Associate Concertmaster Chris Takeda can perfectly recall his first attempt at striking up a conversation with Assistant Concertmaster Jennifer Best Takeda. It happened in a small room at the Kennedy Center in August of 2003, after they had both advanced to the semifinal round of auditions for the Washington National Opera.
Chris tells us, "I heard Jen and another semifinalist talking about the New World Symphony, and I kept trying to interject: 'Oh, are you a New World fellow? Do you like it there? We have lots of alumni in our orchestra--have you heard of the Florida West Coast Symphony in Sarasota? Maybe you could come and substitute...'"
While Chris had eyes for Jennifer, Jennifer was not about to lose sight of the fact that, no matter how friendly, this chatty fellow was still the competition. The conversation was taking off much like a lead balloon until a proctor came into the room to announce that both Chris and Jennifer would advance to the audition's final round.
It surely didn't feel like a stroke of fortune at the time, but neither of them emerged the winner that day. There was a bit of prescience in that first meeting, however, as Jennifer was hired for a substitute gig in Sarasota a year and a half later.
"I had lost my voice, and so I was trying not to speak to anybody all week," Jennifer says. "Then I saw Chris, and I thought, Oh, wow, he's really cute--and then I remembered how awful I was to him at that audition."
Chris hadn't forgotten Jennifer, either:
"I didn't talk to Jennifer for the first two or three days of that concert week, because I was remembering how it didn't go so well in D.C. Finally, we ran into each other backstage at the Van Wezel, and I said, 'You know, I think we've met before.'"
Jennifer managed to find her voice for one hoarse "yes."
"Kennedy Center?" Chris prodded.
"That was it," she responded.
This first conversational success led to many future heart-to-hearts as Jennifer continued to take auditions, ultimately winning the Assistant Concertmaster position with Sarasota Orchestra in 2005. Performing just a few feet apart in Sarasota Orchestra's violin section, the pair developed a deep bond over the course of a slow, steady courtship. Jennifer and Chris were married in 2012, and they welcomed their son, Carter, into the world in 2014.
"Living together, hearing each other practice, I'm still learning from Jennifer in many ways," Chris says. "What's especially cool is that, if I ever need musical advice, I know she's going to give me the best advice that I can get."
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