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The More You Know… with Guest Conductor Kevin Hekmatpanah!

The More You Know will introduce you to members of our orchestra. Meet the conductor for our December Holiday Concert, Music from Germany Dec. 2nd at 7:30pm and Dec. 3rd at 2:00pm- Kevin Hekmatpanah!



How long have you been in music and what made you choose the cello?

I have been a musician as long as I can remember. When I was in the third grade, we got to pick an instrument. There were posters of all the string instruments on the wall, but at that age, most kids have only heard of the violin. We went around the room choosing an instrument. Each kid, one after the next said, “Violin, violin, violin, violin…” I just wanted to say a different word, so I said, “Cello!” It was the most random moment in a child’s day, but somehow that one second determined the rest of my life. I just played in the school orchestra for a couple of years, and then for no particular reason, I practiced four days in a row. My dad said, “We should get that boy some lessons.” That’s what started it all. I had a marvelous first teacher. She instilled in me a passion for music and learning. I think in some ways the student’s first teacher is the most important. If the first teacher doesn’t do everything just right – there probably won’t be a second teacher.


When did you decide to pursue conducting?

I took conducting classes when I was in college. It was interesting, but I didn’t really have a particular bond with it. Then in 1992 I got my first college teaching job at a state school in Tennessee. They needed a conductor for the school orchestra, and the department chair said, “Hey, let’s get the new guy to do it!” Somehow, at that moment, I got completely hooked. I was fascinated with every aspect of the whole process. There is such a vast depth of great orchestral music. I feel that the more I study, the more I realize how much more there is to learn.


When you’re not doing music, what would we mostly likely find you doing?

That is a really hard question to answer without sounding like a total music-aholic! For me, being a musician is not really “something I do,” but rather “who I am.” It is so central to my identity that, on some level, it occupies all of my activities and thoughts. A number of years ago, I bought an historic home that is a fixer-upper. It is a real diamond-in-the-rough. I would say I spend much of my non-musical time trying to restore and renovate it. My hope is that when it is done, I can present recitals and house-concerts there. So – you see, we are back to the initial premise that I’m a music-aholic!!


Which piece do you enjoy conducting the most on the December concert and why?

It is an honor for me to conduct the Second Symphony of Brahms; one of the all-time great masterpieces of classical music. His music touches my soul in a way that no other composer does. It immediately overwhelms me with its power and tenderness; its warmth and intellectual rigor; its energetic drive and its humanity. Some may think that the Brahms is at odds with the Christmas theme of the rest of the program. But if one gets past the superficial aspects of the festivities, what makes the holidays feel so special is to spend time with those closest to you and allow those deeper emotions to permeate your thoughts. Being able to conduct the Brahms with the Coeur d’Alene Symphony has given me the opportunity to reflect on those emotions. The musicians are enormously skilled. There is an elasticity of music-making and a true sense of collaboration.


If you could have dinner with one composer or musician (living or not), who would it be and why?

That is really difficult to narrow it down to one. On the one hand, to sit down with Beethoven or Bach and try to get inside their heads would be an incredible opportunity. But I would have to say, that it would be even more fascinating to sit down with Mozart or Schubert. There is so much mystery in their genius. They both died so young and so poor. The world was deprived of the gifts they could have provided if they had lived longer. How would their music have developed if they lived a long and full life? They both died without the slightest awareness of the impact they would have on the world. I would love to at least be able to offer them that knowledge.

What is something the audience would be surprised to learn about you?

Wow – these are hard questions! People are usually surprised when I tell them that although I teach at Gonzaga, I’ve never been to a basketball game…especially since I could get into the games for free!

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