News and Features

The DSO Loses A Violinist; North Texas Loses An Influential Teacher

A short film about my friend, Arkady Fomin from Quin Mathews Films on Vimeo.


Arkady Fomin. Photo: DSO

There’s a vacancy in the string section of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Long-time violinist Arkady Fomin died last week. But in this appreciation, filmmaker and broadcaster Quin Mathews tells us how Fomin’s influence will continue.

Listen to the piece from KERA FM:

A standing ovation opened the final concert this weekend of the New Conservatory of Dallas, as students, parents and supporters paid tribute to its founder, Arkady Fomin, who died last week at 68.

Fomin immigrated to Dallas from Soviet Latvia in 1975 and was a violinist in the Dallas Symphony for almost 40 years.  He leaves an empty chair in the orchestra, but a life-changing influence on more than two thousand Conservatory graduates, among them Chloe Trevor, now a professional violinist.

“I mean, Mr. Fomin mean everything to me,” Trevor says.  “I mean, he was a very strong father figure in my life.  I started studying with him when I was about ten.  And I studied with him until I went to college.  I—I mean I’ll tell anybody that I learned absolutely everything from him, I mean, everything about playing violin, about music, about working together with people, about life, about anything I learned from him.”

Let me confess my bias: I’ve been involved with the Conservatory since the ’80s, serving on its advisory board, helping with concerts. That’s how I learned about these lives transformed by a teacher. I also got to film the students as Fomin turned them into cultural ambassadors, sending them to Moscow, Prague, St. Petersburg and the White House.  Amanda Ambrosio remembers that trip:

“On the plane back from the White House, the very first time, in 1986, he goes, ‘Next we’ll go to the Soviet Union, my former home or Russia,’ and sure enough, three years later we went on a plane to Russia.  We were all quite impressed.  He made that dream come true for not just obviously him but for all of us.  It was such an amazing trip and an amazing time.”

Fomin didn’t set small goals.

“Oh, no, not at all,” says Ambrosio. “Dream big and work hard and you’ll get there.  I think that’s probably the biggest lesson that I learned from Arkady.”

Ambrosio is putting that lesson to work now as a manager in the aircraft industry.

I have seen over the last 30 years that music is a powerful force in the right hands, and teaching music is a profound way to share one life with many.

Charlsie Griffiths agrees. She started violin with Fomin at 7 and continued through high school.  Now a Julliard graduate, she came back to direct the high school orchestra program in Rockwall.

“I think it’s really important when you receive such an education that you give it to the younger generation, and that’s how I decided to do what I’m doing currently,” she says.

And listen to these students.  High school students.  They are showing us what it takes to pass on things that are meaningful It takes the devotion of a remarkable life.


  • john dornheim

    Arkady was also a wonderful, giving man who made board meetings interesting, loved his food and wine, and could and would talk about anything. His slavic accent, distinctive mane of white hair and always active body were parts of him that everyone loved — he was energy and excitement ready to explode with words — no wonder when he played the violin with his verve and style the strings bent to his every whim making Beethoven, Vivaldi or Rachmaninoff sound new and more exciting each time. Arkady Fomin was a whirlwind who could only be tamed by his maker. He is missed by all who knew him and by those who won’t get the chance to fall for his charm, his talent, and his optimism in a world that most times has too little.