“I’m not a natural auditioner,” says cellist Evan Kahn. But after reflecting back on the first professional audition he ever took, he considers the experience one of the most important milestones in his artistic growth. “Now I’m not afraid to take anything because I know it will always be a valuable experience.”
Kahn, a chamber music master’s degree candidate and student of Jennifer Culp, is on track to graduate from SFCM in 2018. Before taking on the master’s degree, he went through the Professional Studies Diploma program to hone his skills as a performer. Now he’s taking advantage of the cerebral instruction—including frequent collaboration with faculty member Paul Hersh—he feels is inherent in studying chamber music. “It’s the area of music where one can grow the most in a collegiate environment,” he says. “This program [at SFCM] is particularly special because it’s really one of the only programs where you get to rehearse and perform with faculty, which I’m doing on a regular basis.”
While Kahn’s performing reach is wide, he does not spread himself thin. He is a regular in the San Francisco gig scene, making himself available for any kind of performance opportunity he feels might be a good fit. “I’m interested in so many different aspects of the instrument,” he says.
And performances are not in short supply. Kahn recently was a featured soloist with the Conservatory Orchestra, performing Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1. A week later, he performed Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C Major with the Veridian Symphony Orchestra. In addition to other Conservatory-related concerts, Kahn is putting on his own concert of solo cello music this spring, acting as curator and performer.
His life as an artist also extends beyond the Bay Area. For the past three summers, Kahn has been a fellow at the Aspen Music Festival, performing with various ensembles for several weeks at one of the country’s most revered summer destinations for musicians. This past summer at Aspen, he was co-principal cello in the Philharmonic Orchestra, a position that offered him the opportunity to coach the cello section and receive guidance from acclaimed conductor Robert Spano, the Festival’s music director.
Through all his performing, studying, and listening, however, Kahn notes that music isn’t all there is to being a musician. He references the philosophy of conductor Leon Botstein: “Everything we do affects our musical performance. Everything we think about, everything that we touch touches us back in return.” Kahn always keeps that in mind. He reads everything from literature to web comics, watches TV, plays video games, and goes to the gym. “If you’re aware of what you’re doing as you do it, it really reflects in your mind in various ways.”
Ultimately, Kahn wants to put himself in a situation where he can take advantage of anything life throws at him. He owes his success as an artist to an always-game attitude. “Being open to playing and listening to anything, and participating in anything. Being able to say yes to things is a really vital skill for someone who wants to be a well-rounded musician. Because if you close yourself off to things you think you don’t like, then you won’t get where you need to go.”