The ItC Interview: Concertmaster Erin Keefe
17 Nov 2011
Inside the Classics

Back at the beginning of this fall, I promised to sit down with our newly named concertmaster, Erin Keefe, and have a conversation about who she is and how she came to be here with us. This week, Erin’s work schedule and mine had finally settled down long enough to allow us to get together and chat at her apartment in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood. I’ve broken the conversation up into three easily digestible chunks, and though we tried to avoid using too much music biz lingo, I’m including a little glossary below the audio player of anything we didn’t adequately explain in the moment.

As I mentioned back when I first wrote about Erin getting the job, the two of us have a long, long history – like half our lives long – which made it almost impossible to start the conversation on anything like a formal note…

If you can’t see the audio player, click here to listen…


Smith – Smith College, a much-admired women’s college located in Northampton, MA

Suzuki – A method devised by Dr. Shin’ichi Suzuki in the post-WWII era to teach instrumental music to children, even children too young to read music. The method has spread around the world, and countless professional musicians, present company included, got their start with Suzuki teachers.

Marlboro – A legendary summer music festival in southern Vermont, founded by pianist Rudolf Serkin and today headed by pianists Richard Goode and Mitsuko Uchida.

SPCO – This acronym obviously needs no deciphering for Minnesotans, but for those readers/listeners based elsewhere, this is the wonderful St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

The second part of our conversation begins with Erin recapping her first few weeks on the job, and offering her first impressions of the orchestra, as well as her initial thoughts on how she’d like to hear our collective sound develop…

If you can’t see the audio player, click here to listen…

Finally, we finished up the interview with a few quick hit questions about concert halls, composers, and a certain summer camp…

If you can’t see the audio player, click here to listen…


The Brahms Festival that Erin refers to is coming up this January, and at the risk of seeming as if she and I are both sucking up to our programming department, she’s right. Brahms is just about the best thing ever.

Greenwood – a small, low-pressure chamber music camp in Western Massachusetts that I’ve written about ad nauseum, and the mere mention of which causes at least one other member of the MN Orch viola section to plug her ears and begin shouting “BANNED!” (Not that this stops those of us who went there from continuing to talk about it.)

“I can’t tell the story I would love to tell…”Nope, she can’t. That story will never be told on this blog. Period. Suffice to say that neither Erin nor I comes out of that story looking particularly good, but I come off considerably worse. If you want to hear it, you’ll just have to buy her a drink someday.

The Mendelssohn Octet – Perfect in every way. Don’t believe us? Listen…

This is not Erin. But it’s the Sydney Camerata, and they’re pretty great.

So there you have it: Erin Keefe, live and unscripted. My thanks to Erin and her husband, cellist Andrey Tchekmazov, for allowing me to invade their home with microphones, and for the wonderful dinner they cooked me afterwards! If there’s anything else you’d like to ask Erin, post it in the comments, and I’ll try to follow up…

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