Armed with a battered cello case and a new appreciation for humidity, the University of Nevada, Reno’s new cello professor brings a lifetime of musical training with some of the world’s finest cellists and a yearning to pass it along.
Dmitri Atapine arrived at the University by way of St. Petersburg, Russia, through the Asturias Conservatory in Spain, with a stopover in Michigan where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, and a layover at Yale University where he earned a master of musical arts degree and an artist diploma. He is now a doctor of musical arts candidate at the Yale School of Music. Along the way, Atapine has collected many prestigious international musical awards and produced a CD with pianist Hyeyeon Park entitled "Cello Capriccioso," released this fall by Urtext Digital.
Atapine is a third-generation cellist, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. But it was not the pull of the family strings that made his decision for him.
“I saw Natalia Gutman, a famous cellist on TV,” he said. “It was not so much my father’s playing as it was that you could end up on TV.”
Atapine was four years old when he decided to learn the cello, and began his musical education at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. The former Soviet Union collapsed when Atapine was 11 years old, and many of Russia’s elite musicians were welcomed in Spain. His father was invited through audition by the Spanish government to be the principal cellist in the newly formed Asturias Symphony Orchestra. One of Moscow’s most revered cello teachers, Alexander Fedortchenko, also moved to Spain and became Atapine’s main instructor.
In 1998, Atapine moved to the United States to study at the University of Illinois under Suren Bagratuni, who later moved to the Michigan State University at East Lansing. Atapine transferred to Michigan where he earned his bachelor’s degree. One year later, he earned his master’s degree. Enticed by the prospect of working under the tutelage of legendary cellist Aldo Parisot, Atapine applied to Yale. He hopes to pass the torch of great cello tradition to his students at the University of Nevada.
“The teaching profession is very rewarding,” he said. “Music is not just playing notes, it’s the art of communication,” he said. “By learning to play the cello, you are learning to communicate with your audience, not just playing around with instruments.”
While he feels the University’s cello studio is under-populated, he is enthusiastic about the quality of the school’s music program.
“The faculty is fantastic,” he said. “I really feel the passion – there is a burning here to make this a better school and a better place.”
Atapine said Reno stands out among all the cities he’s performed in around the globe.
“The motto – ‘Biggest Little City in the World’ – is really true,” he said. “The large size of Reno itself combined with the feeling of a small town, you get the feeling that we’re all on the same side. Everybody knows everybody and everybody helps everybody. It’s a special place.”
In addition to teaching cello, Atapine teaches music appreciation and plays with the Argenta Trio, with fellow faculty members Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio, violin; and James Winn, piano. The trio’s first performance of the school year, “Circa 1809,” is Friday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the Nightingale Concert Hall in the Church Fine Arts building. The performance celebrates the birth of composer Felix Mendelssohn, notes the death of Joseph Haydn, and the publication of Beethoven’s trio “Ghost,” which all occurred in 1809.