Clarinet wonder Martin Kocev to solo in East Lansing
When 18-year-old clarinetist Martin Kocev steps on the stage to solo with the Lansing Concert Band on Sunday, he’ll be a long way from home. Although he actually lives at the Interlochen Arts Academy, only a three-hour drive from Lansing, he was born and raised in Valandovo, Macedonia.
The clarinet wunderkind has been studying at Interlochen for two years and next year he will be attending the Cleveland Institute of Music as a music major.
“I came to Interlochen because my brother, two years older than me, was already there.”
His brother, now a student in San Francisco, is also a clarinetist, as is Martin’s father, grandfather and uncle. “In Macedonia, the clarinet is almost a national instrument. All the folk music features the clarinet, so whenever there is dancing or singing, the clarinet is at the center of it.”
At home Kocev played clarinet tunes with his entire family and also took private lessons. But his school in his small town of Valandovo did not have a band or orchestra.
“I only heard orchestras and bands when I came to Interlochen and it was amazing.”
Although he now loves his life in Interlochen, the adjustment to the US was very difficult. Speaking in nearly perfect English, Kocev says, “When I first came to America I couldn’t understand anything and speak to anyone. I was so depressed; I just wanted to go home. Thankfully my brother was there and told me that it would get better and that I had to stay.”
Today, Martin has an easy smile, an engaging personality and shows his great love for the clarinet when he plays.
Kocev’s year has been eventful. Not only did he win the Kenneth G. Bloomquist Prize which enables him to play with the LCB and receive a cash stipend, but he also won the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award in the amount of $10,000 and was featured on the From the Top radio program.
Gary T. Sullivan, conductor of the LCB, is proud of the level of musicians the Prize has attracted. “The musicians winning the KGB Prize (now five years old) represent the top talent in Michigan instrumental music. Most impressive to me is their preparation, professionalism and sense of artistry.”
The Prize was named in honor of Kenneth G. Bloomquist, who conducted the LCB for five years, as well as headed up the Michigan State University Bands and was chairperson of the School of Music. He now lives in Northport, Michigan.
“Martin Kocev brings an international flavor to our award. He is an amazing musician – technically proficient and beyond his years in interpretive artistry.”
Kocev will be playing a movement from the Clarinet Concerto No 1 by Carl Maria von Weber, one of the most difficult pieces for the clarinet. Sullivan calls his upcoming performance “one of the high points of this year’s concert season.
Kocev says that the LCB is “amazing” and enjoys playing with them. Kocev learned the Weber from his original teacher from Macedonia. “He was a wonderful teacher, and I am using all the musical ideas and technical training I learned from him.”
Although only 45 years old, his favorite teacher was killed in an automotive accident back in Macedonia in March. No doubt Kocev will be thinking of him during this performance.