On July 2nd 2009 I had the pleasure of interviewing clarinetist Konstantin Keytlin. Keytlin was born in Dnepropetrovsk in the Ukraine and immigrated to Israel in 1998.
PH: What were your earliest musical experiences?
KK: I would say I was “born in the opera”. My mother is a choral conductor and my father sang in the Dnepropetrovsk Opera; so I spent much of my childhood behind the scenes. I grew up going to a lot of opera and ballet performances. Actually, at the age of five, I had a small part in Moussorgsky’s “Boris Gudunov”, playing the child who steals money from a beggar. At home, we heard records of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Robertino Loretti; and my grandmother sang Yiddish songs.
PH: You certainly were exposed to many kinds of music! And when did you actually start taking lessons?
KK: At age eight I started studying the clarinet with Arkady Gurfinkel. It was my parents’ decision I should play the clarinet. Gurfinkel was the best teacher in the city and I feel lucky to have studied with him. Many of his pupils have won prizes for performance. When I was 14, Gurfinkel immigrated to Israel and I continued my studies with a student of his. At age 15 I began playing in the orchestra of the Dnepropetrovsk Opera.
PH: How did your studies continue?
KK: On finishing secondary school, I was accepted to the Donetsk State Music Academy in the Ukraine. In my first year of studies, I gave several recitals and joined the Donetsk Opera orchestra. During my second year there, I took third prize in the Rovno Competition. My mind was set on studying at the National Music Academy of Kiev and I applied to the school but they did not accept Jews there. That is when I made plans to leave for Israel.
PH: So you came to Israel in 1998.
KK: Yes. I made my home in Jerusalem and continued my studies at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance for another two years, studying clarinet with Professor Ilan Schul. I won an outstanding musician’s award in the Israeli Absorption Ministry’s competition for immigrant musicians and a Sharett Scholarship from the America-Israel Cultural Fund Grant for Young Artists. I then began auditioning with orchestras here and now freelance, playing with the Ra’anana Symphonette Orchestra, the Holon Orchestra and Mordechai Sobol’s Cantorial Orchestra.
PH: You are considered a versatile musician. Can you mention some of your other activities?
KK: Yes. Singing comes naturally to me after having heard much vocal music in my childhood and having taken part in opera chorus rehearsals. I am a member of the Musica Aeterna Choir, which was founded by its conductor Ilya Plotkin in 1996. I also sing in the Tel Aviv Philharmonic Choir and in the choir of the Great Synagogue (Heichal Shlomo) here in Jerusalem. I have conducted a children’s choir in Israel.
A few years ago, I joined the “Apropos.Art” klezmer-jazz group – violin, trumpet, keyboards, bass, percussion and clarinet. We perform at festivals of Jewish music here in Israel and we have played in Holland, Poland and Germany.
I tune pianos, play the saxophone and teach clarinet, saxophone, piano and organ.
PH: How do you see yourself as an artist?
KK: I feel I communicate with my audience, be it one person or a packed concert hall. In my ten or so years here, I have performed in symphony concerts, in the synagogue, in operas, operettas, evenings of Yiddish songs and concerts of old songs of concerts under the auspices of the Absorption Ministry. And I love Yiddish songs; that is my grandmother’s legacy!
PH: How would you like to see your future?
KK: I would like to have a permanent position in an orchestra, to become as professional as possible in all the styles I play and to give my children the musical background my father was able to give me. I teach my 10-year-old son the clarinet and he plays it in ceremonies at school.
Within myself, I am looking to find a synthesis of the various styles of music with which I have grown up, to combine them with Israeli music and perhaps come up with something new. My future is in Jerusalem. I love its unique atmosphere and climate. This is my home.
PP: Konstantin, many thanks. I wish you much joy and satisfaction in your rich musical life.
Konstantin’s email address: firstname.lastname@example.org