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Artist In Focus: Karl Ronnevik

Karl Ronnevik posing with his cello wearing a suit.
Karl Ronnevik posing with his cello wearing a suit.
Karl Ronnevik is a 2022 Artist Support Grantee

Karl Ronnevik‘s musical journey began on the farm. The youngest of four children, Karl grew up in west central Minnesota as a fourth-generation farm kid. Surrounded by lakes and fields of corn, wheat, and soybeans, Karl relished his rural upbringing. Music was an ever-present part of life as a youngster: his mother taught piano and directed the church choir; his father often had classical music on the radio; his siblings played instruments in school. Karl’s earliest musical memories include standing by the piano many an evening singing songs with his mother accompanying, tapping his hands and feet incessantly at the concerts frequently attended by his family, and bouncily serenading his father while riding along in the tractor.

Singing lead to choirs, where Karl first discovered the joys of performing in an ensemble. He earned his first musical paycheck in the sixth grade recording vocal tracks for a children’s Christmas musical written by a local music teacher. By that time, Karl was playing French horn in band, cello in orchestra, and taking piano lessons. While piano lessons eventually dropped off, Karl continued school choir, band, and orchestra until he graduated. In high school, he achieved the rare distinction of All-State status in all three disciplines.

Karl earned a scholarship for either voice or cello at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and chose to pursue a degree in cello performance. Graduate school followed, first with four years at The Hartt School in Connecticut, earning a Master of Music degree and Graduate Professional Diploma, concluding with three years at UNCG, where Karl graduated with a Doctorate of Musical Arts in cello performance in 2016.

Today, Karl is a freelance cellist and educator based in Greensboro. As an orchestral performer, he is a member of the Greensboro Symphony and the North Carolina Chamber Orchestra. He can often be found joining the ranks of the Winston-Salem Symphony, Charlotte Symphony, and others. As a chamber musician and soloist, Karl frequently performs throughout the region.

Variety is one of the hallmarks of freelance musician life. Karl embraces this not just for its inherent novelty but for the growth and versatility it inspires. His training was very much in the classical vein, but Karl has welcomed opportunities to improve his chops in jazz, folk, pop, and other genres. He has collaborated with singer-songwriters, writing and recording cello parts around existing melodies; workshopped new musical theater productions with their creators; and pursued a variety of multimedia projects. Karl has enjoyed sharing the stage with a range of eminent musicians, including Joshua Bell, Sting, Béla Fleck, The Eagles, Rhiannon Giddens, Harry Connick Jr., Amy Grant, and Boyz II Men.

In 2022, with grant support from ArtsGreensboro, Karl embarked on a personal project titled “Bach to the Drawing Board.” The music of J.S. Bach, particularly his Six Suites for Solo Cello, has captivated Karl for about as long as he can remember. Written three hundred years ago, the Suites are as relevant today as ever. Masterfully crafted and brimming with beauty, profundity, and humanity, they offer endless fascination and capacity for interpretation. Karl chose to present the first three Suites in a distinctive and enlightening manner by teaming up with local artist and YouTuber Peter Deligdisch. As Karl performs each suite, Peter puts charcoal to paper, creating unique interpretive drawings.

Karl’s desire in performance is to do more than just entertain: he seeks to enrich and educate. This desire is closely tied to his parallel vocation as a teacher. For two decades, Karl has instructed cellists of all ages and abilities. In teaching, he strives to instill in his students curiosity, courage, and joy in the process of learning. Karl emphasizes strong technique and musical understanding not for their own sakes but in order to equip students—whether novice or advanced—with the tools they need to have a long and fulfilling relationship with music making. Today he teaches private lessons from his home and is the cello instructor at Gardner-Webb University, Davidson College, and Appalachian Bible College. Beyond cello, Karl has taught courses in chamber music, music theory, and music technology.

Outside of music, Karl enjoys spending time with his wife and two children. He’s a passionate book collector and loves to read, explore the outdoors, bake, and toss a Frisbee.

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