Classical Music & Dance

Meet Stirling Trent: violinist for KC Symphony who loves ’80s music

Special to The Star

Stirling Trent is from Colleyville, Texas, but both his parents attended the University of Kansas, and his grandparents lived in Kansas City. He visited here a number of times in childhood. He came to the orchestra from the Colorado Symphony, where he played three years. He said he has auditioned for the Kansas City Symphony more than once.

“With auditions you look at what’s out there and consider whether it’s a city I would be happy living in,” the 33-year-old said. “And does it look like a healthy group. This looks like such a healthy orchestra. The future looks really bright.”

Even with years of experience under his belt, an audition is still nerve-racking.

“It’s a necessary evil,” he said. “I think it does help if you repeated auditions in one place because you sort of get to know what the routine is. There’s a few little variables in every place. Where am I going to warm up? What’s the temperature like in the building? Are they on time? Are they communicating well? Does it run smoothly? Knowing what to expect definitely helps.”

If he lands the job, then the grueling two-day auditions are worth it.

“Unless I win at the end, they’re always nasty days,” he said. “They’re just exhausting. I think you have to decide to put yourself into the experience fully to do your best.”

Trent studied at the Juilliard School and later earned a masters and doctorate in violin performance from the University of Southern California. He’s now an associate principal, second violins.

In his off hours, he listens to a range of music, including jazz and ’80s rock — New Order, the Cure, Depeche Mode.

“The only thing I don’t listen to a lot is classical music,” he said. “I used to listen to it a lot when I was a teenager. Now it’s more a matter if it’s something I need to learn. I try to keep up with popular music. I don’t like all of it. But some I do. I love ’80s music, partly because I inherited my older siblings’ tastes.”

Trent also sees that he’s one of a group of younger players at the Symphony.

“There’s a lot of talented people coming in and adding to the orchestra, which is nice,” he said.

Of Michael Stern as a conductor, he said: “He tries to bring out these almost instinctual musical ideas in the orchestra and it’s not just technical. He likes to plant ideas about phrasing and kinds of sounds — you know, colors. Not all conductors do that. And he’s a great communicator.”