A! Magazine for the Arts

Joshua Kovác

Joshua Kovác

Arts for Youth Spotlight: For Joshua Kovác music is a family affair

October 27, 2020

Joshua Kovác was born into a musical family — both his parents are professional musicians. His father is a professor of violin and viola at East Tennessee State University, performs chamber music and conducts chamber orchestras. His mom is a pianist, who also teaches at ETSU.

“Music has always been a big part of my life. Classical music was played daily in our house, I would hear my parents practice and teach their students often. My mom would sing and teach us many Czech folk songs at the piano, and we would go to many concerts together as a family. When I was 4 years old, my parents took my sister and me to hear the Kansas City Symphony. During the entire concert, I would watch the double bass section. I was fascinated by the low sounds and the size of the instrument. I begged my parents to get me a double bass. After a few months of me still talking about the double bass, they decided to have me start on the cello.

“My first cello teacher, Jean Dexter, introduced me to cello, gave me a great foundation of the cello technique and instilled the love of music in me. My current cello professor, Daniel Veis, has been a tremendous influence in my musical and cello growth. Another major influence comes from Music@Menlo Chamber Music Institute in California, where I spent the last three summers playing chamber music with extremely talented young musicians. The world-class coaches who work with us at the festival, the variety of incredible concerts, lectures and masterclasses always inspire and enrich me musically more than I can put into words,” he says.

Joshua has appeared on National Public Radio’s “From The Top.” He received the show’s Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award. The $10,000 scholarship is awarded to 20 young musicians in the U.S. He placed third in the Hilton Head Symphony Youth Concerto Competition and first place at the American Protégé Competition and International Grande Music Competition. He won second prize at the International Vistuoso Competition and first prize at the Youth Aliyah Concerto Competition.

He has played solos with the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra, Kinnor Philharmonic, ETSU Chamber Orchestra and Scruffy City Orchestra. He plays in three orchestras, the ETSU Sinfonia, ETSU Chamber Orchestra and Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra.

“I have also enjoyed playing a lot of chamber music through the ETSU Pre-College Program, especially the last two years when playing in the string quartet with my friends David Lugo, Jonathan Lugo and Madeline Lamb. We also got to perform the famous Mendelssohn octet with other musicians during the ETSU Summer Chamber Music Festival in June 2019,” he says.

Most recently, he performed with the Paramount Chamber Players in its season opener – presented online.

“Recording for the virtual concert with the Paramount Players felt more like a dress rehearsal to me, because there was no audience in the hall. During a dress rehearsal, you would normally run through all the pieces and fix last-minute things. The Paramount theater hall sounded quite different without people in the seats, which made me feel a bit different as well, not having the usual excited/nervous feeling you experience when performing for a live audience. Also, it was a bit difficult to play with the mask on, mainly because of having less facial communication with the other musicians. Watching the streaming of the premiere at home was very exciting. I feel so honored to have been invited to perform with the Paramount Chamber Players. It was a great experience to perform the ‘Silent Woods’ by Antonín Dvorák with the new director, pianist Katherine Benson and the ‘Eyeglass Duet’ by Beethoven with my dad.

“Music is my passion. I love learning new things about music, listening to recordings, studying new repertoire, facing new challenges on the cello, playing in masterclasses, going to concerts and making music with others in chamber groups and orchestra. Also, performing is something I truly love. It is an exhilarating feeling to walk on stage and play a concert, whether it is a solo cello performance, solo with orchestra, chamber music or playing in the cello section of the orchestra. Music is a joy. It is always exciting and fulfilling to share that joy and connect with the audience. I also think it is very important to bring live music to people, who can’t come to regular concerts – such as people in retirement homes, hospitals, schools. I was able to do this in Boston with the From the Top team and here with my string quartet and with my family, including my sister,” he says.

In several years, when Joshua (who is only 13) faces a career choice, he knows what he wants to do.

“I want to continue with music, whether it is performing, teaching, composing, or maybe even conducting. I also like science a lot and am thinking of double major in college, possibly getting a degree in physics. But right now, it is music, the cello, performing and dreaming of maybe becoming a concert cellist one day.

Joshua is the 13-year-old, homeschooled son of David Kovác and Michaele Kovácová.