At age 36, violinist Alexander Kerr assumed the endowed Linda and Jack Gill Chair in music as professor of violin at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, becoming the string department's youngest violin professor. Kerr added to his accolades this fall when he filled the newly-created position of Principal Guest Concertmaster with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (ISO).
Kerr, who previously performed as guest concertmaster with the ISO, will share duties with Concertmaster Zach De Pue and will appear about six times during the 2007-2008 season.
Kerr continues to teach and perform at the IU Jacobs School of Music, balancing his orchestral and teaching career with solo and chamber engagements throughout Europe, North America and the Far East.
In 1996, at the age of 26, he was appointed concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, a position he left to join the faculty at IU. He has also been concertmaster of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.
Kerr has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras throughout the United States and Europe and as a chamber musician at some of the world's premier music festivals. As a chamber musician, he has collaborated with a number of the world's top musicians, including Grammy Award-winning musicians Joshua Bell and Edgar Meyer. He recently toured Europe with acclaimed violinist Sarah Chang and members of the Berlin Philharmonic. He also has launched a new piano trio with pianist Anton Nel and cellist Paul Watkins.
A faculty member of the Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado, Kerr also regularly presents master classes at several of the nation's leading music schools and conservatories.
Kerr sat down with Live at IU to discuss his new role with the ISO. To view the video interview with Kerr, click here.
Q: What role does a concertmaster play in an orchestra?
A: The concertmaster of an orchestra has several roles. First and foremost he is the leader of the string section. He/she organizes the bowing style of the group and helps to convey the rhythmic impulses given by the conductor through his own physical gestures. The concertmaster is also a liason between the other sections of the orchestra and the string group and between the entire orchestra and the conductor.
Q: How does your experience as a soloist complement your role as concertmaster?
A: I think that having experience as a soloist has two positive effects on my work as a concertmaster. The difficulty of the repertoire definitely keeps my technique at a high level and the pressure helps with any nerves I might have while performing in the chair.
Q: Is the new role you have with the ISO unique among orchestras in the U.S.?
A: My new position with the ISO is, as far as I know, unprecedented. The Chicago Symphony has employed two concertmasters for many years, as do many of the European orchestras, but there has never been a Principal Guest Concertmaster anywhere to my knowledge.
Q: You were only 26 when you were appointed concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. How does a violinist train to become a concertmaster?
A: Training to be a concertmaster is an interesting journey. One must hone their violinistic abilities to the highest possible level, learn as much as they can of the standard repertoire and its difficulties, and play as much chamber music as possible (the closest thing to orchestral collaboration). It is also a good idea to get as much advice about the job from trusted and experienced colleagues. That being said, nothing prepares you for certain elements of the position other than just sitting in the chair and getting used to it. Your personality simply has to adapt to its new surroundings!
Q: You joined the Jacobs School of Music in 2005. Could you please comment on your experience teaching there over the past two years?
A: Teaching at the JSOM has been a joy. I have a wonderful class, experienced and insightful colleagues and a boss (Dean Gwyn Richards) that I respect without any reservation. Bloomington is a great place for my family, and I relish the amount of time I now can spend with them in this beautiful environment.