Kenneth Mirkin, Viola

The New York Philharmonic

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Biography
Kenneth Mirkin

Violist Kenneth Mirkin often spends as much time working behind the scenes for the New York Philharmonic as he does on stage. A member of the Orchestra since 1982, he has served on every Contract Negotiating Committee since 1985 in addition to the Orchestra, Tour, Pension, and Healthcare Committees. Mr. Mirkin also enjoys teaching privately and coaching the viola sections of the New York Youth Symphony and Interschool Orchestras of New York. A recording artist, he performed Irwin Swack’s Duo for Violin and Viola with former Philharmonic violinist Oscar Ravina on a 1984 Orion Records release. Mr. Mirkin, a native New Yorker, is a graduate of The Juilliard School.

“I did a lot of silent practicing while watching television; I actually learned the technique of vibrato while watching ‘I Love Lucy.’”

Q&A with Kenneth Mirkin

The Facts: Born in Brooklyn. Bachelor’s and master of music degrees from The Juilliard School. Prior to the Philharmonic: San Francisco Symphony for one season. At the Philharmonic: Joined in 1982. Has served on most Contract Negotiating Committees since 1985, in addition to the Orchestra, Tour, Pension, and Healthcare committees. Teaches privately.

What’s your earliest musical memory? Going to Prospect Park during the very first season of the Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks in 1964. Benny Goodman played Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Seiji Ozawa conducted. It was the first concert I had ever heard.

What’s the first piece of music you fell in love with? Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. I listened to Jascha Heifetz’s recording of it over and over.

When did you know that you wanted to be a professional musician? I began studying the violin at age 12, and viola at 14. By 15 I had switched to viola — I was drawn to its warmer sound — and knew that I wanted to become a professional violist. My parents were horrified. They tried to discourage me from practicing so much — they were afraid I was going to starve. I did a lot of silent practicing while watching television; I actually learned the technique of vibrato while watching I Love Lucy.

What would you be if not a musician? A doctor or something in medicine

Which composer inspires you the most? Bach

What are you listening to right now? After my ten-year-old twin girls go to sleep, I like to listen to the Bach Goldberg Variations to decompress before I go to bed.

Who were your most important musical influences? My Juilliard teachers: former Philharmonic Principal Viola William Lincer and Lillian Fuchs

What is the most difficult aspect of the viola? Because of its size, holding it up for long periods of time — the injury rate is as high as it is for professional athletes. I used to have trouble with my back, but yoga, Alexander Technique, and lots of stretching has helped with that.

What kind of viola do you have? I play a wonderful modern viola made in New York by Guy Rabut. It sounds as good as almost any fine, older instrument, and costs a lot less than a New York City co-op!

Most memorable moments with the Philharmonic: Playing Mahler symphonies with Bernstein

What do you like to do outside of work? Spend time with my kids, and staying fit and healthy.

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