Musician Profile: Ken Heinlein

The Akron Symphony Orchestra is comprised of talented musicians who have spent a lifetime honing their craft.

They are also your colleagues, neighbors and friends, and their passion for the community reflects their passion for their music.

Ken Heinlein joined the Akron Symphony in 2008 and is currently the Principal Tuba. He recently sat down for a Q&A on life as a professional musician.

Q: How did you first become interested in music?

Ken: I first became involved in music singing in my church choir. Eventually I joined my school band, and that’s where I was first introduced to tuba.

Video: Akron Symphony Profile: Ken Heinlein

Q: What is the best part about being a member of the Akron Symphony?

Ken: The colleagues. Music is, to me, about people; I love to share my ideas about music in rehearsals and hear what other people have worked out and practiced as well. Music isn’t really very interesting if it’s just notes on a page; it is performers and conductors and composers coming together and crafting a unique musical experience. It’s one of those things where the whole is really greater than the sum of its parts.

Q: If you were not a professional musician you would be …

Ken: Bored, probably. In all seriousness, teaching is very important to me, so I would likely be doing that. I had a thing for American literature in high school, so I imagine I’d have ended up a high school English teacher. This is a big and long counterfactual, however – music has long been an integral part of who I am and has affected the choices I’ve made at every turn for quite some time.

Q: If you could only play one piece of music, what would it be and why?

Ken: If I could only play one piece of music, I probably wouldn’t. Music is about different ideas and how each piece influences all of the others forward and backward in time. You can’t play just one piece of music any more than you can eat only one side of a potato chip.

Forcing me to answer … something Bach. Musical Offering, maybe, or the Art of Fugue? That said, I don’t play any of the instruments Bach wrote for, so I guess I’d be out to sea again.

Q: What is your favorite memory as a musician?

Ken: My favorite memories tend to be longer, more interconnected stories. I worked with Ron Bishop for two years during my master’s degree, and then we continued talking and working together long after I graduated – some of our greatest conversations came as culminations of all of the others that came before. I worked with Anthony Hopkins for two years as Principal Trombone, and I’ve never seen a musician so prepared and involved at the first rehearsal – it still inspires me.

Like I said; to me, music is about people, and all of my fondest musical memories are all of the teachers, colleagues, and students I’ve been so privileged to work with in my career.

Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Ken: There are a lot of different ways to be a musician, both amateur and professional, and all of them are valid. Music is an excellent discipline, and an incredible practice; that said, the particular intensity of professional music performance and/or teaching is not for everyone – and that is OK. I have a very good life, and one that I enjoy, but I wouldn’t insist that life on anyone.

Do what you love, do it how you love to do it, and pursue it only to the extent that it still brings you great joy. There is a certain place of love for music that can only come from within yourself, and there’s no faking that – to you or to anyone else.

And practice your scales every day.

Lighting round

Q: Favorite movie?

Ken: This changes frequently. Currently? Arrival.

Q: Favorite food?

Ken: Pizza. Holds a special place in my heart, since I don’t eat it anymore.

Q: If you could only hear one musician or band play live (any genre), who would it be?

Ken: Bach. I mean, he’s been dead for a while, but I’d love to hear him live.

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