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Maksin expansive with cello

Ian Maksin will visit familiar territory when he performs at the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening concert. Maksin, a Russian-born cellist who now lives in Chicago, performs Aram Khachaturian’s Cello Concerto on Saturday with the SMSO.


Mstislav Rostropovich

Khachaturian’s concerto holds a special place in Maksin’s heart because the piece sparked his interest in the cello.

When he was a boy growing up in Russia, his grandmother played a recording of Khachaturian’s Cello Concerto.

Khachaturian was a contemporary of the great 20th century Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.

Khachaturian was of Aremenian descent, and he lived at a time when Armenia was a part of the Soviet Union.

Maksin says that Armenia is a small country that is bordered by Turkey and is not too far from Greece, and that Middle Eastern sound can be heard in Khachaturian’s music.


“He was not Rostropovich as far as technique was concerned”, Maksin says. “But as far as the sound, there was something that caught my attention as a little kid To me, (the music) sounded like it was not coming from a musical instrument, but from inside a person’s soul and was related to the human body and the human voice.”


Aram Khachaturian

Maksin says that sound amazed him and inspired him to learn how to play the cello.

He was 6 years old at the time and had been playing the guitar for two years when he decided to play the cello.

He was 15 when he played Khachaturian’s concerto for the first time.

“I have come back to it (many) times, and I never get tired of playing it,” he says. “It is really connected with me, and I keep finding new ideas and new things that I like about this music.”

Maksin immersed himself in different musical styles even as he refined his skills as a classically trained cellist.


“I have always played other kinds of music,” he says. “I started a rock band when I was 12 and was playing guitar and keyboards and learning how to play the cello and incorporate it into rock music.”


Maksin continued his exploration of other musical styles after coming to the United States as an exchange student in 1992. He has performed with artists as diverse as Snoop Dogg and Sean “Diddy” Combs to Andrea Bocelli, Gloria Estefan and Smokey Robinson.

That musical diversity is revealed in Maksin’s music. “Solo Flight,” his latest CD, is classical works arranged for cello solos. Maksin says his upcoming album will feature progressive jazz.

Maksin’s varied musical tastes makes him an artist that can increase the popular appeal of classical music.


“(The question of how to increase the popularity of classical music) concerns me quite a bit, and I try to look for different ways to make that connection,” Maksin says. “But what I found is that when you play well and bring the music in front of audiences and are sincere with it, (people) will like it.”


Maksin says the key is to bring the music to the people.

“I go around and play before all sorts of audiences,” he says. “I go to school, churches, coffee shops, and I bring out my cello and people like it and they want to see me perform at concert halls. If you put it out there and you are sincere about (the music), people will like it and they will come back.”



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