Charles Kavalovski

retires from the BSO after 25 years

Cornucopia, January 1997

Chuck Kavalovski is eager to see what the rest of his life holds. He has announced his decision to retire from the Boston Symphony at the end of this season after 25 years as Principal Horn. "It was a complicated personal decision," he says. His wife, pianist Margo Garrett, is teaching at NEC this year but may go back to Minnesota next year to continue building a PhD program in accompanying. Chuck isn't sure yet what he will do -- free lancing, solo playing, and computers are options he's considering.

Chuck says his playing is going better than ever, but he'd rather leave too early than too late, and at age 61, he's one of the oldest principal hornists in the major US orchestras. He believes in the necessity of maintaining skills, "training like a competitive athelete." It has been satisfying to have succeeded through hard work and to have seen his capabilities and musical expressiveness on the horn increase over the years. His only concession, because of arthritis in his shoulder after years of holding the horn off the leg, is a foot rest that raises his leg enough for the bell to rest on it and still project the sound.

In spite of his conspicuous success on the horn, music wasn't his first profession. He has a PhD in physics and was a tenured full professor at age 35, playing horn in community orchestras. But he wanted to see what he was capable of on horn and so took a leave of absence from teaching to take auditions. He won several principal positions; while waiting for the outcome of the BSO audition, he played a season with Denver, his first and only other professional position.

"I've been lucky to have two careers," he comments. "In this day and age, you have to specialize. I loved physics, but I also wanted to play the horn. Fortunately, I've been able to do both."

He is also lucky, he says, "to have had the best horn job in the US." The BSO has the best hall, good management/orchestra relations (no strikes), and Ozawa has been flexible with scheduling. Chuck has had a say in hiring everyone in the section, and they're great colleagues. Boston is the "easiest large city to live in", the orchestra has summers at Tanglewood, and Chuck particularly appreciates the BSO Chamber Players, a unique arrangement for the first chair players, who don't play Pops. Boston also has a wonderful tradition of a public attitude that respects musicians as much as it does, for example, physicists.

In addition to his orchestral playing, Chuck has many other accomplishments to his credit, including recordings, professorships, and election to the IHS Advisory Council. Retirement from the BSO is unlikely to mean resting. We'll just have to wait and see.

Chuck nows lives in Minnesota where he teaches and free-lances.

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