This is Nathan Cole, First Associate Concertmaster of the LA Phil. Above I’m with my wife Akiko Tarumoto, Assistant Concertmaster in LA. We’re not technically stand partners1, but together we are Stand Partners for Life.
We met at a strange time for both of us: Akiko was midway through Harvard, questioning whether or not she wanted to keep doing the violin “thing” after a childhood of intense training in and around New York City.2 And I’d just finished my first year at the Curtis Institute. Having grown up in Kentucky, I wasn’t used to so many strong players around.3 I was starting to feel like I had something to prove.
Off on the wrong foot
The Taos summer music school and festival brings together about 20 college-age string players and pianists, and in 1997, that included the two of us. We bonded over a love of the Simpsons, but when it came to playing together, that bond frayed pretty fast. I remember some mild frustration with our Bartok 2nd Quartet group, but Akiko remembers much stronger negative feelings!4
A long break, then a new chapter
So when those eight weeks were done, Akiko and I went our separate ways and didn’t think much about the other, except when a classic Simpsons episode came on. By the time seven years had gone by, I had finished school, spent a couple years in the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and was then playing in the Chicago Symphony. Akiko had finished Harvard, then Juilliard, and won a spot in the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
So when Chicago hired a new violinist, I didn’t realize who it was until I saw her bio pinned up on the orchestra board downstairs.5
One of us got the other’s number before Akiko arrived to find a place to live, and we set up coffee. When we met on Michigan Avenue, it was one of those thunderbolt moments. So much had changed!6
Four auditions and a wedding
Actually, since we got married in 2006, there have been way more than four auditions. There was my 2nd chair audition out here in LA, then Akiko’s section audition, as well as her subsequent auditions for 5th and 4th chair. But to pile up across from those successes, we’ve got failures in cities all across the country. Unfortunately, that’s the audition game!7
Kids, conductors, and a podcast
So now we have three children, including a set of boy-girl twins. At some point, we realized that for most of our waking hours, we were complaining either about parenting or playing. In other words, we resented having authority over others, and we resented those who had authority over us!8
So those long LA drives to and from work became therapy sessions, and those sessions eventually morphed into this podcast. We figured that we should turn our orchestral observations into something positive, or we really would drive each other crazy. We try to keep the actual complaining to a minimum, although Akiko can’t help herself sometimes!
Let’s keep in touch
The biggest thing that keeps us going is hearing from you: what you like about the show, what you’d change, what topics you want us to cover next! So if you’ve got something to say, head on over to the Contact page right now.
And since you’ve made it this far, you wouldn’t mind getting the occasional email from us, right? We’ll let you know when a new episode comes out, and when we’re holding special live events. And just for giving us your email, we’ll throw in a guide we put together on how to pick your next instrument! Just sign up below: