Meet the Musicians: Dennis Karmazyn
A true friend to the orchestra
by Christina Linhardt
Dennis Karmazyn, the principal cellist of the California Philharmonic has had a long, impressive career as a world class cellist and continues to just keep getting stronger. He is also the current principal cellist of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and one of the top studio calls in town, playing on 50 to 75 scores a year, working under the batons of the film industries most acclaimed composers, including James Newton Howard, Jerry Goldsmith and Alan Silvestri, to name just a few. He performed on such classic scores as ET, Raiders of the Lost Arc and Star Wars (also just to name a few). However, his session playing is not limited to the silver screen, as he has recorded on the albums of numerous pop super-stars including, but not limited to, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond, Ella Fitzgerald and Barbra Streisand.
So how did such a lustrous career begin? "It's simple," Dennis explains. The music teacher at his public elementary school knew Dennis' dad was a violinist, and as the school orchestra needed a cellist, the teacher gave Dennis a cello and said, "Have your dad get you lessons." So his father took him to friend Nathan Liebenbaum, retired principal cello at Warner Bros., who coincidentally lived across the street from young Dennis' school. Kismet. Mr. Liebenbaum saw immediate potential in Dennis and said he should have lessons everyday, but his father, being a musician, couldn't afford everyday. So Mr. Liebanbaum had young Dennis do odd jobs around the house in exchange for lessons, already teaching him the value of hard work and tenacity. Daily private instruction paid off for Dennis as he started winning local and national competitions as a tween. And then, at age 16, Mr. Karmazyn was a soloist with Los Angeles Philharmonic. His father was a violinist with the orchestra and asked the then Maestro of the LA Phil, Zubin Mehta, if he would listen to his son. Teenaged Dennis played for Maestro Mehta, who liked him so much, he asked him to play a concerto with the orchestra, an opportunity very few musicians will get at any point in their lives, let alone at the age of 16.
Mr. Karmazyn joined the California Philharmonic approximately a decade ago. "Victor has a way with the audience," he says of Maestro Vener. "He's like Leonard Bernstein. He makes the audience feel like they are in his living room. People love him." Continuing with the family orientation of the Cal Phil, Dennis was able to get his son, Maxwell, a violinist and composer involved with orchestra. Maxwell arranged the theme from Schindler's List for cello and violin and father-son duo performed it with the Cal Phil at Disney Hall. Mr. Karamzyn appreciates having such a good time playing with the orchestra and the great relationship he has with conductor Victor Vener.
Being a renowned soloist and chamber artist with Columbia Artists? Management , touring Europe, the US and Canada giving solo recitals, Mr. Karmazyn is so involved with music, he rarely has time to do much else, but he has become involved in contracting and designing houses over the years, building his first house in Sherman Oaks and moving on from there. Being such a giant in the world of music, the California Philharmonic is proud not only to have Dennis Karmazyn as principal cellist, but as a true friend to the orchestra.