Professor of Viola Korey Konkol Announces Retirement From the University of Minnesota School of Music

Korey Konkol poses with his viola.

Professor of Viola Korey Konkol has announced his retirement following an incredible career as a School of Music faculty member. Over the course of his 30-year career, Konkol led the viola studio, producing alumni who now serve as musicians, scholars, and educators across the United States and around the world. 

“Prof. Konkol has left an incredible legacy here at the University of Minnesota,” says Patrick Warfield, Director of the School of Music. “His artistry, infectious laugh, dedication to his students, and love of music have had a profound impact on the arts not only here on campus, but across the Twin Cities and everywhere his students have landed.” 

Korey Konkol (right) with Dr. Roland Vamos (left) and Almita Vamos (center).
Korey Konkol (right) with Dr. Roland Vamos (left) and Almita Vamos (center).

Konkol’s love of the arts was inspired by high school musical theater in Wisconsin, where he performed roles in Bye, Bye, Birdie and Godspell. He felt an affinity with the viola because it held a similar range to the human voice and he likened playing the instrument to singing. Konkol spent his summers at a Suzuki Institute camp in Stevens Point, WI, where he was introduced to mentors and former School of Music faculty members Dr. Roland Vamos and Almita Vamos. 

Dr. Vamos recruited Konkol to study viola with him at Western Illinois University, where he won their concerto competition twice and earned a viola performance degree. After being scouted at a music festival by conductor Benjamin Zander, he pursued his Masters degree at the New England Conservatory under Burton Fine and Walter Trampler. He was coached by Eugene Lehner and Louis Krasner in the conservatory’s honors “Tourjée” string quartet. It was during this time in Boston that Konkol met his husband, Matthew. 

Before coming to Minnesota, Konkol was hired as a professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He was invited to teach at the University of Minnesota School of Music as a substitute for Dr. Roland and Almita Vamos, who were on the faculty at the time (his interview took place during the infamous 1991 Halloween blizzard). Later, Konkol interviewed for and was offered the tenure-track position. Konkol's students have placed in major competitions and held positions in professional orchestras and string quartets; many of them also teach, passing Konkol’s legacy onto new generations of students. 

Konkol has concertized throughout Europe and South America. He often performed with the Minnesota Orchestra and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and was Principal Violist with the Ann Arbor, Peoria, and Knox-Galesburg Symphony Orchestras. A strong advocate of chamber music, he was often a guest artist with the Hill House Chamber Players and the Bakken Trio. As violist in Twin Cities-based Ensemble Capriccio, one of only several professional string trios in the world, he was awarded the first annual McKnight Foundation Fellowship for Performing Artists in 1997. Many compositions have been written for and recorded by Konkol, including works by Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, John Tartaglia, Stephen Paulus, Randall Davidson, and Judith Zaimont.

Korey Konkol with several viola students
Konkol and several viola students after an University Symphony Orchestra performance in Ted Mann Concert Hall.

Konkol received the American Viola Society Founders Award for his efforts as Host and Chair of the XXXII International Viola Congress held in 2004 on the campus of the University of Minnesota, and he has been a featured artist at international viola congresses in South Africa, Iceland, and Canada. He joined the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra as a guest musician for its 2005–2006 season and soloed with a performance of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 6. Konkol was honored as the 2006 William Primrose Artist of the Year after presenting a recital and master class at Brigham Young University, Utah. He also received the International Viola Society Achievement Award in 2007. 

In 2013, Konkol was awarded the Master Studio Teacher of the Year Award presented by the Minnesota Chapter of the American String Teachers Association (MNSOTA). He served as the Principal violist with Mill City Summer Opera and Out of the Box Opera productions including Bizet’s Carmen, Piazzolla’s Maria De Buenos Aires, Verdi’s La Traviata, and Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Konkol also won the 2018–19 Arthur “Red” Motley Exemplary Teaching Award from the College of Liberal Arts. 

Musically speaking, Konkol says he’s ready to “waltz off into the sunset” and is looking forward to spending more quality time with family, friends, and his adorable Pembroke Welsh corgis. 

“We are all so fortunate to have experienced Prof. Konkol’s artistry and to have known his dedication to teaching,” says Director Warfield, “he will always remain a member of the School of Music family.” The University of Minnesota will announce several new Teaching Artists in Viola over the coming weeks.

Korey Konkol showing his corgi.
Konkol and one of his beloved Pembroke Welsh corgis winning an AKC competition.
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