An Interview with Walter Gray

Walter Gray, cello

Concert-goers attending Philharmonia Northwest’s upcoming concert on February 16th are in for a treat.  Walter  Gray, long-time Seattle resident and cellist with the Seattle Symphony, will be guest soloist with the orchestra,  performing Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in e minor. Mr. Gray has distinguished himself on the world stage, not  only with the Symphony, but as a founding member of the Kronos Quartet and member of many other chamber  ensembles.

Mr. Gray is just as active in the Pacific Northwest, spreading his talent through teaching at institutions such as Seattle University and Western Washington University. We had the opportunity to catch up with Mr. Gray during a rare lull in his schedule to talk about music, Seattle, and beyond…

What made you go into music, or the cello, specifically?

My parents were amateur musicians as were other members of their families.  There was an uncle’s cello in our closet and one day I dragged it out and became interested in it. Cleaned it up and refinished it (bad idea) but started lessons soon afterwards.

What has your experience with Seattle Symphony been like? 

All sorts of good things.  I was very lucky to win my second orchestral audition in my home town!  I have played concertos twice with the SSO and performed many times as principal cello even though my position was only 4th chair for most of my career.

Why play Elgar’s cello concerto? What draws you to that particular piece?

Again from my youth.  I first learned the Elgar in high school and it was my college audition piece.  It is a tremendously personal work for me as it is for many performers and I have been looking for and found the right place to play it.

What does Seattle mean to you for classical music?

mmm…As I said before, home town, but it is more than that.  I have watched and experienced Seattle grow and develop over the years.  The arts especially have flourished.  Theater, opera, dance and music all have grown to national prominence.

Tell us about your life outside the cello! Also, what is your favorite Seattle spot?

I run, sail, hike and enjoy a good woodworking project.  I use power tools and still have all of my fingers!  No favorite spot, but with the help and encouragement of my girlfriend, walks will go on for hours.

You can hear Walter Gray and Philharmonia Northwest on February 16th at 2:30pm, in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. More information about the concert can be found here.