Live at NPR: Cellist Matt Haimovitz

A Renowned Classical Musician Hits the Rock Circuit

Cellist Matt Haimovitz in NPR's Studio of 4A

hide captionCellist Matt Haimovitz in NPR's Studio of 4A

NPR News/Alice Winkler

Matt Haimovitz is among the world's finest classical cellists. Like Yo-Yo Ma, he was a student of the late Leonard Rose. He played Carnegie Hall at 13 and counts violinist Itzhak Perlman among his musical mentors. Now 32, Haimovitz runs the cello department at the University of Massachusetts.

But after literally hundreds of concert hall performances, Haimovitz couldn't escape one fact: he rarely saw members of his own generation in the audience. A few years ago he made a decision to seek them out. He went where he knew they could be easily found. He began performing his innovative solo repertoire in rock clubs around the country.

NPR's Steve Inskeep sat down with Haimovitz recently to hear him play and discuss his experiences on the rock club circuit. A particular crowd favorite has been his version of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which he calls "Anthem," done in the style of Jimi Hendrix's legendary electric-guitar rendition at Woodstock in 1969.

Haimovitz says that seeing punk rock fans sitting next to classical music afficionados in a smoky dive bar has awakened him to the power of music to bring people together. The experience has also broadened his musical pallette, he says, and has given him a stronger connection with all of his audiences, in both the nightclubs and the concert halls.

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