Kim Cook, professor of music, is the 2016 recipient of Penn State’s Faculty Scholar Medal in the Arts and Humanities, in recognition of her critically acclaimed recordings, international performing career, and successful efforts to grow the School of Music’s cello studio.
Cook has released six CDs, including solo concertos recorded with orchestras in Russia, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria. She said her ultimate goal as an academic performer “is to create original, dynamic interpretations of important solo pieces based on historical research and pedagogical techniques.”
According to Marylène Dosse, Penn State Distinguished Professor Emerita of Music, Cook has raised the School of Music’s reputation at the University and beyond. “As a performer, Kim Cook’s publication and creative work has been of the highest order in the Penn State School of Music and highly surpasses what other professors have done in other music schools in the country,” she wrote in her letter of support for Cook’s nomination.
During the past fifteen years, Cook has focused much of her energy on performing and recording works of Eastern European composers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For example, in 2006, she traveled to Russia to make a recording of two Russian cello concertos with the Volgograd Symphony. “This experience helped me to create an authentic interpretation of the Cello Concerto by Shostakovich, which endeavors to reflect the tragedy of World War II,” she said. That recording received glowing reviews from AudioPhile Audition and Fanfare.
Cook said she is committed to commissioning new works for cello because it ensures the modern continuance of the art of classical cello music. She has premiered six solo concertos as well as more than thirty other works for solo and chamber ensembles. In 2013, she performed the premiere of a cello concerto by Venezuelan/American composer Efrain Amaya, commissioned by Cook and funded by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. With joint sponsorship from the Penn State Institute for the Arts and Humanities and the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, she commissioned Czech composer Zedenek Pololanik to write Capriccio for solo cello with orchestra, which she premiered and recorded in 2003.
Cook was the inaugural Penn State Laureate in 2008–09. Since joining the School of Music faculty in 1991, she has grown the cello studio from one undergraduate cello major to, as of fall 2015, fifteen students, including five graduate performance majors. Her students come from across the United States and the globe, including China, Ukraine, Argentina, Croatia, and Taiwan.
Cook established the Penn State Cello Choir, a thirty-member ensemble that performs throughout the academic year. Her former students occupy positions in orchestras and music schools in the United States, Croatia, Brazil, and Argentina.
According to Dosse, the success of Cook’s students is a testament to both her talent and her ability to attract promising musicians. “The number and caliber of her graduate students is getting higher as the years go by and the positions they are now occupying vouch for the level of their teaching and playing.”
Later this year, Cook will record a CD of premieres for NAXOS.