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Alexander East, Assistant Principal Cello

Alexander East serves as the Assistant Principal Cello of the Kansas City Symphony. In addition to duties with the Symphony, which often include leading the section as principal for opera, ballet and chamber orchestra performances, East is also heard frequently in recitals and chamber music concerts throughout the Kansas City region and beyond. He has also performed with the Sun Valley (Idaho) Summer Symphony every summer since 1992. In the Kansas City area, he has performed regularly in groups including Summerfest Chamber Music Concerts (also serving as an Artistic Advisor), the Boulevard String Quartet and newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. Before settling in Kansas City, East spent two seasons as a member of the New World Symphony under the direction of conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and he was also re-invited to coach the NWS cello section as a guest alumnus. East has been featured as soloist with the Kansas City Symphony, the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra, the Sedalia Symphony, the Erie (PA) Chamber Orchestra and the Fredonia Chamber Players. East received his training at Indiana University where he received a bachelor’s degree and performer diploma, and he earned his master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music. His teachers have included Tsuyushi Tsutsumi, Janos Starker, Laurence Lesser and Colin Carr. He performs on either an English cello made in London ca.1800-10 by John Betts or a contemporary cello made in 2016 by Kenneth Beckmann.

Ten questions about me:

What is your favorite thing about performing music?

There are those times when the music is so internalized that as a performer you can live it and not just execute it. I believe the audience can tell the difference about that more than just about anything else.

What is the best part about being a musician in the Kansas City Symphony?

I appreciate the fact that I am highly invested here, and have seen the orchestra grow and change so dramatically. We need to maintain that upward trajectory and with the right kind of community investment, I believe we can go so much further.

When did you know you wanted to be a professional musician?

I had the idea at the very end of high school, just shortly after I began serious cello studies. Starting the cello virtually from scratch at age 16 is not so common to pursue a performing career as many young players are already almost professionally proficient by that age, so I was always a bit behind my peers technically. I was fortunate to be admitted to some of the most competitive cello classes in the world even after only a few years of study and was surrounded by some of the most incredibly advanced musicians of my generation and also study and perform in classes for so many of the truly legendary cellists. It was amazingly inspiring, challenging, and perhaps also somewhat insular!

How did you choose your instrument?

I actually studied piano first, starting from age five. Around that same age I was exposed to opera, playing the role of the little boy in Madame Butterfly in a college production. In about the fourth grade, I began Suzuki cello lessons, but was not disciplined and never quite got serious, so I quit. I actually sang and acted more than I practiced any musical instrument, performing the lead in a couple productions of Amahl and the Night Visitors, and boy solo parts like the Bernstein Chichester Psalms. In high school I was active in multiple choirs and sang lead roles in many local musicals. In the summers I attended Interlochen as a drama student and also studied harpsichord, and it was there that I was inspired to start the cello again after hearing talented disciplined students my own age.

What is your earliest musical memory?

Classical music was in the house all the time while I was growing up. My parents were both University Music Professors and professional performers, so hearing them practice and teach, sometimes at home, was routine for me.