Matthew Zalkind Lamont Faculty Profile
by Ian Wisekal
Since Matthew Zalkind’s last profile, written when he joined the Lamont faculty in 2015, the cellist has celebrated some milestones, three of which occurred in just the last 18 months: he received tenure at DU, he bought his first house, and he got married.
Zalkind’s wedding to fellow cellist and Lamont faculty member in chamber music, Alice Yoo, took place as scheduled on March 28, 2020, but without any of the planned hubbub or pizzazz. (Their reception remains, as yet, postponed.) Closing on the couple’s house, an easy commute from campus, luckily took place before the city went into lockdown. As for tenure, Zalkind is just happy that he gets to call Denver home for years to come.
Making music during the pandemic was, for the normally busy performer, revelatory. Zalkind recorded recitals from home and from Hamilton recital hall, and pivoted his hometown summer project, the Denver Chamber Music Festival (DCMF), to an online series in 2020. “Learning the tech side of our field,” such as recording and streaming, “are skills that will remain in our wheelhouse forever,” said Zalkind. Plus, there was lots of time to practice. “This was a break I didn’t know I needed,” the professor revealed. “I found a way to reinvent my approach to the instrument.”
Teaching during the past year, a trying experience for everyone, also had its unexpected highlights. The cello studio at Lamont grew to its biggest number yet, welcoming nine new cellists in the fall of 2020 alone, and made a sterling impression. “This is just the most wonderful group,” Zalkind beamed. “They were great citizens during COVID and really kept their musical standards high. While the world stopped, their work really continued.” With less time spent at gigs and outside rehearsals, and plenty of shared hardships to commiserate about, he said, “Alice and I felt closer to the students than we’ve ever felt. We were all going through it together.”
On the home front, Zalkind and Yoo found a new passion: gardening in their first-ever yard. In addition to flowers, the couple found success planting tomatoes, zucchini and herbs. “Alice is definitely the master, and I’m the assistant,” Zalkind admitted. They also explored hiking opportunities closer to home, favoring Chautauqua Park in Boulder and Roxborough State Park in Littleton.
Now that concerts have returned, Zalkind said, “It feels like the light switch just turned on. We went from a drought to a flood.” In addition to his concerts with the DCMF, the again-busy performer and teacher returns this summer to the Olympic Music Festival in Washington, the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival in Vermont, the Boulder Cello Festival, and performs several concerts with the Colorado Cello Quartet.
In addition to planning DCMF’s 2022 season, Zalkind looks forward to seeing his students again in the fall, hopefully under more usual-looking circumstances. “My performing career has been extremely varied over the years,” he reflected. “But while I enjoy having a dual career in performance and pedagogy, the most gratifying part of my life will always remain teaching.”