jun 18

Kevork

Earlier this month of June, Kevork Mardirossian passed away just before the age of seventy.

Kevork, and his other half, Lee Phillips, with whom a forty-year collaboration and friendship would bond, were two of the last influences I had as pupil.

On a second bout of training at the Jacobs’ School of Music, at the University of Indiana, Kevork was gracious enough to let me into his inaugural year studio. Kevork got me on the right path immediately… secured an assistant teaching position for me… and welcomed me into his musical world.

I would end up traveling to the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Sweden with Kevork. I even was loaned his fine Testore fiddle for a final round at a music competition. Kevork’s endless generosity was matched only by his strong feeling for the arts. All arts, really. It was him that told me: You are an artist. And those words put me on the path that I am on today.

Kevork and Lee opened their home to the studio, and our rag-tag troop became a family right away. We took to the scotch, and talked about the golden age of violin playing. Lee was always there, making us laugh and chiming in. The kitchen cooking island would be surrounded by students munching away, and chattering lively. These were some of the nicest memories I have of those years.

Kevork had a way to present ideas. I was always obsessed with technique, and he reminded me that what matters are the colors. He would use words to describe musical imagery that were so rich, I wondered if he saw music, rather than heard it.

I played a sonata from Debussy, and after I concluded, he asked: What colors do you see when you think of impressionistic paintings?

He didn’t like my answer, I recall.

“No! Drab colors. Browns, Greys…”

When I started the violent second movement of the first Prokofiev violin sonata, he asked: What do you see when you play those notes?

I said that I see an ‘SS’ soldier bayonetting a civilian. He liked that answer a lot. But then he said: “Yes, but don’t hit (with the bow). Tear!

Kevork was a real artist. And when he told me that I was too, I felt like a phony. I knew what a real artist was: one that put emotion, poetry, and heart above all other matters. And I knew, next to Kevork, I was nothing. I could only aspire to to see the world as he did.

Now that Kevork is gone, I am saddened, but I am so honored that it was him that put me on my present course.

I will use his memory as a talisman to champion what he cared most about in this little endeavor we call music: to bring the emotion, poetry, and heart of the arts, with every performance.

We will miss you Kevork. Thank-you for your honesty to your craft. It will inspire those who knew you until our last days.