From Hoop Dreamer to String Virtuoso

. March 12, 2013.

As a kid, Amit Peled was much happier picking up a basketball than a cello bow. “I grew up on a kibbutz in Israel, and everyone had to learn an instrument when they were 10,” he says. “This 14-year-old girl who wouldn’t give me the time of day played cello, so I thought maybe she’d notice me.” The relationship with the girl never took off, but the one with the cello did. Audiences will get a chance to hear Amit play in a vibrant Ann Arbor Symphony program on Friday, March 15. He took a few moments to speak to us, first.

A2F: You didn’t start playing until you were 10?

AP: Yeah. That’s old to start playing cello, but I didn’t find it particularly difficult. When I was 14, a visiting teacher to the kibbutz encouraged me to audition for a school in Tel Aviv. I played a scale, and they heard something, and then I had to move. I was mad! No more basketball.

A2F: What’s your advice to young musicians?

AP: Don’t become a professional musician! I’m serious. It’s a very, very tough profession; if it’s right for you, you’ll get through the struggle of it, but it’s a long road. At the same time, I believe that music should be mandatory for all kids, and then you can become a doctor or lawyer or whatever you want to be. Music teaches kids imagination, coordination, persistence, and it can really help with ambition and setting goals. I have three kids; my oldest is 8, and she plays the piano, and the other two will definitely study music.

A2F: What’s the right age for kids to go to a classical concert?

AP: Honestly, it depends on the parents. I believe that kids of any age can love concerts if the parents have done a little preparation. It’s not about the kid sitting there completely still and being afraid to move. People used to clap between movements, and I wish they still did that. Kids and adults should be able to clap, or sing, or laugh, or even stand up and walk out. Music’s very powerful and moving, so when you come to a concert, be open to what’s happening up on stage, and feeling how it moves you.

A2F: Tell us about the music in the Ann Arbor concert.

AP: I’m playing the Elgar cello concerto, which was written by a British man right after WWI, so there’s a lot of sadness in it, but there’s also a wonderful message of hope, courage, and resilience that comes through the music. Then the orchestra will be playing Scheherazade, which is from a completely different world, so exotic and beautiful. I’m so busy rehearsing and performing that the only time I get to hear classical music live is when I listen to the parts of the concert that I’m not in. So I’ll be listening right along with the audience.

A2F: You have a very special cello. Tell us about it.

AP: When I started to play, my family got me a cassette tape of Pablo Casals, who was not just the greatest cellist of all time but maybe the greatest musician as well. I loved listening to him, and if you’d told me back then that one day I would own his cello, I think I would have fainted. The cello is currently in rehab and I won’t have it ready for the Ann Arbor concert, but I can’t wait to play it regularly.

Amit Peled will perform with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra on Friday, March 15 at 8 pm. Tickets: $10-58; see website for full pricing info. Michigan Theater, 603 East Liberty St. 734-994-4801.