Nella Hunkins

79B Gloucester Street, Winchcombe, Glos. GL54 5LX, England

(From UK) 01242 604482  (From outside UK) +44 1242 604482

Nella Hunkins was born in New York to a musician family - her father a prominent cellist and her mother a violinist , both Juilliard graduates. After early years studying with Leonard Rose, she went on to earn BM and MM degrees at Indiana University as a pupil of Janos Starker, in addition to a Fulbright grant to study at the Paris Conservatory with André Navarra.

Her first major orchestral appointment was in 1973, as associate principal cellist with the Cleveland Orchestra; in summer she was a member of the Casals Festival Orchestra in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she studied briefly with Mstislav Rostropovich. In 1977 she settled in Berlin to start her family; her orchestral experience during that time included performances, recordings and tours as a non-contractual member of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Herbert von Karajan. Most recently, from March 2001 to April 2009, she was principal cellist with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Her musical activities have also included the performance and recording of much chamber music and a number of performances at the Salzburg Festival. She can be heard on the Denon recording label with the chamber group Philharmonia Ensemble Berlin. A close interest in international affairs led to her giving a series of solo benefit concerts in Berlin for Kosovo war victims. Ms Hunkins is fluent in French and German as well as English.

Education                                                                                               Diplomas

1960 – 65      Juilliard School, studied with Leonard Rose

                      (chamber music with Robert Mann)

  1965 – 68      Indiana University, studied with Janos Starker               Bachelor Degree in Music

  1968 – 69      Conservatoire de Paris, studied with André Navarra      Prix du Conservatoire

  1969 – 71      Indiana University, studied with Janos Starker               Masters Degree in Music
                        (chamber music with William Primrose, Menahem

    Pressler, Gyorgy Sebok)



  1967                            First prize at the New York Cello Society Competition

  1968              Fulbright Scholarship to Paris Conservatory

  1970              Performer’s Certificate, Indiana University

  1971              First prize, Coleman Chamber Music Competition, Pasadena, California

                        (cellist in the Indiana University String Quartet)

 Orchestral and chamber engagements

1973 77               Cleveland Orchestra, associate principal cello

1974 77               Casals Festival Orchestra, Puerto Rico (summer festival)

1982 90               Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, non-contractual

1982 92               Berlin Scharoun Ensemble

1986 90               Philharmonia Ensemble Berlin

1990 95               Kreuzberger String Quartet

1997 2000           University of Louisville Faculty Trio

2001 2009           Singapore Symphony Orchestra, principal cello

2009 – present       Bach Duo

2011 – present       Montpellier Duo

2011 – present       Tivoli Piano Trio

2013 – present        Nella and Kneale (jazz duo)

Member of the following faculties 

1971                       Oberlin College Conservatory of Music
1972                       University of Kentucky, Lexington
77               Cleveland Institute of Music
86               Hochschule der Kuenste, Berlin
2000           University of Louisville
2003 – 2009 
         Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore

She has served as cello coach numerous times at the International Jeunesse Musicale in Manila, Philippines and Verbier, Switzerland, and at orchestral festivals in Mexico, Italy, Germany and Russia.

Repertoire as soloist


Boccherini, Brahms Double, Dvorak, Haydn D Major, Haydn Concertante, Saint Saens, Schumann, Tchaikovsky Rococco Variations, Ivan Tcherepnin Double, Bloch Schelomo Hebrew Rhapsody, Vivaldi Double Concerto (with Bobby McFerrin)

Reviews and comments


“I thought the interchange [in the Vivaldi Four Seasons] between soloist Lin and concertmaster
Alexander Souptel couldn’t be beat until I heard his interplay with magnificent principal cellist
Nella Hunkins in the other three concertos.”

(Gil French, American Record Guide)

 “Then came Shostakovich’s only Cello Sonata (Op.40) in a passionate reading by SSO principal      cellist Nella Hunkins (left) and pianist Low Shao Ying. Hunkins dedicated her performance of        the elegiac slow movement to her Russian grandparents, with its heart-on-sleeve Slavic
melancholy laid bare. Elsewhere, the duo reveled in the Russian’s curious blend of easy lyricism and spiky dissonance.
        The see-sawing and obstinate rhythms of the Scherzo immediately brought to mind a performance of this movement in the very same venue by a ‘late great’ – Mstislav Rostropovich in 1992. That this evening’s performance could stand shoulder to shoulder speaks volumes; Hunkins’ generous artistry will be missed on her departure from the SSO.”

(Straits Times, 11/2/2009)

 “Her playing of the Rococco Variations was a joy to behold, her sound firm and gentle. Hunkins expressed complete control of the work. There were moments of breathtaking beauty with an abundance of elegance and class.”

(The Flying Inkpot– online arts review)


  “I first met Nella in 1977 when I was an undergraduate at the Cleveland Institute of Music. I was immediately taken with her openness and commitment to teaching cello concepts and her   

     inclusiveness of all students - not just those members of her class. …
          As a performer, Nella is powerful. Her tone is rich. Her musical instincts are always                        appropriate and her technique is formidable. … Nella has a great gift to translate her performance      talents into the studio. I find myself using her colorful and descriptive analogies with my own            students. She explores her own technique ceaselessly and through this quest guides her students        to their own discoveries. She doesn't rely on past understandings of her work but prods herself to      the next level without rest.  I  have seen in other students and myself an abundant increase in              tone production, clarity of intonation, and ease of technique after working with Nella.”

(Alan Weinstein, Cellist, Kandinsky Trio)


“I would think she’d make a great teacher. Her brilliance as a player and as a personality had

left a strong impression.”

(Carter Brey, Principal Cellist, New York Philharmonic - posting on CelloChatter)





References are available on request.