Today, we are continuing our “Face to Face” series by featuring the man, the myth, the legend: Joel Kennedy.
Joel is the Founder and President of Kennedy Violins. He has played viola and violin for over thirty years. He attended the Eastman School of Music in New York, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in viola performance and completed graduate studies in education there as well. Joel has played professionally in orchestras all around the United States and has students attending top conservatories in the U.S. and abroad. He is currently a violist in the Portland Opera here in Portland, Oregon.
Recently, Joel took some time to answer a few questions about his life and his time with Kennedy Violins.
1. How long have you worked at Kennedy Violins?
I officially began Kennedy Violins December of 2000. However, as a stringed teacher, I had been providing instruments to my students and friends for years before that.
2. What is your favorite thing about working at Kennedy Violins and why?
My favorite aspect of working at Kennedy Violins is having the opportunity to effect change. As the person who is in charge of “steering the ship”, I am able to use the influence of Kennedy Violins in a positive way that not only affects the local market but the national one as well. For a long time, I have seen how the stereotypical elitist nature of classical music has left many people in our culture out in the cold when it comes to having access to bowed stringed instruments. Working at Kennedy Violins has served as a vehicle for changing this pervasive dynamic in our society.
3. What is your favorite instrument/product that Kennedy Violins carries and why?
This is a tough question because every brand we carry represents what we feel is the best instrument in that price range. I’d have to say that the Ricard Bunnel is my favorite because its low cost gets the most kids involved in classical music. It’s the best starting point, for a kid, if you’re new to a stringed instrument.
4. What is your favorite band/musician/composer?
My favorite composer is Shostakovich. There are many composers music that I have enjoyed for many years but the depth and genius of Shostakovich gets to me every time.
5. If you didn’t play the viola, which instrument would you play?
If I could do it all over again, I’d choose the piano or the cello. I think the cello has the most compelling singing voice of all the bowed stringed instruments and the piano is the complete vehicle in which to experience the full complexity of what a composer was able to create.
6. Which musician (alive or dead) do you wish you could play with?
I’d love to play with Beethoven. I’d sit down at the piano with him and say “do we really NEED to put a repeat there?..”
7. What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming year?
As usual, it’s very exciting at Kennedy Violins currently because it is a time of great change. With the revamping of our web site, the introduction of new workshop instruments, like David Yale (you can see these new violins by clicking here), and the new retail store in Vancouver, WA. I can’t to see how it’ll all turns out in the coming year!
8. What is something interesting that we don’t already know about you?
Most people don’t know that I like to auto race. I have two racing licenses. One with the SCCA and the other is with the ICSCC.
9. What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working at Kennedy Violins?
I like to spend time with my wife and two girls and auto race.