With violin and a puppy, DSO concertmaster Kim Kennedy stays sane

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

Like everyone else these days, Kim Kennedy, acting concertmaster for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, has been stuck at home, struggling with the COVID-19 lockdown like the rest of us.

Happily, Kennedy's got her violin and a new puppy to ground her.

"We got an eight-week-old Australian shepherd named Ruby," she said. "My daughter Lauren and I are tag-teaming the training and potty shifts and getting up in the middle of the night."

Then there's Kennedy's violin, which she's been playing for about a year, made in 1626 by Nicola Amati -- an Italian craftsman who would go on to teach Antonio Stradivari, he of the legendary Stradivarius violins. Oddly, this particular violin has bore witness to an earlier pandemic just a few years after it was made.

"An interesting thing about this instrument is that it survived the plague in 1630," she said. "So if it survived that, it'll probably survive this one."

DSO Acting Concertmaster Kim Kennedy has thrown herself into online projects during the lockdown.

Still, Kennedy admits she needs a break from the news. "I want to be smart, want to know what’s going on," she said, "but don’t need to be pulled around minute by minute."

To keep her balance, Kennedy, who's married to DSO horn player Bryan Kennedy, has taken on outside projects like the Liquid Open Viral Ensemble. That's an effort to enlist 1,000 musicians worldwide to record the overture to Mozart's "The Magic Flute" in one massive, online orchestral effort. 

"There are concertmasters, principals and some very big pros in it," Kennedy said. "So I was really excited to hear and join."

But she has yet to videotape herself, confessing to problems many Zoom participants will understand.

"Recording yourself in your own home -- figuring out how to get the mic to sound the best and at what angle," Kennedy said, "that’s part of my big learning curve right now."

DSO principals are also whipping up a virtual string quartet.

"We're recording the first movement of Beethoven's Opus 18 No. 6," Kennedy said, "for special donors to the DSO. It's a sort of ‘We love you so much, we’re doing these special episodes for you.’"

Another online project involves 21 DSO violinists, all working together to create a seamless solo by baroque composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber. ("Not," she says carefully, "Justin Bieber.")

DSO Acting Concertmaster Kim Kennedy

The solo, known as a passacaglia, consists of 131 bars, or measures. "We’ll each record two bars, move on, come back, and play another two bars," Kennedy said, so everyone will get a number of chances.

"This is how I’m keeping sane," Kennedy said with a laugh, "immersing myself in projects." And she hasn't dropped her eight students, whom she's now teaching in the virtual universe.

And like so many of us, she's found herself cooking up a storm.

"I love to garden and cook -- or at least eating," Kennedy said with a laugh. "I like that meme that says 'Wear a mask at home -- not to protect yourself, but so you don't eat so much.'"


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