…

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1 Response to “jennifer koh tackles 10 questions”


  1. 1 Jane Lund February 21, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    I was an English major, too…and I play the violin, but it didn’t get me a professional career..that must have been tricky for you at Oberlin. When did you really get professional and launch your career in music? Nice that you like single malts…I have a 30 year old Cabernet Sauvignon, tho’…it’s not bad! When you are in Bellingham, let me know if you want to try it! I will be in the second violins, trying to keep up. I took up the violin because we had a trombone and a violin at home and the music teacher thought it was better “for a girl”…but I don’t regret it. Have you done any crealtive writing? Poetry? Do you have time for hobbies? If so, what are they…I suppose the sort you can take with you on travels and enjoy for a change of pace. We have a signed recording of Itzak Perlman playing Joplin..have you hears it? I love the fact that classical musicians are so versatile…yes! I will see/hear you in Bellingham…I’m the old lady (85) in the back of the seconds…lucklily, Roger Briggs blocks my “fans” from editing my playing! Jane


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