Cellist returns home for Bear Paw

Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - 12:52
Now living in Istanbul, Eagle River native will play AFAA
  • Cellist Jari Piper lived in Eagle River as a child before going on to study and perform internationally. He’ll be at the Alaska Fine Arts Academy on July 7 at 7 p.m. COURTESY PHOTO

In this era of pop singing contest reality shows, Jari Juhani Piper brings young energy to classical music.

The 25-year-old cellist sat down with The Star at the New Sagaya City Market in Anchorage to talk about music and word travel.

Amid the blended coffee smells and diverse chatter, Piper talked about his humble beginnings in music.

“I wanted to play the (stand up) bass, but I wasn’t big enough. It’s hard to make these decisions when you are 11,” he said.

Piper’s mother, an oboist, stressed music as a staple of learning and he took to the cello. Piper prepared for his career as a solo artist after living in Eagle River as a child and then attending the University of Manitoba for a bachelor’s degree in music and McGill University for his master’s degree in music.

But at one point, Piper found himself at a crossroads.

“It was either return to Alaska, or live with my brother in Istanbul, Turkey,” he said.

Piper chose to go abroad and from there he is able to travel and perform.

“People in Turkey ask if I’m German,” he said smiling.

But he’s not German, nor does speak the language, although he does speak French thanks to his time in Canada.

Piper enjoys returning to Alaska when he gets the opportunity. He is currently on a “mini tour” of Alaska, he said.

“It’s great here,” he said. “You are in the city, and then get in a car and 20 minutes later you can go hiking and don’t see people.”

During performances, Piper takes time to talk about the pieces between songs.

“I’m performing pieces that were composed 400 years apart,” he said, adding that a lot of listeners aren’t as familiar with contemporary composers.

Piper is inspired by his colleagues in Istanbul and iconic artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, but he also listed American cellist and composer Ben Sollee as an inspiration. His performances include a lot of contemporary composers.

“It’s not just straight Bach,” he said.

Piper loves travelling and performing, he hopes in the future to travel to more remote parts of Alaska. And he also would love to plan a tour in South East Alaska, at some point in the future.

Right now he’s excited to “make some American dollars,” he said.

He also shared his thoughts regarding the three suicide bombers who attacked Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport last week.

Being from Istanbul was a bit unnerving, he explained, but all of his friends were fine and no one he knew was at the airport, “Some close calls, though,” he said.

Piper will perform at the Bear Paw Festival, tonight (Thursday, July 7) at 7 p.m. at the Alaska Fine Arts Academy.

Tickets are $25 for general admission. Discount tickets for seniors, military and children 6 to 18 are $15. For children five and younger, admission is free. Call 694-8909 for more information.


Suzanne Ashe can be reached at [email protected].

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