How’d You Get That Awesome Gig, Diana Cohen?!

Name:  Diana Cohen

Occupation: Concertmaster of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra

Location:  Calgary, Alberta (Jack Singer Concert Hall)

First Job: Playing at the Denver airport on a layover when I was about 6 (I think I made about $12!), and a concert in Akron, Ohio, that presented my family as an ensemble when I was about 12. My dad was so nervous about my “debut” that he left his clarinet home in Cleveland by accident. He raced home to get it, and the concert started about 45 minutes late.

Best Job: Perhaps the job that I’m most proud of is my role as Artistic and Executive Director of ChamberFest Cleveland. My dad and I started ChamberFest together, and in under a year, we were able to create an international world-class chamber music festival. In my “job” with ChamberFest Cleveland, I get to be creative in so many ways, and I get to hire incredible artists and friends from all over the world.

Greatest Professional Challenge: I think that one of the greatest challenges as a musician is to stay upbeat and committed when there are setbacks.  Especially when on the “audition circuit,” you have to be strong in order to endure rejections and continue on your path with confidence and dedication.

So how did you get this awesome gig anyways? I heard about this “gig” from my brother Alex, who is the timpanist of the CPO. He came here two years ago, and when the CPO announced that their former concertmaster was retiring, Alex immediately called me to encourage me to take the audition, which was last November. Two of the candidates were chosen as finalists. This past June, I returned for the last portion of my audition, which was a trial week as concertmaster with the orchestra. I was asked to play chamber music, concertmaster solos, lead a string sectional, AND play the concert with the orchestra that week. By the end of the week, the CPO had a very good idea of who I was as a person and musician. They called me a few days later to tell me that I had gotten this awesome gig!

What do you like best about what you do? I love that my job combines expressing myself through music, and working with people to create something special. It is such a privilege to spend a life playing great music, and it is a great emotional outlet.

Any special skills required? Yes! I started playing violin when I was 5 years old (not young in the world of violinists). I’ve put in thousands of hours of practice over the years, and the work never stops.

Favourite experience on the job: Some concerts that I’ve played with my family stand out as favorites. I’ll never forget my first Stravinsky “Soldiers Tale” with my mom, dad and brother (and a few Cleveland Orchestra members), or getting to hear my brother wail on the timpani in the Beethoven Pastoral Symphony. 

Advice for people who want your awesome gig: If you love music passionately, that will go a long ways. But beyond that, you must have dedication to doing the slow and steady work.
Favourite record at the moment: I love listening to chamber music – the great Beethoven String Quartets, Trios, Bartok Quartets, and Brahms Quintets.

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