Christopher Kiradjieff came for his first trumpet lesson when he must have been in about the fifth or sixth grade. His father, Conny, a top violinist in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, brought him for those first lessons while he sat at the far end of the room and observed. He pretended to be reading a book, but I noticed that he was doing a lot more listening than reading. I also sensed that he could have interrupted at any moment and finished teaching the trumpet lesson flawlessly with no further help from me. I loved it. This student was going to get a lesson every day at home!
Chris began improving quickly, and I could see that his dad was very proud of him. I know that Conny in his old-school way was tough on his son, the kind of toughness that produces good results. Chris inherited his father's musical instincts and had the benefit of hearing first-hand the hundreds and thousands of stories and anecdotes of life's ups and downs in his dad's world. A lifetime of invaluable lessons and information surely was available daily in their household free for the taking. Music was deeply ingrained in the man, and could not be contained. Many students and colleagues have benefited from their association with him.
As committed and talented as Conny was as a violinist, he was equally the courteous gentleman, never uttering an unkind word about anybody. I remember him being very intense, but not without that smile, laugh and down-to-earth humility that made everyone love him.
I always thought of Conny as being one of the best and most mature musicians on the stage. If he were here now, I can hear him impatiently insisting on talking instead about me and my family. "Tell me, how's your family?" I liked him particularly because he kept what he knew quiet, never advertising his opinions. Wisdom was there if one wanted to dig for it. To all he was sincere, warm, very friendly, and genuinely interested in you.
Conny passed away this past Friday, August 8th, 2008. Many are already missing his energy and friendliness. Conny's tenure with the CSO was an amazing 49 years, while he was also very busy teaching at the College-Conservatory of Music. I'm sure that one of Conny's most proud moments was when his son Chris joined him in the orchestra. And now his son, Christopher, is currently continuing the long run of having their family name in the program for many years to come.