‘I can’t really remember life without the violin,” says Corey Cerovsek. “But just for the record, I did have six years without it.”
When he was 6, Cerovsek began violin lessons. “Within a half-year after I started, I was telling everyone I was going to be a violinist when I grew up, but kids say things like that,” he recalls.
By the time he was 10, he had begun to make that childhood boast come true. That year Cerovsek made his orchestral debut as a soloist with the Calgary Philharmonic. Now 22, he has a well-established international career playing “85 or so” concerts a season in cities from Sydney to Tel Aviv.
Cerovsek, who played Thursday with the Spokane Symphony in Coeur d’Alene, will perform again tonight with the orchestra at the Opera House. He will play Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto on a program that also includes Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” and “The Infernal Machine” by Christopher Rouse. Fabio Mechetti will conduct.
Cerovsek (pronounced Chey-ROF-sek) grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“My father is a structural engineer,” Cerovsek says, “and though my mother took some singing lessons, she was not a professional musician. Having musicians in the family was a new thing for us.”
Both young Corey and his sister, Katja, took piano lessons before Corey started violin. Katja is now a concert pianist, and brother and sister sometimes give concerts together.
“When I was 9 or 10, my father lost his job. Our finances got kind of tight, so my lessons ran out,” the violinist says.
Cerovsek was introduced to Josef Gingold, the longtime concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra and a renowned teacher at Indiana University, through a former Gingold student. “We didn’t know much about Indiana at the time,” Cerovsek says. “We knew more, in the negative sense, about Juilliard and Curtis. It didn’t seem like such a good idea for a struggling family to go off to New York or Philadelphia or to send me by myself to Juilliard or Curtis.”
The young violinist auditioned for Gingold and was accepted into Indiana University at 12, the youngest student ever to be admitted. Within three and a half years, Cerovsek earned both bachelor’s and master’s degree in music and mathematics.
Cerovsek studied with Gingold for 10 years, continuing to play for him until shortly before Gingold’s death in January.
“He was so much a formative influence, I can’t really separate what might have been my musical personality before I met him,” Cerovsek says. “When I started with him, he had me do the usual technical studies, but I think he wanted to get those things out of the way as quickly as possible.
“Later on, he told a lot of anecdotes and stories that provided a background, an aura, for the music I was studying. These were mixed in with many great technical and musical insights. Mr. Gingold always made it feel like a very collaborative thing, as though he was discovering the piece with you for the first time.
“I always like to feel passionate about the music I choose to play, and the Barber is one of those pieces I love to play,” Cerovsek says. “It’s a 20th-century concerto, all right. But it sounds like something left over from the romantic period - very tuneful, very easy to listen to, and in the last movement, the sparks begin to fly.”
Claire Keeble, the orchestra’s principal violist, will discuss the evening’s music in a pre-concert talk beginning at 7 p.m.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with story: The Spokane Symphony Orchestra with violinist Corey Cerovsek Location and time: Opera House, tonight at 8 Tickets: $11-$25, available at the Symphony ticket office, 624-1200, and G&B;