Music is his livelihood, and for Warren Cohen, it has also been the most important constant in his life. “ I come from a very long line of musicians- my father, grandfather, and even great-grandfather were all musicians, and my mother was a singer. I played the piano before I was even five years old! The lifestyle of being surrounded by music was perfectly normal for me. My father, Philip Cohen was a piano instructor and was an assistant of Yvonne Hubert, the renowned musician who produced many of the great pianists in North America.”
Warren has also studied and played under many great musicians, and has been involved with everything to do with music. “I’ve even taught music appreciation to guys on the military bases- it was a great education for me to learn how to motivate a person who had no background in music to come to understand and appreciate it!
As the Maestro for Musica Nova, Warren conducts all the concerts for the Musica Nova Orchestra. He is also involved in all the other aspects of the organization, including administration and fundraising.
Musica Nova is a professional 80- piece orchestra founded in 2003. He also volunteer conducts with the Fine Arts String Orchestra and Musica Nova Baroque Orchestra, both of which help generate interest in the professional organization. “ I also do guest conducting for different groups, and I will be conducting the Verde Valley Sinfonietta and the West Valley Symphony in concerts in February through April.”
Warren’s path to Phoenix has taken some interesting turns: “ I grew up in Montreal, Canada, but decided to attend college in Hawaii. I became the pianist and accompanist for the Honolulu City Ballet. I also taught at University of Hawaii. While I was working as a pianist (specifically as an accompanist to singers), I was also asked to conduct, although at the time I had minimal training in conducting. I finally decided that if I was going to continue to conduct, I really needed to learn more about it! I then spent a year at the English National Opera as an observer, and from daily exposure to the work of the conducting staff, learned a great deal about the craft. I returned to Hawaii for a couple more years, and then moved back to England. My wife and I were visiting her family here in Arizona, and I guest conducted Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra in Tucson. And they hired me as a Music Director, so we moved to Arizona. A few years later I was asked by some people locally to start a professional group here. That was the origin of Musica Nova.”
Today, Warren’s son Graham is following in his footsteps. “Graham is extremely musical; he is not yet nine, and he plays the violin and piano and has already composed a number of symphonies. My wife, Carolyn, is a singer. In fact, we met when she auditioned for a part in a show that I was conducting. Of course, I hired her!” He appreciates that his wife’s family is nearby, as she grew up in the Phoenix area. They have resided here since 1996.
Warren admits, “My leisure time is pretty much nonexistent, but I do enjoy roasting my own coffee. It’s tremendous fun for people to come over and drink my coffee.”
And of Musica Nova, Warren explains “People come to our performances because we are known to play pieces that you will never be able to hear anywhere else. This year alone we are doing 13 world or American premieres. We take our mission very seriously, and we are proud that we are able to present an orchestra that is good enough to be commercially recorded. Our recording of the Symphonies No.4 and 5 by Richard Arnell are about to be released on the Con Brio label.”
b>What are your volunteer activities? Conducting the Fine Arts String Orchestra and the Musica Nova Baroque. Both are volunteer community orchestras in the Phoenix Valley.
Which social event is your favorite? Quiet evening at home with friends enjoying fresh roasted coffee and great desserts.
Favorite Restaurant? Binkley's for special events. Persian Room and Havana Cafe for more casual dining.
Who is your hero and why? I don't really have heroes, but as a conductor I have been inspired by the work of Leopold Stokowski and Osmo Vanska.
Who is the most interesting celebrity you have ever met?The late jazz pianist Bill Evans, who I had the privilege of knowing.
If your life were a movie, whom would you want to play your part? Me. And my son, Graham, as me as a boy.
What gives a man style? Humility.
Do you have any Pets? Yes, two birds and a tortoise.
When you move, what will your home tell its next owner, about you? I don't like walls.
What words describe you best? Calm, patient, funny in a dry way, under stated, encouraging.
What words would you like others to use to describe you? Kind.
What was your first job? Ballet accompanist for Honolulu City Ballet.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My inability to index, to categorize, to put things in boxes.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Cruelty.
What is your greatest indulgence? Coffee! I roast my own coffee.
What is the greatest gift you have ever given and received? My son.
What or who is the greatest love of your life? My wife, Carolyn.
What is your current state of mind? Happy.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? Musica Nova.
What is your most treasured possession? 1915 Model A Steinway piano
What is the quality you most like in people? Tolerance.
Favorite books / Writers? Fowler's Dictionary of the English Language. I love words and I love languages.
What is the best advice you have ever received? From Gustav Meier, my conducting teacher, who said "If they can't play it, it's your fault."