These Podcasts are Produced for String Players by String Players

Here is a short roundup of strings-focused and strings-adjacent podcasts currently waiting for their next new listener

By David Templeton | From the July-August 2023 issue of Strings Magazine

To be a string musician, one must be a skilled listener. There was a time when that meant listening deeply to the other musicians with which one connects while performing. It meant listening to hours and hours of live and recorded music. It even meant simply listening to one’s own musical instincts and artistic impulses. Today, an active musician would likely include listening to podcasts—specifically podcasts by, for, and about string musicians.

What were originally known as “audioblogs”—downloadable, on-demand “radio shows” distributed via the internet—would eventually come to be known as “podcasts,” the first of which was reportedly Doug Kaye’s IT Conversations, which appeared in 2003. Twenty years later, there are well over 115,000 English-language podcasts available to listeners on a variety of podcasting platforms, disseminating everything from the daily news and detailed analysis of sports, politics, and popular culture to lively conversations about film and television, true crime stories, the latest conspiracy theories, and even live Dungeons & Dragons role-playing games.

Not surprisingly, many of the podcasts currently available for downloading and casual listening are about music, and a good number of those focus specifically on the playing of string music. Here is a short roundup of strings-focused and strings-adjacent podcasts currently waiting for their next new listener. All of these can be easily found on an array of podcast streaming platforms.


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The NY Phil Story: Made in New York

Produced by WQXR and the New York Philharmonic and hosted by Jamie Bernstein, the daughter of Leonard Bernstein, this gorgeously produced five-part podcast was launched on April 5 of this year. Described as “the story of a city, its people, and their orchestra,” the documentary-style podcast debuted with “The Founding,” a genuinely thrilling, story-packed episode relating the colorful beginnings of the New York Philharmonic, which was founded in 1842. Alternating archival audio and snippets of interviews from an array of musicians and scholars with Bernstein’s own charming and lively recollections of her legendary father—who famously served as the NY Phil’s principal conductor and artistic director from 1958 to 1969—the podcast quickly moves on from its entertainingly swashbuckling origins and across 181 years of history. “A Time to Mourn,” the second episode, describes the NY Phil’s musical responses to tragedies like the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Subsequent episodes are titled “From the New World,” “Beyond These Walls,” and “Coming Home,” the latter describing the effects on the organization of the Covid-19 pandemic and the return to live performances after the devastating shutdowns of 2020 and 2021.

Omo

“Hello omo-sapiens!” Named for Omobono Stradivari—the least-liked of Antonio Stradivari’s six sons, and famously flamed in his father’s will—this breezily info-jammed monthly podcast, hosted by Rozie DeLoach of Caraway Strings in Dallas, Texas, was launched in 2019. Along with a shifting roster of co-hosts, DeLoach and company delve deeply into the lives, history, artistic approaches, and industrial evolutions of violin makers dead and alive. Now in its fifth season, with 50+ episodes available so far, Omo is delightfully unpredictable, with topics ranging from details about the life of the violin maker DeLoach often calls “our beloved Omo” to various lutherie-related techniques and subjects ranging from tips on woodworking and chemical safety to the future of bow making as it relates to the harvesting of endangered pernambuco wood. 

Maksym-Filatov
Maksym Filatov

Violinist’s Podcast

Hosted by Ukrainian violinist Maksym Filatov, this conversational podcast was launched in November of 2020 and has amassed upward of 33 episodes featuring intimate, detailed interviews with some of the best violinists in the world. As the straightforward title suggests, this is a spare, stripped down, no-nonsense type of show, with minimal bells and whistles, primarily just Filatov tossing questions to the likes of Alena Baeva, Vadim Gluzman, and Bomsori Kim. With its emphasis on international artists, the perspectives shared are often as fresh and original as they are thoughtful, eye-opening, and inspiring.


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ViolaCentric’s Stephanie Knutsen, left, and Elizabeth O’Hara Stahr Cynthia Mauer
ViolaCentric’s Stephanie Knutsen, left, and Elizabeth O’Hara Stahr. Photo: Cynthia Mauer

ViolaCentric

As its title suggests, this podcast’s amiable hosts—Stephanie Knutsen and Elizabeth O’Hara Stahr—are both violists. Right from the show’s premiere episode in December of 2020—along with the disarming revelation that both Knutsen and O’Hara have “freakishly long arms” (not a bad thing for anyone who plays viola)—the pair describe themselves as “two curious violists exploring the art of connection through conversations with each other and with friends.” With an emphasis on the nuts and bolts of making a living as a musician, the show is more than willing to follow that aforementioned curiosity down any number of conversational rabbit holes, and in recent episodes, the affable hosts have been offering highly enjoyable recaps of the Amazon television series Mozart in the Jungle

Beethoven Walks into a Bar

Produced by the Kansas City Symphony, this breezy, conversational podcast is described by its creators as “a lighthearted exploration into the wild world of orchestral music.” Each episode begins with some verbally dexterous connection to the “bar” theme of the title: “Welcome back to your master distiller’s favorite podcast, and the only one to be aged in new charred oak barrels” or “The only podcast ever to receive 100 points from Wine Spectator magazine and the podcast whose spicy notes and earthy tones vividly paint a pastoral tableau of rolling, semi-arid hills brimming to life with the Sound of Music.” Like so many of the podcasts on this list, it sprang to life in the early months of 2020 with a rotating assortment of hosts, generally musicians and staff of the Kansas City Symphony. Over seven seasons, the highly engaging repertoire and deep-dive stories presented by the hosts and their guests have made this a favorite of students, professional musicians, and music lovers within Kansas City and worldwide.


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Cello Stories: Songs, Music, and Stories from Beanstalk Arts

This inventive, made-for-kids podcast—which began in the UK in 2021 and has so far run during the summer—is hosted by Becky Dixon, founder of Beanstalk Arts, a South East London organization focused on music and storytelling. In each episode, Dixon sings and talks and plays the cello (and occasionally the ukulele), while relating a story that usually involves the adventurous Boris the Bird. Many of the stories are inventive, musically supported takes on familiar fairytales, with the occasional original. There are currently ten episodes available.

For the Greater Groove!

Called “the greatest living exponent of the electric violin by BBC radio,” soloist Tracy Silverman turns out to be every bit as magnetic a conversationalist as he is a musician. As promised by the subtitle “The Future of Strings,” Silverman’s stated purpose for his interview-based podcast is to make the point, one player at a time, that string performance needs to adapt to changes or it will perish. In his show, which Silverman produces and edits himself, guests frequently bring along their instruments to back up their ideas while sharing insightful give-and-takes about the changing role of string playing. And then Silverman ends the podcast with a little quiz he calls, “Not My Gig,” in which he tests his visitors’ knowledge of truly arcane subjects. It’s as fun as it is inspirational.

And the List Goes On

The above are just the tip of the podcasting iceberg, with literally hundreds of podcasts covering all manner of stringed instruments and perspectives. Among those we recommend checking out are The Jazz Violin Podcast, in which Matt Holborn interviews a different violinist each month; The Violin Chronicles, violin maker Linda Lespets’ addictive musical history podcast about the lives of people throughout time who’ve made and played the violin; and Rosin the Bow, with Joe McHugh, storyteller, fiddler, and award-winning public radio journalist. McHugh has traveled the planet talking about the violin with musicians, luthiers, museum curators, rosin makers, collectors, and even the occasional FBI agent, and each podcast dips into his archive of recorded conversations that, it turns out, are of such artistic and cultural significance they will one day become part of the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection of violin-related research.