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The Mind Over Finger Podcast

Oct 22, 2021

I have admired today’s guest for a very long time! Kim Kashkashian is an internationally recognized and decorated violist who has worked tirelessly to broaden the range of technique, advocacy, and repertoire for the viola.

Our conversation is absolutely filled with information and inspiration, including:

  • Her musical journey and how her artistic path has unfolded, focusing heavily on conquering her fears and belief in chance (3:24)
  • Why pursuing an objective view is essential to your growth (9:48)
  • How Kim defines mindful practice... (11:26) 
  • ...and how focusing on the entire production of your sound (including resonance, energy, and what you send out) maximizes your practice (12:51)
  • Kim’s suggestions to exercise expressive playing, including knowing exactly what a piece means to you by personifying the music (and letting how you transmit that message to an audience come second) (15:36)
  • How the difference between intention and desire relates to the tension in performance (22:56)
  • The distinction between being judgmental and making good differentiation, and the impact of each (29:55)
  • Kim’s advice to current music students on broadening your perspective, learning the language of music (separate from the craft of playing your instrument), and knowing the historical context of pieces (33:36)
  • The doubt and resistance Kim has faced on her own journey (36:38)
  • The importance of listening to yourself with love, knowing yourself and what you want to say, and knowing how to say it (37:50)




Kim Kashkashian, internationally recognized as a unique voice on the viola, was born of Armenian parents in Michigan. She studied the viola with Karen Tuttle and legendary violist Walter Trampler at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. Since fall 2000 she has taught viola and chamber music at New England Conservatory.

Following Grammy Award nominations for several previous recordings, Kashkashian received a 2012 Grammy Award in the "Best Classical Instrumental Solo" category for Kurtág and Ligeti: Music for Viola, on the ECM Records label. Kashkashian's recording, with Robert Levin, of the Brahms Sonatas won the Edison Prize in 1999. Her June 2000 recording of concertos by Bartók, Eötvös and Kurtág won the 2001 Cannes Classical Award for a premiere recording by soloist with orchestra.

In 2016, Kashkashian was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Kashkashian has worked tirelessly to broaden the range of technique, advocacy, and repertoire for the viola. A staunch proponent of contemporary music, she has developed creative relationships with György Kurtág, Krzysztof Penderecki, Alfred Schnittke, Giya Kancheli, and Arvo Pärt, and commissioned works from Peter Eötvös, Ken Ueno, Thomas Larcher, Lera Auerbach, and Tigran Mansurian.

Marlboro and the Viennese school represented by her mentor, Felix Galimir, were major influences in developing her love of chamber music. Kim Kashkashian is a regular participant at the Verbier, Salzburg, Lockenhaus, Marlboro, and Ravinia festivals.

She has long-standing duo partnerships with pianist Robert Levin and percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky, and played in a unique string quartet with Gidon Kremer, Daniel Phillips, and Yo-Yo Ma.

As a soloist, she has appeared with the great orchestras of Berlin, London, Vienna, Milan, New York, and Cleveland, and in recital at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, Kaufmann Hall, New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, as well as in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Frankfurt, Berlin, Paris, Athens, and Tokyo.

Kashkashian's musicianship has been well represented on recordings through her association with the prestigious ECM label in a fruitful collaboration that has been continuous since 1985.

Kim Kashkashian has taught in Bloomington, Indiana, and in Freiburg and Berlin, Germany, and now resides with her daughter in Boston.

Kim is a founding member of Music for Food, an initiative by musicians to fight hunger in their home communities.

B.M., Peabody Conservatory of Music; M.M., New School of Music Philadelphia. Viola with Walter Trampler and Karen Tuttle. Former faculty of University of Indiana and conservatories in Freiburg and Berlin, Germany.



"Performing and Music Communication" Barbara Hannigan live in Berlin on Sarah´s Horn Hangouts:




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A HUGE thank you to my fantastic producer, Bella Kelly, who works really hard to make this podcast as pleasant to listen to as possible for you.

Most sincere thank you to composer Jim Stephenson who graciously provided the show’s musical theme.  Concerto #1 for Trumpet and Chamber Orchestra – Movement 2: Allegro con Brio, performed by Jeffrey Work, trumpet, and the Lake Forest Symphony, conducted by Jim Stephenson.

Thank you to pianist-singer-song-writer Louise Kelly for the introduction!  You can find out more about Kelly and her creative work by visiting



As we head into this new season, I encourage you to visit for a plethora of resources on mindful practice and information on how to work with me.

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