Through Music, a Discovery of Family and Self

Story posted December 01, 2006

Tim Kantor
Tim Kantor '07

Virginia Weckstrom-Kantor wouldn't miss her son's senior violin recital for the world. She is flying all the way from Cleveland to be in the audience of Tim Kantor's Dec. 9th performance — one of two the advanced music major will undertake before graduating in 2007.

When he gets to the Brahms, however, she will do something very few — if any — Bowdoin parents have ever done. She will walk onstage to join her son as his piano accompanist.

Weckstrom-Kantor is a leading pianist and teacher at the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music, where Tim's father, renowned violinist Paul Kantor, also teaches. Tim says his choice of an accompanist was as natural to him as picking up the violin.

"I've played with my mother my whole life and I just thought it would be fun," says Tim, smiling. "Why not? It's one of the great pieces that is challenging for both parts and we have played the piece together at home frequently."

Tim Playing Violin.jpg
"If I go for a long time without touching the violin, I start to feel uneasy."

It would be easy to chalk up Tim's passion for music to upbringing, or even genetics. He has played the violin since he was two and grew up in a household filled with classical music. But as he tells it, it took a trip "off the path" — into the open-ended exploration of Bowdoin's liberal arts program — to lead him back to where he began.

"I never intended to become a musician," says Tim, taking a break from practicing his warm-up scales. "I came to Bowdoin with the intention of studying anything but music, without any idea what that was going to be."

He studied Italian intensively, spending a semester in Bologna, and immersed himself in a wide range of other courses. He participated in intramural sports, including basketball and soccer. But throughout his studies, he continued to take some music classes — including private lessons with Bowdoin Violin Instructor Stephen Kecskemethy, a longtime member of the internationally known Portland String Quartet.

By the time it was necessary to declare a major, Tim realized he had actually amassed enough credits for a music major. More importantly, he says, he realized how major music was to his life.

Violin detail

"I started to understand that the only reason I hadn't wanted to be a musician was because my parents are musicians," says Tim. "I realized that in spite of that, I really enjoy what I do and it gives me great pleasure. If I go for a long time without touching the violin, I start to feel uneasy, like, 'what am I doing?' I had gotten to the point where I was finally able to play the beautiful music of the more advanced repertoire. Then I knew that being a musician is what I wanted to do with my life."

Kecskemethy, who describes Tim as "one of those rare bright lights that shines every once in a while ... a remarkable talent," says the young violinist's path is one that a surprisingly large number of professional musicians take: "Get a liberal arts degree so that you have something that will pay the bills somewhere down the line. Obviously, music is a risky profession and Tim will have a wonderful, rounded academic background behind him. He has discovered that music is something he definitely wants to take a chance with and pursue. And that's a gutsy decision."

Listening to the warm tones of Brahms' Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, it's hard to imagine him doing anything else. The passionate, dynamic work is a stalwart of the violin repertoire and demands both athleticism and interpretive depth. Tim beams his concentration on the violent strains of the first movement, repeating a difficult passage several times before continuing his practice.

"Tim comes home so excited about all subjects, in music and outside of music. There is nothing more that can be said about the quality of an education than if it makes people excited about learning." — Paul Kantor

Tim's father, violinist Paul Kantor, says his son's musical prowess can be thought of as "generational progress," adding: "Things I had to work and slave for he seems to do almost by osmosis. I'm most impressed with his seriousness and probing nature ... and the naturalness he seems to have intellectually and emotionally with the music. There are a lot of people with athletic ability, but he seems to have an organic understanding of the music. That shouldn't surprise me, I guess — he's heard music since he was in the womb."

His father's opinion of his work matters more than it might to most sons: After Tim graduates from Bowdoin he hopes to enter the Cleveland Institute of Music for his graduate studies. If accepted, he is likely to be studying with his father.

"I never studied with my father when I was little because it always ended with screaming," laughs Tim. "But I studied with him during the summer recently and it's actually worked very well. It's not something that would have been possible even five years ago.

"From my end, it's mostly an acknowledgement that he knows more than I do and accepting that fact," adds Tim. "As his son, it takes time coming to terms with that, but there is a lot I can learn."

Tim Kantor's December 9, 2006, recital will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Gibson Hall's Tillotson Room. In addition to Brahms' Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, the program will include two Paganini Caprices, and Bach's Partita No. 3 in E Major, the latter of which he will play on a Baroque violin.

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