The New York Philharmonic

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Violist Vivek Kamath has been a member of the New York Philharmonic since 1997. Growing up in Rochester, New York, he was a student of Lynn Blakeslee in the preparatory department of the Eastman School of Music.

He attended the Cleveland Institute of Music, studying violin under Donald Weilerstein and David Updegraff, where he won the Darius Milhaud Performance Prize. While a student in Cleveland, he also began learning to play the viola under the tutelage of Kirsten Docter. He later attended The Juilliard School, where he studied under Karen Tuttle.

As soloist, Kamath has appeared with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra, The Amarillo Symphony, and other orchestras in New York State. He was a top prize-winner in several prestigious competitions, including the Washington International String Competition and the Irving M. Klein International String Competition.

A seasoned chamber music player, Kamath has performed at many festivals, including Marlboro, Bridgehampton, Ravinia, Arcady, Sun Valley, Sarasota, Kent Blossom, and Bowdoin. In New York, he has given performances with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Bargemusic, New York Philharmonic Ensembles, and has participated in many benefit concerts. 

He resides in New Jersey with his wife and dogs.

“When I was about four, a little girl I knew played “Twinkle, Twinkle” on the violin. Immediately I wanted to play the violin, too. In college I played the violin and the viola, but I gave up the violin — I liked the viola sound better.”

Q&A with Vivek Kamath

THE FACTS: Born in Rochester, New York, of Indian parentage. Bachelor’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, studying violin with Donald Weilerstein; subsequent studies at The Juilliard School with Karen Tuttle. At the Philharmonic: Joined January 1998. Most recent recording: a demo with Sting.

EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY: When I was about four, a little girl I knew played Twinkle, Twinkle on the violin. I immediately wanted to play the violin too. I started at six. In college I played the violin and the viola, but at Juilliard I gave up the violin — I liked the viola sound better. It has a lot of warmth, richness, and depth. My most important musical influence was Mr. Weilerstein, my teacher in Cleveland.

WERE YOU INVOLVED IN ANY EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES IN HIGH SCHOOL? I was in the Model U.N., youth orchestras, and on the school tennis team and student council.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WANTED TO BE A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN? When I was 15 or 16; I realized it was the most important thing to me. I was lucky that my parents were supportive. There are not that many Indians in the U.S. in Western classical music.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING A MUSICIAN? You’re always learning, seeing, and feeling different things in the music.

WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT ASPECT OF YOUR INSTRUMENT? Figuring out how to bring out the viola’s inner voice with life and creativity

WHAT KIND OF VIOLA DO YOU HAVE? I play a lovely viola made by J.B. Vuillaume in 1840, with a contemporary bow by New York’s own superstar bow maker Isaac Salchow.

HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR MUSIC-MAKING FRESH? I listen to a lot of music and go to concerts. I especially like recordings of pianists.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS WITH THE ORCHESTRA: Any time we play a Mahler symphony. I also remember Murray Perahia playing Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, and I’ve enjoyed hearing Yefim Bronfman’s performances with the Orchestra over the years.

WHAT KINDS OF BOOKS DO YOU LIKE TO READ? Lately, political books and fiction

ARE THERE ANY MUSICIANS IN YOUR FAMILY? No, but my sister (now a doctor) played both violin and piano quite seriously when we were younger.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF WORK? Going to movies and nice restaurants, playing tennis and poker, studying martial arts, and spending time with close friends

As of May 2018

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