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Kimia Jamshid-Arsani began playing cello at age 12 when her family moved to the United States.
audience applauded as Kimia Jamshid-Arsani took the stage. She walked
out in a powder blue dress, shiny black heels, hair parted down the
middle in a bun and cello in hand. As a performance major at the
University of Delaware, she was prepared to begin a solo show for her
senior recital. The lights dimmed as the spotlight steadied on her. She
gracefully lifted the bow of her cello, took a deep breath and began to
As long as she can remember, music has always been a big part of
Arsanis life. Born and raised in Iran, she was exposed to music at an
early age through her mother and brother, who both took lessons. By age
7, she began lessons for the tanbour.
When Arsani was 12, her family moved to Washington, D.C. Although
she wanted to continue playing the tanbour, a traditional Persian
instrument, it was not offered at her school. On the recommendation of
her tanbour teacher, she chose the cello.
She struggled. She was unfamiliar with classical music and said she
felt like she was starting over. Others thought she transitioned very
well. After only one year of studying the cello, Arsani was accepted
into the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, where she
continued to excel.
I was at a point where I already knew how to play one instrument
very well so having to go back was like, Oh, I have to start from
scratch with another instrument, she said. It's a really frustrating
process, but I really wanted to focus on it and being at Duke, my high
school, was really encouraging because I had teachers that were really
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
In a UD practice room, Arsani prepares for her upcoming senior recital.
Through one of her teachers, she became acquainted with UD and
applied. Lawrence Stomberg, a UD professor of cello, remembers his first
impressions of Arsani during the audition process.
I remember her being a very and
she still is a really interesting and thoughtful musician and person,
Stomberg said. There was something very sort of special about the way
she carried herself. Shes a person with a lot of curiosity, both about
music which Im most interested in when Im talking to prospective
students but just about life, too.
A few months later, in the fall of 2014, she began her journey as a music major at UD.
Before Arsani graduated on Saturday, May
26, a UD writer and photographer spent a day with her during the spring semester. Her days
were filled with classes, rehearsals, music theory and personal time to
practice both the cello and the tanbour.
9:30 a.m. - Chamber Music Literature
Arsanis Thursday mornings began with Chamber Music Literature class.
The class filed in as Philip Gentry, an assistant professor in the
Department of Music, set up his computer. He gave a brief history of
Beethovens life before analyzing specific pieces.
Beethoven is the center of music history, Gentry said as he wrapped up the history portion of the lesson.
Arsani sat in the front row of the roughly 25-person class. She had
her laptop out to follow along with the slides and music scores, but
took notes by hand. She rested her chin in her hand as Gentry prepared
an audio clip for the class to dissect.
Arsani continues to play the tanbour, a traditional Persian instrument that she began playing at age 7 in Iran.
How do you build up tension in music that holds your attention for a long time? Gentry asked the class.
They were going over the first string quartet of Beethoven Opus 59.
The class had a lively debate about the overarching themes. Could
Beethoven's work be classified as romantic or classical? They agreed his
work is too complex to give a simple label.
11 a.m. - lunch at Saxbys
After class, Arsanis friends, Jonathan Terry and Amy Noonan, joined
her for lunch. They met at Saxbys, a coffee shop located just outside of
the Amy E. du Pont Music Building. The trio munched on bagels and
coffee while they chit-chatted about life and the approaching end of the
Naturally, the conversation gravitated toward music. They talked
about who was working on what songs, the challenges of pieces theyve
all played and the works that touched them the most.
12:30 p.m. - Advanced Analysis and Interpretation
Alongside her dreams of being a musician, Arsani is also toying with
the possibility of becoming a composer. During the graduate-level music
theory course, her classmate Christopher Leich presented his analysis of
"Danzon No. 2" by the Mexican composer Arturo M??rquez.
Most students had the score pulled up
on their computer screens and took notes on their observations. Arsani
lightly swayed to the music as the song played in the background. Her
professor, Jennifer Barker, let the class curiosities and instincts
guide the discussion.
Like many other subjects, music has gone digital. Here, Arsani reviews a music score on her laptop during a music theory class.
Near the end of his presentation, Leich noted the time signature
changes throughout the piece. He demonstrated by clapping the resulting
He opened it up to the floor to hear other opinions. Arsani said the
orchestra did not conform to a typical Western style. She said it was
nice to hear a piece that sounded true to its cultural origins.
2 p.m. - Chamber Ensemble
After a morning of history and theory, she was finally ready to play
her cello. Arsani stopped by her locker in the music building to get her
Her last class of the day was rehearsal
time with her quartet members Marius Sander (violin), Erin Gartland
(violin) and April Beard (viola). Led by Stomberg, they were working on
"String Quartet No. 7 in F-sharp minor" by Dmitri Shostakovich.
They sat in a circle with their stands and pages of sheet music in
front of them. Arsani lightly tapped her black boot as she waited for
her entrance. Stomberg intently followed the score on his device while
the quartet played.
Of course it was not perfect. Whenever Arsani made a mistake, she flashed a sheepish smile, but quickly refocused and moved on.
Stomberg offered his critiques. On that run through, the players were
a bit out of sync. They went through it again, but something was still
How does this section of the music make you feel, Stomberg asked.
Nostalgic, Arsani responded. He asked them to try and evoke those
emotions while they play.
As a group, you want to think about what are we getting at here, Stomberg said.
After her classes, Arsani had Symphony Orchestra rehearsal. The
orchestra met on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
In previous years she would reserve late nights for more practice
time since her days were jam-packed. As a senior, she has more time to
herself. Now, she normally finishes up any lingering class work and has
Impacting the world through music
Most people in the music department know who Arasani is. They admire
her ability to not only see a need, but also act toward a change.
While at UD she helped develop the annual Women in Music concert series, whose mission is to highlight music created by women.
As musicians we just play a lot of music by men. Especially older,
dead men we always say, Arsani said. So something Im passionate
about is getting new music out there and music by women because its not
something we always hear about.
The largely student-run effort, takes a lot of organization. As the
president of UDs College Music Society, Arsani took on a lot of the
responsibility to put the program together.
Her efforts have not gone unnoticed.
She wants to help make where she is a better place and to acknowledge things that need to be better, Stomberg said.
This is in addition to her own
school work. Shes not filling a requirement or doing any of this for
credit, he said. She really cares.
She does it because she feels its important and shes passionate
about it, Stomberg said. Thats what I think has brought her to be a
leader because people recognize that and recognize that shes genuine.
Other faculty members agree. Last year, Arsani won the De Martini
Award given by the faculty to an upper class student who demonstrates
humanitarianism, professionalism, integrity and unselfishness.
After graduation, Arsani joined the UD Symphony Orchestra on a 12-day tour of China,
culminating with a performance at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center. She
plans to take a year off from school, so she can continue to practice
and take some time to build up her composition portfolio. Afterward, she
would like to apply for graduate programs.
Her dream is to change the world
through music. What drives her is the power of music to rouse feelings
and help people connect with their emotions, she said. Thats what
propels her love for certain music and artists.
If I want to feel like a diva, I listen to some Beyonc??. If I want
to go into my core deep deep feelings I listen to Iranian music, Arsani
said. Its just so powerful.
And thats what she wants to do for others.
When you listen to something you feel something, whether you want to
or not, Arsani said. It's just thats the power of music and I think
right now we live in a world where a lot of bad things are happening and
the one common ground we all have is music. So, thats why I do what I
do every day.
Article by Carlett Spike; photos by Evan Krape