The Alabama Symphony Orchestra features 53 full-time musicians from all over the world, each with a unique story. Kevin Kozak moved to Birmingham 35 years ago to join the group and currently plays 2nd horn. Mary Scott Hodgin speaks with Kevin about his journey to Alabama and why he has remained with the ASO for over three decades.
Kevin Kozak remembers the moment that would shape his career. He was a young student, taking piano lessons at the time, when he discovered a new sound. “One time they brought a brass quintet in and they demonstrated their instruments, and I remember really liking the horn,” Kozak recalls. What started out as a full-blown hobby would become his life. “I decided that it was this great dream of mine to play professionally in an orchestra.”
After freelancing for a year in New York City, Kozak auditioned with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. Despite having no connection to the area, he accepted an offer with the ASO in 1981 and relocated to Birmingham. He has been here ever since. Kozak says, over the years, by living and performing in the same place, he has found a deeper meaning by bringing music to his community. He even remained in the area when the symphony went bankrupt in 1993. During this time, Kozak performed throughout the US to pay the bills, but it wasn’t the same. “That really felt funny,” he says, “to be playing these wonderful concerts around the country, but they were not for my city, my community. So to be on a stage again, to play for the people that, you know my home, that was very gratifying and remains so.”
The ASO started back up again in 1997 and Kozak eagerly returned to the stage. It has now been 35 years since he first started and he says, today, things are different. People can stream concerts online and watch them on a cell phone or computer. But despite future challenges faced by groups like the ASO, Kozak says a community symphony offers something that is not so easily replaced. “I think the symphony orchestra is an instrument, like a piano of 88 keys,” says Kozak. “You know the combination of how they’re used and the colors that are produced, that’s an instrument, and a symphony orchestra is an instrument. And it’s made up of human beings in your community who are all striving to collaborate with you to produce a beautiful experience.”
In Birmingham, that experience kicks off this weekend with the beginning of the ASO’s Masterworks series for the 2016-17 season.