Cellist Daniel Kaler looks to future in music after winning SAI competition

As a child, Daniel Kaler watched the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra from the audience in the Amphitheater in awe.

“It was always such a treat to hear the orchestra’s performance,” said Kaler, a cellist with the Music School Festival Orchestra and the 2017 Sigma Alpha Iota competition winner. “(They) inspired me to keep at it and never give up. I always dreamed that I could one day play a concerto on the Amphitheater stage.”

That dream will soon become a reality. As the winner of the Sigma Alpha Iota competition, Kaler will return to Chautauqua next summer to play a concerto on the Amp stage with the MSFO.

Danny Kaler

Kaler said when he was 4 years old he was “unruly, off the wall, and far from being focused or disciplined.” But thankfully, he said, with the help of understanding parents and teachers, Kaler learned how to channel his energy to be productive — through the cello.

Kaler said he’s had many teachers who have helped shape his career. He began studying with Donna Davis, the wife of Jolyon Pegis, the principal cellist in the CSO. He continued his studies privately with Gilda Barston through third grade, and then with Hans Jensen and Steve Balderston.

Currently, he studies with Mark Kosower at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

“All of them are huge inspirations to me and have had a big role in helping me become the musician, and person, I am today,” Kaler said.

In the Sigma Alpha Iota competition, which took place earlier this summer, Kaler competed in three rounds against 17 other students. During the final round of the competition, Kaler played Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, op. 85.

Kaler said that the competition was stressful but extremely rewarding. He said his participation in the competition helped him grow as a musician.

“Even with all of the nerves of preparing for and playing in each round of the competition,” Kaler said, “I felt that I always learned something new about how I could more directly and clearly communicate my music to the audience.”

Kaler said he’s always known he wanted to be a cellist. In the next chapter of his life, he hopes to audition for orchestras around the country and participate in competitions. He said he never wants to miss any opportunities to perform and collaborate with other musicians.

“As I grew older, I realized more and more that my life would be far from complete if I wasn’t playing the cello,” Kaler said. “It is one thing in my life that I cannot imagine living without.”

Tags : cellistChautauqua Symphony OrchestracsoDaniel KalerMusic School Festival OrchestraSAISigma Alpha Iota competitionWeek six

The author Rebecca Klar

Rebecca Klar is a recent graduate of Binghamton University with a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in rhetoric. She is excited to be spending her first summer at Chautauqua as a School of Music reporter for The Chautauquan Daily. You can contact her at