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Laurie Niles

Constantine Kiradjieff, 1931-2008

August 12, 2008 at 7:07 PM

On a small piece of green paper, in a tattered white folder, lies a set of instructions that I wrote in my neatest-possible handwriting, some 20 years ago: Mr. K's warm-up.

I realized, upon unearthing it from my music files, that it's the same warm-up that I do, to this day. I learned it from University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music professor Constantine Kiradjieff, whom most people called “Conny."

Conny Kiradjieff died on Friday at age 77. He was buying tickets at Music Hall for a friend when he slipped and fell down the steps last Thursday. He died the next day from a severe brain injury.

I took lessons from Conny in the summer of 1987, while at home from college with my parents in Cincinnati. Conny taught there for 35 years, and he played in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for 49 years, retiring in 2004.

Practicing in my parent's basement, under a bare light bulb (I preferred this cocoon-like place to any of the bright, sunny, roomy rooms in the house), going to lessons with “Mr. K," I learned some lessons that stuck for life, that I repeat to my own students. Somehow, after doing those Galamian scales for what felt like several lifetimes, Conny made them fun and interesting again. He made me pay attention to my martele: “You need a sharp 'icktus' on each note, and a clear, sharp tone," he said. He had more simple but profoundly helpful advice for my spiccato: “Completely relax your upper arm, and use the fingers and lower arm. The elbow just pivots."

I also found some notes on the back of my “warm-up" sheet, and I see a bit of his personality in them. I was studying the last movement of the Mendelssohn concerto that summer, and he was advising a period of slow, precision practice: “Don't EVEN try it fast, however tempting as it may be," my notes from the lesson warn.

Kiradjieff gave much to many, helping build the classical music community in Cincinnati and beyond. In addition to teaching and playing in the symphony, he was director and conductor of the Cincinnati Community Orchestra from 1967 to 1982, and he founded many other ensembles, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Enquirer also reported this:

“Before the rehearsal for the Cincinnati Pops concert at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday, Erich Kunzel held a moment of silence and said, 'God bless you, Conny. You're playing the violin with the angels now.'"

Please share your memories and thoughts about this dear man who was a friend, colleague and mentor to so many.

From Jason Bell
Posted on August 12, 2008 at 7:48 PM
He taught me for a summer in Cincinnati. I have the same warm-up sheet, with his handwriting, in my binder of papers from important teachers and lessons. I will miss him so much.
From Jenna Potts
Posted on August 12, 2008 at 8:37 PM
Wow... What a great soul he had. I studied with him just a few years ago. It was obvious that his body was slowing down, but his passion for life, music, and God were so incredible. I especially loved the stories that he shared every lesson of the "golden era" violinists he was privileged to know.

I remember doing his scale exercises, too....

From Anne Horvath
Posted on August 13, 2008 at 1:08 PM
Mr. K was my teacher at CCM. He was one of the kindest souls I ever knew. As a teacher, he always knew exactly what to say. He told amazing stories about Galamian, Rabin, Heifetz, Milstein, and many others. I never heard him say one negative thing about another musician. He shared the love of violin, the life of music, and an incredible work ethic. I adored him.

Out of so many wonderful memories, my favorite is this: I had an 8:00 a.m. lesson time, once a week. I would arrive early, and quietly sit on the bench outside his studio and eavesdrop on his practicing. He would work on symphony charts, scales, (yes, THE scales), etudes, or pieces. No matter how late the previous night's concert lasted, or how long the week was, he was in his studio at the crack of dawn, practicing the violin.

Deepest sympathies to his family.

From Drew Lecher
Posted on August 13, 2008 at 2:58 PM
Laurie,

What a beautiful tribute — it makes me sit back and think of my past teachers and their tremendous influence.

Something for all to remember.
D.

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on August 14, 2008 at 1:58 AM
"Practicing in my parent's basement, under a bare light bulb"

Ve have veys of makink you prrractice.

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