Penn State senior and musician Walker Konkle making his mark through musical performance and advocacy
An area musician and Penn State University student has been wowing crowds of over 14,000 people with his growing violin virtuosity and has rapidly made his mark on the Central Pennsylvania region.
Walker Konkle is currently a senior at Penn State, studying violin performance with Professor James Lyon and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in violin performance with scholarship. He currently is a section violinist with the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra, Penn State Philharmonic Orchestra, Penn State Chamber Orchestra, former principal second violinist of the Williamsport Symphony Youth Orchestra, former concertmaster of the Bloomsburg University Community Orchestra, as well as former concertmaster of the Jubilate Choir and Orchestra.
Konkle also is an active theater musician, performing regularly with the Penn State School of Theatre. He also has been featured on radio stations such as WVIA and WRAK News/Talk.
“Because of my diverse training at Penn State, it has entirely opened my eyes to variety within the performing arts as a whole,” Konkle said. “It has allowed me to take a step back and realize the vastness of all the styles of art being performed.”
Konkle first began studying and playing violin at age eight. Soon thereafter, he fell in love with the instrument, and gave his first performance at age nine. “What drew me to it was a mix of the gorgeous sounds you can make and the great challenge that it is,” he said.
Konkle’s primary teacher throughout his childhood was David Lassiter, a longtime and current Williamsport Symphony Orchestra violinist. “He took me as a young violinist that could not play correctly and guided me down the path that I am still on today,” he said. “It is entirely because of him that I ever had a chance of succeeding in the arts.”
As a senior in high school, Konkle was accepted into the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra, giving him the ability to learn about professional orchestra techniques, which enabled him to transfer them to his orchestral performing. He also credits this experience for greatly influencing his college decision — getting to sit directly under Maestro edelstein, music director of the WSO and director of orchestral studies at Penn State.
“This allowed me to see firsthand how we would interact in the professor-student roles,” he said. “Still to this day, both he and my violin teacher, Professor Lyon, serve as two of my closest mentors.”
This year marks the fifth season that Konkle has performed with the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra. “It has been five years of incredible growth, not only for myself but also for the orchestra,” he said. “Maestro Edelstein and the WSO staff have taken the orchestra and made it into an elegant centerpiece for all of Central Pennsylvania.”
Although his primary upbringing is in the instrumental sector, in the fall of 2016, Konkle became President of the Performing Arts Council, a university affiliate organization designed to break down the walls between all 83 student performing arts organizations to promote collaboration across styles and mediums. The organization encompasses five different genres – theatre, dance, vocal, instrumental and spoken word – and regularly hosts performances for each genre and assists through university support and resources.
“In order to provide a meaningful arts experience for every student on campus, we urge all groups to work together in some capacity, whether it be interactive performances or workshops,” Konkle said. “This opportunity has not only given me a way to express my passion for the arts in their entirety but also a way to grow as a leader within the performing arts space.”
Konkle has had the opportunity to perform in great concert halls such as Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and Philadelphia’s Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center.
Notable performances include performing the National Anthem at the 2015 B1G Championship for men’s gymnastics, the 2012 and 2013 Little League World Series final games, Penn State women’s soccer and gymnastics, and the Williamsport Crosscutters. He performed Viotti’s Concerto No. 22 in A minor with the Williamsport Symphony Youth Orchestra and was second prize winner of the 2013 Williamsport Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competition.
“My greatest enjoyment by far is performing in the Community Arts Center,” Konkle said. “The CAC is a gem within Williamsport, and any local musician I’m sure would agree with me.”
Konkle is engaged to be married in May 2017, after which both he and his fiancee will be heading to grad school. He will be pursing studies toward a master’s degree in arts administration at a nationally recognized institution. During his education, Konkle hopes to more closely examine non-traditional ways to elevate the arts within communities.
“By no means do I have the idea of altering its integrity to make it accessible to the masses, but rather, choosing a form of education for audiences to acquire a simple appreciation,” he said. “Only after this step is complete, can you go from being an observer to an art enthusiast.”
Additionally, through his experience with Americans for the Arts and many Pennsylvania art advocacy groups, Konkle has been able to see the immense responsibility of those who are leaders in the arts to share their passion with others.
“I have used advocacy as a unique avenue for this; networking with fellow arts advocates from around the country and developing strategies on how to make a strong case for the arts and arts education to those on Capitol Hill,” he said. “By having recently interacted with America’s top cultural and civic organizations, it is my wish to make a significant impact on Congress, increase its public funding and make the arts available to everyone.”