This rockstar cellist was the youngest ever to win a principal position with the Seattle Symphony. Read below to learn a bit more about Joshua, who he’d be if he wasn’t a cellist, and how he’s returning to shake things up and show us a new side of the cello.
First, how are you doing, and where in the world are you?
I’m currently in Seattle, Washington where I’m making music and restructuring my chamber music series Town Music at Town Hall Seattle in real time as the season unfolds. We’re calling it Fermata – it’s a kind of residency that’s giving me a chance to start to put into action a lot of ideas that have needed time and focus to manifest. Time that you don’t have when you are flying around playing concerts all year long, but we certainly do have now. We’re looking at more local artists, engaging the audience in what goes on behind the scenes, and exploring ways to better reflect and inspire our diverse community.
You won the Principal Cello position with the Seattle Symphony at just 22. What was it like gaining that responsibility at such a young age, and what made you decide to move on and pursue your solo career?
The Seattle Symphony was so welcoming when they brought me in – I really felt supported and encouraged. It’s a wonderful orchestra full of unique individuals and beautiful musicians. I’ve known for almost as long as I can remember that my path as a soloist would be forged in a different way, and I’m extremely grateful for the experience and education of being in a great orchestra, and how it has shaped my outlook and artistry.
You performed Elgar’s cello concerto with California Symphony back in 2012 when you were starting out on your solo career, and you visited again for our Symphony Surround special event in 2018. Any favorite memories from your previous visits to us?
I love that the California Symphony is looking to shake things up. It’s important to explore our traditions in an active and curious way, to focus on the creativity and connection that are at the core of what makes music great. I really loved sitting next to Donato while we faced both the orchestra and the audience – playing a program that honored both the roots of the tradition and the spirit of it at an event that allowed us to be passionate without taking ourselves too seriously.
Can you please talk a little about the selections you chose for this program?
This program is a way to explore the vast emotional capabilities of the cello. Often, we think of the cello as the sad, beautiful, nostalgic instrument closest to the human voice. It has that, and so much more. It’s difficult to think of another acoustic instrument with the versatility of the cello – its range alone traverses all four of the voice ranges you hear in a choir. There’s a lot more to this but I don’t want to give it away – you’ll just have to hear and see for yourself why the cello is coming into its own in our lifetime.
If you hadn’t become a musician, what career do you think you would have chosen and why?
When I was a kid I always saw the cello as my mission – but if I broke my arm (knock on wood) and could never play again, only then would I join Ski Patrol, be a fighter jet pilot, or something involving missions, teams, and speed. For the longest time, though, I was very into physics and sometimes thought I might be able to do both at the same time — until I got to conservatory and set homework to the side (apologies to my professors) in favor of practicing.
You can learn more about Joshua Roman on his website.
Tune in to hear Joshua perform as part of our Second Saturdays @ California Symphony series in It’s a Cello-bration!, available to watch free online and on Walnut Creek TV on November 14, 2020 at 7 PM (PT).