Concertmaster in Residence

KENNESAW, Ga. | Oct 3, 2018

Violin virtuoso coaches KSU music students

David Coucheron
David Coucheron

“Where are your eyes? Are they on the conductor?”

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster David Coucheron poses the question to a group of attentive Kennesaw State music students who are arrayed in front of him practicing a difficult section of Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 in D Major in preparation for the KSU Symphony Orchestra’s concert on Oct. 4.

This is their first instruction by Coucheron, who is the School of Music’s Distinguished Artist in Residence for Orchestral Studies for the 2018-2019 academic year.

“You already know how to play the piece, now you need to follow the conductor.”

His admonition comes halfway through a two-hour coaching session in a recital hall on the Kennesaw Campus, where the charismatic virtuoso is engaged in a good-natured repartee with the orchestra’s first violin section.

“His hearing sensitivity impressed me the most,” said Lisa Kawamura, a first-year violin performance major from Atlanta. “There were nine of us playing the same music, and he was able to hear each one of us and locate where each sound was coming from. He was able to specifically help us improve our way of playing. His sense of detail made me feel a lot more aware of the placement of the beat, and that is only possible because of his highly trained ear.”

Violin master class

Recognized today as world-class concert soloist, Coucheron, who plays a 1725 Stradivarius violin, is not that far removed from his own college days. Born and raised in Oslo, Norway, he is little more than a decade older than his students.

After graduating with his Bachelor of Music degree from The Curtis Institute of Music, Coucheron went on to earn his Master of Music from The Juilliard School and his Master of Musical Performance from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he studied with teachers including Igor Ozim, Aaron Rosand, Lewis Kaplan and David Takeno.

When he joined the ASO as Concertmaster in September 2010, at 25, he was the youngest person to hold that position at any major U.S. orchestra.

Like Coucheron, Kawamura began playing the violin at the age of three. Many of the other first-chair violinists have been studying music for more than half their young lives, and they clearly appreciate the opportunity to learn from such an accomplished musician.

Charles Page, a senior violin performance and music education major from Marietta, said the session gave him new insight into his section’s role in the orchestra.

Violin master class

“He is so knowledgeable about how the violin part fits into the grand scheme of the entire section of music,” Page said. “He knew which sections had solo lines, and he could play those solo lines from memory. It was truly astounding and inspiring to see, first-hand, how important those things are in the top tier of the professional world.”

Violin performance majors MK Guthrie of Roswell and Lauren Greene of Kennesaw believe Coucheron’s instruction will help them become better musicians.

“In the past hour and a half, I have learned a lot more than in any rehearsal,” said Guthrie. “He is so experienced and so worldly.” Greene added, “I have learned to just go for it,” she said. “Perfect practice makes perfect. For me, four hours a day is the minimum.”

While the students are very appreciative of Coucheron’s hands-on instruction, the teacher himself finds benefit from the exercise.

“It’s always amazing for me to work students” said Coucheron, who in addition to coaching orchestral strings, will give master classes and lectures for School of Music students. “Not long ago, I was one of them. It’s wonderful because I get a chance to inspire them to love music and show them how lucky we are to be able to play such great music at a young age.”

Nathaniel F. Parker, assistant professor of music and director of Orchestral Studies, and Helen Kim, professor of violin, are coordinating Coucheron’s engagement with KSU.

On Oct. 4, Parker will conduct the KSU Symphony Orchestra, which will present a special program featuring Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 in D Major. Kim will perform Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1.

Violin master class

Coucheron will return to KSU Oct. 12 when the ASO performs composer Hector Berlioz’ Overture to Benvenuto Cellini, Henri Vieuxtemps’ Violin Concerto No. 5 and Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Choloé during an evening devoted to French music.

Both the Oct. 4 and Oct. 12 concerts will be held at the Morgan Concert Hall in the Dr. Bobbie Bailey and Family Performance Center.

Robert S. Godlewski

Photos by Lauren Kress

Related Stories

A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit