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Special Reports

Where Are They Now?
Cellist/Composer Joshua Roman

June 5, 2018 | By Janelle Gelfand

New Artist of the Month: August 2009

Joshua Roman is one of a new generation of creative thinkers who is bringing classical music to audiences in imaginative new ways. 

One of Roman’s TED talks is a case in point. The TED Senior Fellow—defined as a next-generation innovator with potential to positively influence the world—performed the Prelude of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, and then offered a brief discussion about Bach and the cello. “Many would say it’s a European tradition,” he said.“ I’m an American. Happily, America has its own growing and diverse tradition.” Then he launched into Mark O’Connor’s Appalachia Waltz.

Even before the Oklahoma-born cellist first appeared at Carnegie Hall with the YouTube Symphony in 2009, he had mastered the art of using digital platforms to win audiences. For his own YouTube project, Everyday Bach, he played Bach Suites in scenic international settings, from Beverly Hills to Sri Lanka. As the artistic director of Town Music, an eclectic music series at Town Hall in Seattle, he once “crowd-sourced” a program, in which the audience voted via online poll to determine which Bach Suites he would perform. Then he played the two with the most votes in a concert that was streamed live online.

He’s added considerably to the cello repertoire, both as a composer and dedicatee. In March, Roman’s first orchestral recording, a performance of Dreamsongs, written for him in 2013 by Aaron Jay Kernis, was released on Signum Records. During the 2016-17 season, he performed Mason Bates’s Cello Concerto with the Portland, Berkeley, Spokane, and Memphis Symphonies. At the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s 2016 Summermusik festival, he delivered a searing performance of Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason’s Bow to String, followed by a brilliant reading of Saint-Saëns’s Cello Concerto.

This year, he’s premiering his own quintet, Tornado, with the JACK Quartet, for which the piece is written, at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC. Roman’s Cello Concerto, Awakening, displays his gift for lyricism, and its slow movement includes a ravishing dialogue for soloist and cello section. With his combination of interpretive artistic gifts and savvy entrepreneurship, audiences will surely be hearing from him for many years to come. (Photo: Hayley Young)

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