The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: Meet Kartik Papatla, the 16-year-old cellist and concerto competition winner who will open tonight’s first Concert on the Square by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. | June 27, 2012

ALERT: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will perform on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Green Lake Music Festival in the Thrasher Opera House (below) near the campus of Ripon College. Here is a link for details: http://www.greenlakefestival.org/

By Jacob Stockinger

Tonight – June 27, 2012  — marks the opening of what for 29 years has been billed, without exaggeration, as The Biggest Picnic of the Summer: The annual Concerts on the Square held by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. They will be held on the next six consecutive Wednesday evenings from 7 to about 9 p.m. (The rain date is Thursday.)

As always, the FREE concerts– complete with food and beverages you bring or buy — are held on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square in downtown Madison. Each concert is expected to draw an average 10,000 or more listeners who picnic as they listen, with the biggest crowd usually coming to the Fourth of July concert.

The format includes classical music, pops music, all kinds of music, performed under the baton of WCO artistic director Andrew Sewell with guest soloists.

For more information about Concerts on the Square, including dates and times, music program, vendor menus and guidelines, visit:

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square/

Tonight’s opening concert will include Kartik Papatla, a 16–year-old cellist who won the WCO concerto competition for young artists. He will perform the first movement from the popular and beautiful  Cello Concerto in B Minor by Antonin Dvorak (at bottom, with Yo-Yo Ma and the New York Philhamronic Orchestra under conductor Kurt Masur).  Also on the program are Edward Elgar’s “Three Bavarian Dances,” Johann Strauss’ waltz “Tales From the Vienna Woods” and Hardiman’s “Lord of the Dance” with the Trinity Irish Dancers (below).

Papatla (below) — whose name reflects his Indian heritage — recently granted The Ear an e-mail interview in which he introduced himself and discussed the role of music in his life:

What is your name? How old are you and when did you start studying music?

My name is Kartik Papatla and I am 16 years old.  I started studying the cello when I was six years old.

What grade are you in now and what school do you go to? 

I will be a junior at Homestead High School (below) in Mequon starting this fall.

What are your favorite subjects? Do you have other areas of interest?

I enjoy all subjects in school, but my favorites are mathematics and chemistry.  I am also part of the forensics team at my school and I love to travel.

What are your plans for higher education and a career? 

I plan to attend a university to study engineering. However, I will continue to pursue music throughout my lifetime.

Who is your music teacher? 

I study with Scott Cook at the String Academy of Wisconsin.

Do you have a favorite composer and favorite pieces to listen to or to play? 

If I had to choose one composer as my favorite, I would choose Tchaikovsky (below).  What I enjoy about his music is that there is so much organization to it, yet it has a great deal of musicality and emotion.  However, I cannot say that I have certain favorite pieces to listen to and play because it is impossible for me to narrow all classical music down to a select few.

Why is playing music important to you and what does playing music teach you? 

Playing music has been an integral part of my life for close to 10 years.  I immensely enjoy the process of understanding the nuances of a piece, working on incorporating them into my hours practice, and performing the piece. I feel that the many years of researching and understanding the finer points of different compositions and trying to master them has taught me patience, diligence and the rewards of perseverance.

What different kinds of music do you listen to and like? 

Although I mostly listen to classical music, I do enjoy other types of music.  For example, I listen to popular music on the radio and to instrumental and world music.

Was there an Aha! Moment or turning point – perhaps a certain performer or piece — when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?   

Let me begin by saying that I am very fortunate to have had many great musical opportunities over the last couple of years.  Perhaps the closest thing to a turning point in my music education was when I had the opportunity to perform at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Pops Concerts at the age of 12.

I played a duet with another young violinist, accompanied by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (below) under guest conductor Jeff Tyzik (below).  This was the first time that I played with a professional orchestra and in front of a full concert hall.  It was an exhilarating and rewarding experience.

What advice would you give others, young students and adults, about studying music?  

Practice with the intention of improving your playing and not with the intention of just getting something done. This will make all of the difference in the long run. Also, listen to as many recordings as you can of the piece you are working on, and from each one extract certain things that you would like to incorporate into your own interpretation of the piece.

How important do you think music education is in relation to other areas of education? 

I believe that music education is extremely important to other areas of education because it teaches valuable skills that, when applied to other non-music education, will allow one to excel. For instance, it teaches discipline and concentration, and encourages one to strive for perfection.

What does getting the chance to perform a concerto with an orchestra mean to you and why? 

To perform a concerto with a professional orchestra is every classical musician’s dream.  Having this opportunity is not only a great honor but evidence to me that all of the hard work over the last 10 years has gone toward something that I can be proud of.

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