Chicago Philharmonic Principal Percussionist Joel Cohen

Joel CohenQ. What inspired you to pursue music as a career?

A. I have always been drawn to musical instruments. I started piano lessons when I was 5, even though we couldn’t afford to buy one. The big event that got me hooked on music was watching the Beatles appear on Ed Sullivan in 1964. Ringo at the drums really fascinated me, and thus another percussionist was born. As a teen, the recording “Switched On Bach” by Wendy Carlos got me paying attention to the “classical” side of music. I pretty much wore out that recording. Those works are still some of my favorites.

Q. What do you like most about the CPO’s ensemble approach to creating music?

A. Music in a concert hall is, of course, always great, but the intimacy of having an ensemble in an smaller setting is so exciting. You can really feel the contact with the audience, and the audience gets a different, perhaps more personal experience. And for people who are not always able to attend a concert, bringing the music to them is a unique opportunity.

Q. What new endeavors would you like to see the CPO pursue in the future?
A. I think the chance to perform at schools, especially in areas where live music is unavailable, is something worth looking into. I can still remember a concert that was performed by a professional group at my grade school, and I think that kind of event should happen more often.

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