The Best Seat in the House (Video Interview)

CD cover with last leaning over cello

When the selection committee members set out to choose the inaugural Penn State Laureate, they were looking for someone who could travel across the Commonwealth enhancing appreciation for the arts; someone whose talent would inspire a new generation of artists; someone who would bring great credit to Penn State.

In short, they were looking for Kim Cook.

An inspiring professor of music in cello since 1991 and an acclaimed soloist and recording artist, Cook has embraced her role as the 2008/09 Penn State Laureate with gusto.

"As a child, I was inspired by musicians who visited my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska," says Cook. Her primary job as laureate? "To communicate my excitement about music to people who may not have been exposed to the arts."

Although she maintains busy performing and recording careers, teaching has always been a passion for Cook. In 2006, she received a Distinguished Service Award from the American String Teachers Association and, a decade earlier, served as Ambassador for the State Department presenting concerts and master classes in 22 cities in eight countries. At Penn State, Cook's cello studio attracts talented students from Europe, Asia, South America and across the United States. As Laureate, Cook has given solo recitals and workshops at many Commonwealth campuses, as well as numerous classroom presentations, interviews, and lectures.

To mark the new release of her recording of the concertos by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich with the Volgograd Symphony in Russia, Cook sat down in her State College home to chat with Research Penn State's Melissa Beattie-Moss and Sara Brennen. The conversation ranged from her research on Eastern European composers to her travels near and far as an ambassador for the arts to her music education as a child and teen.

We listened to Cook describe—and play—some of her favorite pieces of music (she's a self-described sucker for pieces that showcase her instrument's lyrical tone.) These include Bach Suites for Solo Cello ("I play some of this music each day" she says), Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1 ("haunting") and Camille Saint-Saens' "The Swan" from The Carnival of Animals ("a three-minute miniature, one of the first solos I learned").

These videos bring you the best seat in the house: front-and-center for an intimate living room performance. Enjoy!

Last Updated March 19, 2009