Robert Cohen

Concert Cellist

For 35 years one of the worlds leading cello soloist, Robert Cohen is an award-winning recording artist, conductor, artistic director and pedagogue who has been broadcast on TV and radio throughout the world. His passionate views on the art of learning, performing and communicating music have been widely published.

Wolfgang Gauch

December is the time of year when holiday concerts abound. From big community sings of Handel’s Messiah to Holiday Pops concerts to chamber music and school concerts, the season is awash in sound. 

Cellist and On That Note contributor Robert Cohen’s experience of this month is no exception.  He’s just back from a series of chamber concerts across Europe and told Lake Effect’s Bonnie North that the venues - houses of worship in particular - are what makes these concerts unique.

Felix Schmidt

Any artist will tell you that they couldn’t have gotten where they did without the influence of mentors. For cellist and Lake Effect contributor Robert Cohen, that person was the late British cellist William Pleeth.

In this month's On That Note segment, Cohen shares more about his mentor, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year.


Every month, Lake Effect talks with contributor Robert Cohen, the cellist for the Milwaukee-based Fine Arts Quartet, about the life of a working and touring professional musician.

It can be a uniquely challenging occupation. There are a lot of variables that can either help or hurt a musician's performance. And unfortunately when things go wrong, they seem to leave a bigger impression. 

Hugues Argence

Every month, Lake Effect brings you On That Note, a series of conversations with Robert Cohen, the cellist for the Milwaukee-based Fine Arts Quartet. Cohen joins us to talk about the life of a working musician and many of the facets of classical music. 

Fine Arts Quartet

Every month, Bonnie North chats with cellist Robert Cohen for On That Note. Often the conversations take place on Skype because Robert is in some far-flung place where he is performing, either on his own or as part of a group. This month, Cohen came by the Lake Effect studio to talk face to face, along with violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez, the Fine Arts Quartet's violist.

Hugues Argence

Often, our On That Note segment recordings take place with Bonnie North in the Lake Effect studio, and cellist Robert Cohen in some far-flung place where he is performing, either on his own or as part of the Fine Arts Quartet.

However for this edition, Cohen came by the studio with his cello to not only perform some Bach pieces, but talk about their unique qualities.

Photo courtesy of Robert Cohen

Milwaukee-based Fine Arts Quartet cellist Robert Cohen has performed in many kinds of venues – from the small and intimate to grand concert stage. But his most recent musical adventure found him in need of a sextant and some nautical maps, along with some seasick pills…

Cohen spent nine days working on a musical cruise, which is quite common for classical musicians. But what was uncommon was the rough weather conditions under which they had to perform.


Music and love have long been interconnected. And even if a piece or a song is not directly about love, the person performing it has to approach it with an open heart - along with technique and skill.

It’s a familiar refrain for our On That Note contributor, cellist Robert Cohen. 

"From a musician's point of view, we're in that incredible, fortunate position of dealing with this every day of our lives," he says. "But we're equally able to forget how much that love is 90% of what we're doing."

Hugues Argence

Every month, Lake Effect brings you On That Note, a series of conversations with cellist Robert Cohen. The Milwaukee-based Fine Arts Quartet brings Cohen state-side quite often, but he also maintains an apartment in London to accommodate his active solo career.

Recently, he's been working with students in England, introducing them to music as a profession and giving them live performances with his cello. After a recent school visit, Cohen says he was unsure about how the students had received his presentation. 

Christine Lalla

For a contemporary composer, seeing and hearing your work live is a rewarding experience that offers a unique privilege to work with the musicians performing a piece.

Our “On That Note” contributor, Robert Cohen, was just on the other side of that equation.  Cohen is a cellist and recently had the opportunity to play work by a living composer – work that was composed for Cohen himself. 

Courtesy of Robert Cohen

Beethoven, Brahms, Bach. These composers are synonymous with great classical music that has been performed from the 1600s to modern times.

Cellist for the Milwaukee-based Fine Arts Quartet, Robert Cohen, discusses the intricate dance that occurs between musician and composer - starting with the requirement that a musician respect the composer's work.


The New Year is a time when many people resolve to do something different, or better, or not at all in the coming months. It could be an effort to lose weight or stop smoking or learn a new language, or even just to be kinder.

Our On That Note contributor Robert Cohen is no different – although many of his resolutions are related to his work as a professional cellist. 

Courtesy of Robert Cohen

Professional musicians practice a lot, and any one of them will tell you that you never stop learning or striving to be better.  However it can be difficult to find the time or opportunity for professional development once you are a working musician.  This month, cellist Robert Cohen discusses one key offering – the concept of master classes.

Courtesy of Robert Cohen

Musicians have an array of influences in their lives that impact who they are as a person and as a musician. For cellist Robert Cohen, his influences range from his father to the music he performs.

"I have more that I can look at that music with," says Cohen. "I have a broader sense of what can happen inside me because of these influences."

However for Cohen, the messages in the music should be the largest influence on a musician. For him, it is essential to bring out the feelings and very essence of the composer in the pieces performed.

Cremona, Italy is the home of Antonio Stradivari, possibly the greatest maker of musical instruments in history. With more than two hundred violin makers living in the small picturesque town, it would make sense that cellist Robert Cohen would find himself there.

"Every restaurant, every hotel, every shop window has violins in it, has instruments of all sorts. It's one of the few places in the world you can walk around with a cello and nobody asks you, 'what is that?'" Cohen says.