"Wow, what a nice article!! Thank you so much for writing such a beautiful article."
- Alexi Kenney
Alexi Kenney: Music is the greatest outlet
for our emotions
The violinist Alexi Kenney is studying at the New England Conservatory with Donald Wallerstein and Miriam Fried. Last month he gave an unforgettable Carnegie Hall debut recital. He has an impeccable control of the bow and his somewhat theatrical gestures are as beautiful as a Greek tragedy. I could not help but smile throughout his recital, he was so exciting to listen to, so extremely captivating!
Alexi started playing the violin when he was four. Alexi has had an interest for music as far back as he can remember. As a small child, he would conduct, listening to the radio. His parents were looking for an instrument to get him. His mother didn’t think that cellos came in a small enough sizes and the piano was too big for the house. One day, his mother and he were taking a walk and saw people carrying violin cases. They followed them to a church. One of the people they followed ended up being Alexi’s teacher for the next 6 years.
It’s always a struggle to technically bring out what one feels, to really translate. For Alexi that’s both the hardest thing and the most enjoyable. “That is something I am always working towards and always thinking more about: trying to shave off a little bit more of that technical barrier,” said Alexi.
Learning how to practice efficiently is a lifelong pursuit. You have to listen to yourself and to your body. You have to know how much you can do and what is going to be beneficial. “Some days I go to the music library. I just pick a concerto and I read through a concerto. Other days I would practice very slowly other pieces. I am always someone who goes from one thing to the next easily. I know that I am not going to be productive if I spend an hour on one piece; I try to break it up,” he said.
He tries to be as honest and genuine as possible with his emotions, in communicating them to the audience. “It’s very important to me that I always love what I am playing, what I am doing at all times and to really transmit the love and passion that I feel to the audience. I think that is definitely of upmost importance to me when I play: that whatever I play is true. I hope that is what comes out.”
Alexi plays music because it inspires him. He couldn’t live without it for a minute. “I constantly think it adds so much depth and richness: it’s like a whole other world you step into. It’s an escape from reality and at the same time it’s even more real than reality to me. There is no greater outlet for my emotions, joy and pain than playing them.”
Last summer, Alexi went to the Kronberg Academy Festival where he attended the Chamber Music Connects the World Program. He had the chance to play with the violinist Christian Tetzlaff. Alexi says that since then he constantly thinks about the way Tetzlaff played, the way he embodied the music so fully, so completely. Since then, he mostly thinks about what Tetzlaff told him: not to be afraid of being vulnerable emotionally and that the more vulnerable he can be in his real life the easier it will be to transmit to an audience successfully. “That really inspired me, and it’s something I am thinking about everyday,” said Alexi. “It’s the hardest thing though. Especially that we are playing with a box and a stick and there is so many obstacles physically to overcome. To constantly strive for that much more depth and emotional content can only lead to more honesty in your own playing and in your life.”
Another piece of advice that Alexi keeps in mind comes from Sylvia Rosenberg. She told him once that it’s always better to polarize your audience because at least you will have a few people who really liked what you did, whose lives were changed by your playing. You rather have that and the rest of the audience who hated it than everyone kind of in the middle, hesitating. Ultimately it’s enough to play with your own convictions because then you have been honest with yourself and that’s what matters.
As for the future Alexi says he is pretty open to anything. He knows he wants to be on stage. “Being on stage, usually it’s the best feeling in the world, it’s like a meditation to me. When you feel this electric connection with the hall and the audience, it’s the greatest.” As he succeeds in competitions and performances, he has come to realize that there is no single event that you should work towards as an end in itself. There is always something else coming after. “I realized that when I win a competition I don’t feel any different from the way I did before I won the competition. It opens more doors for me but it doesn’t make me more satisfied deep down. I guess always maintaining the music before anything else is the most important.”