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Provided by Carissa Klopoushak.

Kun Shoulder Rest celebrates 50 years at Chamberfest—July 30, 2022

By Matthew Guida on July 22, 2022

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With today marking the first day of Chamberfest 2022, fans of this iconic summer festival have a lot to look forward to between now and August 4.

Among the many performances featured in this year’s Chamberfest, one that stands out the most is an event celebrating the 50-year anniversary of Kun Shoulder Rest. In addition to celebrating Kun’s success and contribution to the local music community and beyond, the event also honours the generosity of Marina Kun, who founded the company alongside her husband, Joseph.

 

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“To honour her, and the huge accomplishment of building a company from the ground up in Ottawa, we wanted to take the time to put together a special concert working with the Kun company, to pick out music that would just be perfect to relate to the family history and be meaningful to that and also celebrate their Ottawa roots,” says Carissa Klopoushak, the festival’s artistic director. Klopoushak will also be performing at the event alongside other artists such as the Gryphon Trio and Cris Derksen, as well as Kun featured artists Lara St. John and Kelly Hall Thompkins.

 

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We reached out to Juliana Farha, Director of Kun and Marina Kun’s daughter, for an email interview to learn more about the importance of this anniversary event, Kun’s 50-year history, and what their plans are going forward.

The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Apt613: How long has your family been associated with Chamberfest?

Juliana Farha: Decades⁠—literally! My mother Marina and the Kun business were among the festival’s very first supporters when it was an annual summer event that ran over two weeks. She also sat on its Board of Directors for many years, and we’ve continued to support its work as the festival has grown and changed.

What is it about Kun’s shoulder rests that makes them so unique?

Violin playing has always required musicians to find ways to offset some of its physical demands. The human body simply wasn’t built for it. Joseph Kun’s genius was to invent a simple, practical and reliable solution to this problem that worked for a significant number of musicians. The shape was unique (we hold a design patent for it), and most people who tried it in those early days found it really comfortable because it was adjustable for height, width and angle.

The next thing you know tens of thousands of players around the world were using Kun rests.

As such, he not only created something very useful, Joseph’s invention popularised the use of shoulder rests and made the ergonomic challenges of playing explicit. Marina took that invention and ran with it, tirelessly marketing it and exploring enhanced production methods, and the next thing you know tens of thousands of players around the world were using Kun rests. We’re a very local business with a deep commitment to the community, and we believe that ethos makes our products better⁠—and unique!

How does it feel for you and your family to celebrate Kun’s 50th anniversary? What does this event mean to you and your family?

We’ve all grown up with Chamberfest, so when we were planning how to celebrate this milestone, a concert at the festival was on top of our list of ideas. Since our market is very international, the ability to stream the concert online enhanced the logic of the concept. On a personal level, while some of us have moved away, we all try to make it back to Ottawa for a few of the summertime concerts, and my mother’s involvement has remained significant over the years. On top of that, in 2016, Chamberfest presented the Canadian premiere of Reciprocity, a chamber piece I commissioned based on poetry by my late sister, Darya Farha, who died of breast cancer in 2011. The work is by a British composer, Daniel Patrick Cohen, and had premiered in 2015 in London, where I live. But the Chamberfest premiere added another dimension to our relationship with the festival.

L-R: Juliana Farha, Roman Borys, Daniel Cohen, Alice Zawadski, and Marina Kun. Photo provided.

Looking back, did you or your family ever expect that Kun would grow into the successful company that it is today?

Yes and no! She’s mostly retired now, but Marina took risks that paid off and led the company with skill and panache for several decades. As a result, sales accelerated quickly and Kun became established as the standard shoulder rest. Still, it is pretty astonishing that a small family-run business manufacturing a single product could remain so robust for so long.

We are looking to the future, but taking a moment to appreciate where we are has been lovely.

Where do you see Kun going forward from here?

We have been working on a new model for more than two years, and players are now testing the latest prototypes. It’s called Kun Seven, and it will launch later this year. Still, we feel it’s time to expand our product line, albeit within the stringed instrument category. We started that conversation in earnest about three years ago and then Covid happened, but we are keen to return to the discussion once the Seven launches. In the meantime, we’ve expanded our support for music education charities in Canada and abroad because those efforts are central to the company’s ethos, which was incubated and cultivated around our family’s kitchen table.


“The Rest is History” Celebrating 50 Years of Kun is scheduled for Saturday, July 30th at 7 pm both as a livestream and in-person at Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre (355 Cooper St). Livestream passes cost $20, in-person tickets are $35 and festival passes are available at discounted rates. Visit chamberfest.com for the program notes, tickets, and complete festival schedule. Visit kunrest.com to learn more about Kun shoulder rests and the family business’s history.

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