Soloist, chamber musician, conductor, pedagogue, composer, arranger, and editor. Emilio Colón is always a very busy artist, but he takes the time to answer a few questions and convey some of his enthusiasm.
When did you start playing and why did you choose the cello?
I started the cello at age 6 after having played the piano for 3 years. Pablo Casals created a children’s program at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music and my sister wanted to take violin. While we were there waiting for my sister, I found myself stuck in the car with my mother! I immediately wanted to play the violin, too. At that moment someone walked outside with a big instrument in a brown bag and my mother asked what it was. They said “a cello!” And thus began my lifelong relationship with this glorious instrument!
Which teachers were the most decisive in your training, and from which points of view? When you look back at your studies, are you satisfied or, if you could go back, would you change something?
Every teacher with whom I came in contact had a powerful influence on my life. In my early training, I studied with Joaquin Vidaechea. After studying with Gaspar Cassado, Vidaechea came to Puerto Rico to study with Pablo Casals. He gave me a foundation in string playing that led to studies with Andre Navarra in Siena & Antonio Janigro in Salzburg. After graduating from the Conservatory in Puerto Rico, I then came to Indiana University to study with Janos Starker & while there had the additional influences of Josef Gingold, Menahem Pressler, Franco Gulli, and Helga Winold. This time period afforded me the opportunity to develop critical thinking and a new technical approach to cello playing. This required a complete understanding of how the body worked in relationship to the instrument in order to reach the ultimate goal of using the technique as the means of serving the greater cause of music-making.
When and where did you play in public for the first time? What was the moment of your career that gave you more?
I started playing in public almost immediately. Every day is a new moment of reflection, as I am always finding new ways to serve music-making & humanity as a whole.
Do you prefer to direct, play, compose or teach?
I love everything about music. I embrace every possibility that allows me to convey a positive message and build possibilities for a better musical future. As a performer, pedagogue, conductor, and composer, I am committed to continual growth, collaboration across disciplines and nations, and keeping classical music relevant and dynamic. I am an artist-teacher. Both forms of artistry feed each other, providing daily fuel that drives my desire for growth. In the studio, I teach music both as an art form and as a catalyst for social change. I carry these principles onto the stage and into the world. My students study performance as well as participate in teaching and outreach events, as I advocate for their development as well-equipped teachers while instilling a sense of responsibility for promoting classical music and social responsibility to future generations.
When you perform in concert, do you prefer to perform alone, in a duo with a piano, in a quartet, as a soloist with the orchestra, or in a group with many other cellos, or …?
I love making music and thrive in the joy of being on stage playing a Bach Suite, in chamber music, as a soloist with orchestra, or with 176 cellos!
Do you think that a composer, through his compositions, must express his emotions or should try to give shape to the emotions of the world around him, or should do… something else?
A great composer tells a story that transcends generations, allowing others the possibility of experiencing it in their own way. Technique and fantasy. Can they live without each other? The technique can be studied, but can fantasy be taught? Tough question! Some say that fantasy is a part of the talent that is innate. However, I believe that if people are immersed at an early age in the language of music-making and with direction, a person can develop the skills to feel the fantasy in music.
[to be continued⇒]