Meredith McCook, of Tyler, Texas, studied at the University of North Texas in Denton and did her graduate work at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. The piano was her first instrument.
“I started piano at 6 and then didn’t start cello until 11,” she said. “My dad played amateurly through college, and we had a couple of cellos sitting around the house. And I remember growing up he would play various things, like nursery rhymes and Beatles songs. I think he gave me my first lesson.”
After that, piano fell by the wayside, and the cello became her only instrument.
“This is my first full-time position, but I was with the New World Symphony (in Miami Beach) for four years before coming here,” McCook, 28, said. “It’s a four-year training program for recent music graduates, so all the people in the orchestra are under the age of 30 and have recently completed degree programs.”
The New World Symphony, she said, was as large as the KC Symphony, but with a difference. Few of the New World players had much professional orchestral experience.
“It’s a fellowship program and they bring in teachers throughout the year to do master classes and lessons, and we’re also performing a regular concert season,” she said.
So far, she has no complaints about the job or the city.
“I’m really happy to be here,” she said. “Everyone in the orchestra is really, really nice. I’m honored to be part of the orchestra here. The level of musicianship is very high, and it feels like a positive work environment.”
McCook, who plays an American-made 1913 cello, practices almost daily. And, like others, she said the most challenging aspect of the job was the constant need to be prepared.
“You have to figure out how much time it takes you to get ready, but generally I try not to be too stressed out about it,” she said.
McCook said she enjoys playing the pops concerts, but the Symphony offered her something new: performing for the Kansas City Ballet and Lyric Opera of Kansas City.
“It’s cool for me because I haven’t done a lot of opera and ballet, so I’m excited to do that here,” she said. “A lot of symphonies don’t do as much as the symphony here does. To actually be in the pit playing for an opera or ballet is a new experience where you’re not necessarily the center of attention.”
In town, she has investigated the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and checked out some barbecue places. So far, she appears to be a happy camper.
“I like it a lot so far, and I think Kansas City is great place to live,” she said. “And I think the Symphony is at a great level right now. And it’s getting better and better every year.”