Violinist is not what comes to mind when first meeting Clark Kasunich.
“If you talk to my high school music director Don Marino, he’d say, ’This is my good friend Clark. He’s a businessman.’ He’d never introduce me as a violinist,” Kasunich said in a recent interview.
Kasunich, a consummate salesman with a career in the packaging industry, exudes energy, and his customers are surprised when they learn that he’s a violinist.
“They don’t believe I can sit still long enough to play on the stage,” said Kasunich who plays with the Peninsula Symphony. “Then they come and see me, and their minds are blown.”
However, being a violinist has often helped Kasunich in the business world.
When Kasunich was accepted into the executive MBA program at USC, the dean said he was tired of having only business people in his lectures. He like the diversity of having a musician in the program.
His box manager at the Landsberg Amcor packaging company also told Kasunich he liked that he had a passion for violin and that set him apart from the other sales people.
Kasunich, 59, was born and raised in Palos Verdes Estates.
His father worked for the CIA and was stationed in Greece, where the United States had military forces after World War II, and he also served as the American Attaché to President Tito of Yugoslavia.
But the State Department and the CIA did not mesh with family living. His commanding officer had moved to Palos Verdes and he urged Clark’s father, who by then had five children, to follow. The family bought a house on Chelsea Road, and Clark was born three years later.
When Clark was about 8 years old, his mother took him to see “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Kasunich, sitting in the front row balcony, was mesmerized by the fiddler and the instruments in the orchestra pit.
Two years later, when the Palos Verdes High School orchestra performed at Lunada Bay Elementary School, Kasunich was hooked.
"I sat there and watched and decided I wanted to play the violin," he said. "My parents tried to talk me out of it. They thought I should play something more masculine like a trumpet, but I stuck to my guns.”
Fortunately, Kasunich's neighbors gave him a violin their daughter no longer used. He played in elementary and intermediate school. Then, Margaret Main, the music director and a violinist encouraged him to take private lessons.
In high school, Kasunich played in the orchestra pit for every musical at Palos Verdes High. But, when he went to California State University, Dominguez Hills, he thought he would leave the violin behind.
While "messing around" with a cello in a Music 100 class that Kasunich thought would be an "easy grade," his teacher recognized his talent. Kasunich told him he no longer played.
The teacher took Kasunich upstairs to introduce him to Frances Steiner, who demanded he join the Carson- Dominguez Hills Symphony, which Steiner directed.
“That was a real turning point,” Kasunich admitted, “In a sense, they saved me; I was in that orchestra from 1978 until it disbanded in 2008.”
Then, Pam Bleich, a fellow violinist, brought him along to Peninsula Symphony.
“I am very fortunate to be in the Peninsula Symphony because most of the players are better than me, which pulls me along,” he said. "It makes me a better player.”
He loves the discipline, the team work and the escape playing in an orchestra offers.
“Whether you are practicing or performing, you are in that world only. You cannot have a pager or a cell phone go off," said Kasunich. "You are laser beamed in that world.”
The Peninsula Symphony’s first concert its 53rd season, titled “Scared of Death,” is Sunday, Nov. 3, at the Redondo Beach Union High School. It features such music as Dance Macabre and Valse Triste by Saint-Saens and Rachmaninoff’s Isle of Dead.
The concert starts at 7 p.m. The doors open at 6 p.m. Parking is free.
For more information, visit pensym.org.