There are some artists that just stand out in a way that defies explanation. They are so driven by their art, whatever genre, that they work tirelessly, constantly evolving and presenting to the world. One of those artists is Chicago’s own Ian Maksin. Born in Russia, he began playing cello at the tender age of six at the Special School for Gifted Children of the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory. At seventeen he began studying at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, later becoming the principal cellist of the New World Symphony under direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. During that time he was mentored by such notables as Lynn Harrell, Mstislav Rostropovich, Yo-Yo Ma, Bernard Greenhouse, and many others.
I had the opportunity to ask Ian some questions about what drives him.
What does music mean to you? Music is more than mere entertainment. And I learn that from my listeners and their endless testimonies. Music is remedy for the soul. It purifies you. To me music is my life. It’s my communication and relationship with the world. It’s an incredible energy exchange process between me and the audience. Music has power to change the world. I am learning it every day more and more and hope that I can be part of this global change through music. It can bring people together and serve as a common denominator when everything else fails. Music is hope.
You have an amazing musical pedigree and could probably play in your choice of symphonies around the world. What has inspired you to be a solo artist and to collaborate with so many different artists? I felt my creativity was limited quite a bit when I had to play as a part of an eighty-piece orchestra, even though it’s a very powerful experience in itself. But I felt I could give my audience more by exploring and finding my own personal voice. And I find it very fulfilling, being able to share my music with tens of thousands people every month in different parts of the world.
Tell me about your newest album? Unfortunately it’s not as new as I would like over a year old, and a new one is really overdue. But with my touring schedule of nearly 200 dates worldwide, it’s almost impossible to find time to write new stuff, let alone record it. I will however have a couple of new instrumental singles out this fall very shortly. One of them will be inspired by my recent trip to Armenia and discovery of its culture and incredible musical heritage. As far as my last full-length album Zaria, it was a compilation of my originals and some pop, rock and folk songs from several countries that are close to my heart: France, Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Georgia. Since then, I have added songs in at least another dozen languages and now it’s up to nearly twenty.
What inspires you most in influencing your music? Traveling and meeting new people in different countries. Their love and support. Their culture. It makes me want to give back more and more. Makes me want to immerse in their culture through music.
How did you end up in Chicago? I fell in love with Chicago over quarter century ago when I first visited. I love the sunrise on the lake. Love the skyline. Love the Art Institute and the Millennium Park. It never gets old. It inspires me. It grounds me when I come back from tour and helps me restore my energy supplies. It’s very conveniently located and I can be in any part of the country within 5 hours door to door.
What other projects are coming up for you that you would like to talk about? Oh I have so much going on. Just got back from a month long tour in five countries and have just three weeks before I leave again. In these three weeks I have to film two videos and record soundtracks to them, do a TedEX presentation in Naperville, play three concerts as a guest artist with the Orion Ensemble, one of Chicago’s premier classical music groups, record a major album as a guest artist with Kahil El-Zabar’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble along with some celebrated jazz artists such as David Murray and Corey Wilkes. And the centerpiece of this three-week Chicago residency will be a big show at 210Live in Highwood on November 17. As my guests I will have my favorite Chicago rhumba-fusion band Guitarra Azul led by Steve “Stefano” Edwards. Together we will play a lot of international repertoire such as songs in different languages and of course a tribute to music from Latin America with several popular songs in Spanish. I will also have a celebrity guest from Russia for a couple of songs: Fedor Chistyakov, leader of a legendary Russian band “Nol” (Zero). He will be passing by Chicago and will join us for a couple of songs and it’s a huge honor for me to have him on the show.
You can catch Ian in the Chicago area:
November 14: PianoForte Foundation, with Orion Ensemble
November 17: 210 Live, with Guitarra Azul
November 18: Nichols Hall, with Orion Ensemble
Info and tickets: ianmaksin.com