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An ambassador of the cello, he travels the world

Joshua Roman
The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

Young cellist Joshua Roman whose star is shining brightly in the music world will arrive in Sri Lanka later this month to appear at a concert fundraiser for the Sunera Foundation. His concert on Monday, September 26 with pianist Eshantha Peiris at the Lionel Wendt will offer local music aficionados a rare opportunity to see someone who has played with the likes of YoYa Ma on the Colombo stage.

In a long list of accomplishments that belie his relative youth, Roman’s most recent honour was when he was named a 2011 TED Fellow. One of the world’s most recognised and coveted Fellowships, TED Fellows are drawn from the many disciplines that reflect the diversity of TED’s members: technology, entertainment, design, the sciences, the humanities, the arts, NGOs, businesses and more.

With a Bachelor’s Degree in cello performance in 2004 and a master’s in 2005, studying first under Richard Aron and then with Hoebig in 2006, at age 22, Roman won the principal cellist job with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra – the youngest principal player in that orchestra’s history.

In 2008, he began a solo career, one that has taken the 27-year-old virtuoso across the US and much of the globe. His performances have included appearances as concert soloist with numerous orchestras and other solo work, as well as chamber music performances and collaborations with other leading musicians. Reflecting Roman’s desire to use new media to promote and encourage participation in classical music, he was the only guest artist invited to play an unaccompanied solo during the YouTube Symphony Orchestra’s debut concert in 2009, introduced in a video by cello superstar Yo-Yo Ma.

In 2007, Roman had the privilege of playing Jean Barriere’s ‘Sonata for Two Cellos in G Major’ together with Yo-Yo Ma. In 2008, Roman released his first recording ‘Ballad’, a collection of works ranging from an arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s ‘Vocalise’ to Chopin’s ‘Polonaise Brillante’.

Roman’s daring also served him well during the recording of his debut CD, of which the centrepiece and title track is scored for eight cellos by Pulitzer-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis. Roman recorded all eight parts, a huge task.

In July 2010, he performed at both the world premiere in Seattle and the New York City premiere of a piece composed for him by fellow Cleveland Institute of Music graduate Dan Visconti. The five-movement composition entitled ‘Americana’ is based on lines of texts from patriotic folk songs, combining elements from American hymns, sea shanties, civil rights marches and even Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix.

Demonstrating a commitment to play in the most unusual of venues, in the summer of 2007, Roman took his two brothers and sister to an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Uganda and played string quartets for thousands of people in schools and camps.

His hope is that his solo career carries him around the world as an ambassador of the cello. “I hope to take my music to as many places a I an, to deliver a powerful message through the cello,” he says.