Cellist Joshua Roman Teams Up With Seattle Youth Symphony

May 8, 2014

At 22, Joshua Roman became the Seattle Symphony's youngest-ever principal cellist. With his mop of curly brown hair and his baby face, Roman was a distinctive presence at Benaroya Hall.

But just two years after the young musician took up his post, Roman decided to leave the orchestra to carve out his own career as a concert performer.

Six years later, at the ripe old age of 30, Roman has played on stages around the world, but he still has ties to Seattle. Roman is in town this weekend for the Seattle premier of "Dreamsongs," a composition written for the cellist by Aaron Jay Kernis.

Roman will perform with the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Stephen Radcliffe, on Sunday May 11. Most of the players are in their teens, not much younger than the cellist. "I was thinking at the next rehearsal, I need to have  Maestro Radcliffe ask them to them stop calling me Mr. Roman," Roman laughs.

Roman says these young musicians are the future of his profession, both as symphony colleagues and arts patrons.

Roman is well versed in the classical canon, but he's most known for his advocacy for new composition. The Seattle performance of "Dreamsongs" is the first by an orchestra that wasn't involved in commissioning the work. Roman says that's particularly important, because it can be hard for new music to compete with the likes of Bach or Beethoven or Mozart.

Branching Out To Composing

Roman himself has also just started to branch out into composition. He's involved in a collaboration with theater artist Anna Deveare Smith. They've put together an evening's exploration of the nature of "grace" through words and through Roman's own music. Originally, the cellist expected to adapt work by Bach, but as the project progressed, he realized they needed original music.

"It was really difficult for me to want to chop up Bach. And at certain times I wanted something a lot more edgy," he says.

Smith and Roman have performed together three times so far. Right now he says it's difficult to find free time in their individually hectic schedules.

Roman has plenty to keep himself busy. Roman is also curating a new music series for Town Hall Seattle. And after the weekend performance with Seattle Youth Symphony, he'll be back on the road, performing with orchestras around the world.