Meet the Musician: Principal Bassist Robert D'Imperio


Do you come from a musical family?  When did you start your musical training and what made you choose the bass?  Do you play any other instruments?     

My father is a jazz drummer who played and recorded with notable artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennett, Maynard Ferguson and many others. He started me on drums when I was 5 and by the time I was 12 years old I was playing professionally all around the upstate NY area as a jazz drummer. The way I came to be a classical bassist is an interesting story. My father had an incredible record collection of over 10,000 lp’s virtually all of which were jazz recordings. In this vast library was buried one classical record, Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra playing Bach. One day I happened upon that record somehow, and heard the basses play the opening of Toccata and Fugue. We happened to have a bass in the house for jazz but I never heard one played with a bow before! I was hooked and knew from that moment I wanted to be a classical musician.

When did you join Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and what have been your favorite productions?  

I joined the Orchestra in 1995. My favorite productions have been the Ring Cycle as well as Othello during the Japan Tour. I also love playing Prokofiev ballets as well.

You’ve performed in many places outside of the Kennedy Center.  Tell us about your experiences playing with different groups/festivals in DC and around the world.  

I have had some amazing musical experiences outside the Opera. Just prior to joining the Orchestra, I was a member of the New World Symphony. We toured extensively during my time there including trips throughout Europe, the Middle East and South America as well as around the US. One of the highlights include a private chamber music performance of Schubert’s Trout Quintet for Prince Albert in Monaco. We were the guests of honor at a formal dinner with the Prince and other dignitaries following the performance. It really felt like a fairytale. 

I have played with the NSO a great deal over the years as well, culminating in a 1 year appointment several years ago during which we did a 3 week tour of China and Korea. This was very special for me as I was born in Korea and came to the States at age 2. I had not been back until the tour and it was a bit emotional to step foot on the land of my birth after 40 years. 

What kind of music do you listen to other than classical music? 

I enjoy many genres ranging from Jazz, Bluegrass, Rock, etc. I was recently exposed by a dear friend to an electric Cello act called 2 Cello’s that I am enjoying very much.

Do you have any hobbies outside of music

I have quite a few hobbies. I have been an avid cyclist for many years as well as a serious amateur astronomer. I love nature and try to get to my cabin in WV as often as possible. However, my true passion is archery. I love to compete and have won 3 Virginia State Championships, 2 Mid-Atlantic Championships, both of which were tournament records. I hold 2 statewide Virginia records.

                  Photo of the Orion Nebula taken by Bob with his 8" telescope.

                Bob competing at the 2017 VA State 3D Archery Tournament