Columnist is a groupie for violinist

November 03, 2011|Kate Coleman

I think I'm in love.

It's more than just a teenage crush.

Well, of course it is: I'm way more than teenaged.  

The object of my affection, admiration and, yes, groupie-ness is Nick Kendall.

The 33-year-old violinist performed with the Maryland Symphony a couple of weeks ago. He had wowed Maryland Theatre audiences with his passionate playing of concertos by Tchaikovsky in 2004 and Sibelius in 2006. He'd demonstrated that he can beautifully handle the time-honored works, but it was obvious to anyone listening — and watching — that Nick Kendall is not your father's violinist. His high-octane energy and irrepressible spirit make hearing and seeing him perform an absolute delight.

Kendall's got classical chops, but he plays more than the traditional repertoire About 22 weeks of the year are devoted to Time for Three (Tf3), the trio of  Kendall and two fellow Curtis Institute of Music alumni. The band, according to its website at, plays uncategorizable music with elements of classical, country western, gypsy and jazz. Tf3 released its first music video via YouTube (go to and search for Time for Three: Stronger) two days before his concerts with the MSO. Featuring the band's own arrangement of Kanye West's "Stronger," it tells a powerful anti-bullying story.

Spontaneity ruled — at both the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon Hagerstown performances.

Yes, attending just Saturday wasn't enough for me. (I loved Nick and jazz drummer Gabe Globus-Hoenich's "Happy Hour" jam session at Hempen Hill BBQ on Friday, too.)

Music Director Elizabeth Schulze announced a change in the program, moving "Spontaneous Combustion," the concerto by Chris Brubeck, son of jazz legend Dave Brubeck, to the concert's second half. Brubeck custom composed the piece for Nick out of four days of the pair's "free, free improvisation." Its performance included lots of surprises and more wonderful in-the-moment stuff.

Nick turned heads immediately  — and literally — playing the opening notes as he entered from the back of the auditorium.

On Saturday between concerto movements, a momentary random noise from the hall drew an immediate bratty "Nah, nah, nah, nah nah" from Kendall's violin as well as his laughter and that of the audience. That same audience — and Sunday's as well — ignored usual symphony protocol and exploded into applause between the concerto's movements. He played his violin like a guitar, and when he went nuts on the center-stage drum set, the crowd roared.

Kendall often faced the orchestra — smiling, nodding, enjoying. The players reciprocated his appreciation — cellists spinning their instruments, members of the brass section standing to execute marching-band-style-side-to-side moves.

Cheers and whistles accompanied the instantaneous and prolonged standing ovations.

Composer Brubeck was in town Sunday and joined Kendall, Schulze and the orchestra on stage. He lifted Nick off his feet in a celebratory hug, exited and returned with a trombone. The pair improvised a catchy little encore.

In September, Nick Kendall had visited three Washington County high schools, playing, talking and engaging music students. There were many kids at the recent concerts, gathering around Kendall in the theater lobby, waiting for an autograph, a CD, a photograph with the patiently obliging star of the show.

Me, too.

P.S.: Nick signed my CD "Lots of love."

Nah, nah, nah, nah nah, youngsters.

Kate Coleman covers The Maryland Symphony and writes a monthly column for The Herald-Mail.

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