Joshua Roman’s performances have received critical acclaim throughout the last decade. His huge personality and expressive playing have captured audiences all over the globe. Joshua joined us in Bellingham, to give a recital supporting the Bellingham Festival of Music. In this interview, we discuss his unusual start in music, life as a soloist, and the powerful works written for cello in the 20th century.
Before embarking on a solo career, Roman spent two seasons as principal cellist of the Seattle Symphony, a position he won in 2006 at the age of 22. Since that time he has appeared as a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mariinsky Orchestra, New World Symphony, Alabama Symphony, and Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional del Ecuador, among many others. An active chamber musician, Roman has collaborated with established artists such as Andrius Zlabys, Cho-Liang Lin, Assad Brothers, Earl Carlyss, Christian Zacharias and Yo-Yo Ma, as well as other dynamic young soloists and performers from New York’s vibrant music scene, including the JACK Quartet, Talea Ensemble, Derek Bermel and the Enso String Quartet.
A native of Oklahoma City, Roman began playing the cello at the age of three on a quarter-size instrument, and gave his first public recital at age ten. Home-schooled until he was 16, he then pursued his musical studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music with Richard Aaron. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Cello Performance in 2004, and his Master’s in 2005, as a student of Desmond Hoebig, former principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra. Roman is grateful for the loan of an 1899 cello by Giulio Degani of Venice.
Roman’s cultural leadership includes using digital platforms to harness new audiences. In 2009 he developed “The Popper Project,” performing, recording and uploading the complete etudes from David Popper’s High School of Cello Playing to his dedicated YouTube channel. In his latest YouTube project, “Everyday Bach,” Roman performs Bach’s cello suites in beautiful settings around the world. He has collaborated with photographer Chase Jarvis on Nikon video projects, and Paste magazine singled out Roman and DJ Spooky for their cello and iPad cover of Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place,” created for the Voice Project. For his creative initiatives on behalf of classical music, Roman was named a TED Fellow in 2011, joining a select group of next-generation innovators who show potential to positively affect the world. He acted as curator for an outdoor amphitheater performance at the TED Summit in Banff in the Canadian Rockies this past summer.
Beyond these initiatives, Roman’s adventurous spirit has led to collaborations with artists outside the music community, including his co-creation of “On Grace” with Tony Award-nominated actress Anna Deavere Smith, a work for actor and cello which premiered in February 2012 at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. His outreach endeavors have taken him to Uganda with his violin-playing siblings, where they played chamber music in schools, HIV/AIDS centers and displacement camps, communicating a message of hope through music.
During the 2016-17 season, Roman played Mason Bates’s Cello Concerto with four different orchestras: the Portland, Berkeley, Spokane, and Memphis Symphonies. The concerto is dedicated to the cellist, who gave its “world-class world premiere” (Seattle Times) with the Seattle Symphony in 2014, and has since performed it with orchestras around the U.S., including as part of a residency last spring with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. In the second of two performances with the Omaha Symphony, he played Dreamsongs, a cello concerto written for him by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis, after a concert featuring Tchaikovsky’s Pezzo Capriccioso and Variations on a Rococo Theme.
Recent seasons have seen Roman premiere Awakening, his own Cello Concerto, with the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, and subsequently perform it with ProMusica Chamber Orchestra; make his debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra playing Dvorák’s Cello Concerto; give a solo performance on the TED2015 main stage; perform a program of chamber works by Lera Auerbach at San Francisco Performances with Auerbach and violinist Philippe Quint; and make appearances with the Columbus, Fort Worth, New World, Seattle Symphonies as well as with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. He also served as Alumnus-in- Residence at the prestigious Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara.
Here is the “Everyday Bach” filmed in Bellingham
Here is an example of “The Popper Project”