Maxim Kozlov and his daughter Sonja, 5, sit with their cellos in Kozlov's home studio in Eldersburg Jan. 30. Kozlov, originally from Russia, is a professional cello player who has performed in orchestras all over the world.
Maxim Kozlov and his daughter Sonja, 5, sit with their cellos in Kozlov's home studio in Eldersburg Jan. 30. Kozlov, originally from Russia, is a professional cello player who has performed in orchestras all over the world. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

ELDERSBURG - When Maxim Kozlov travels for business, he requests two airline tickets.

One for him. One for his antique cello.

He sits next to the stringed instrument, large enough to take up a passenger seat.

Flight attendants usually joke. They ask if Mr. Cello would like something to eat.

Kozlov and his cello are well-traveled. He has performed on four different continents and in hundreds of cities. He's in demand as a performer in chamber and concert orchestras.

Yet Kozlov isn't planning many travel trips in the coming months. He wants to use his cello in a different way. He is teaching how to play rather than showcasing his gift on stages.

After moving to Eldersburg last summer, Kozlov opened the Eldersburg Cello Studio at his home. With two young children, Kozlov is hoping for more teaching and less journeying to spots all over the world. He's performed in more than 700 concerts.

In most cases, travel is simply part of the gig for musicians, and Kozlov has plenty of stories to tell.

During a seven-year stint with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, Kozlov performed all over the United States.

He's also served as principal cellist in the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin in Russia and has recently performed with the Macao Orchestra. Macao, a peninsula and two islands located south of China, is known for its gaming industry.

He remembers details about most of the performances, ranging from Beijing to Los Angeles.

"Lots of cowboy hats," he said about the audience at a concert in Wyoming.

"It's like Las Vegas times seven," he said of Macao, a mecca for gamblers.

His many journeys help him when he teaches. Rather than simply explaining technically how to play a piece, he can offer first-hand experiences about what it's like to play South American tangos or intimate details of the tradition of classical music in Europe.

"I can tell them the stories about life in those countries," he said. "It helps when I can share my experiences with them. Then, it can spark an interest."

Kozlov was introduced to the cello at just 5 years old while growing up in the Soviet Union. His parents wanted him to study piano, but a teacher didn't think he had what it took.

So his parents asked if he wanted to give the cello a try. He did. He's been playing ever since.

He studied at three Russian colleges and earned a doctorate in Musical Arts from the Moscow State Conservatory. He also studied at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

He received citizenship in the United States during his stint with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, which was from 2005-12. During a dress rehearsal before the concert season started, the orchestra played the National Anthem in his honor when he got word of his citizenship.

After having such a fruitful performing experience in Baltimore, Kozlov and his family decided to move back to the area last year. He picked Eldersburg because of the excellent public schools system in Carroll County and because the area didn't have many cello instructors, he said.

Since arriving, he's found students from throughout the region. He accepts everyone from beginners to advanced students.

"It's great that we have someone of his caliber here in this county," said John Corona, an Eldersburg resident with a daughter who is a musician.

In addition to his regular students, Kozlov is working with his daughter Sonja, 5. She is the same age Kozlov was when he started practicing. Her tiny cello is positioned in a rehearsal space in Kozlov's Eldersburg home.

"I can imagine he would be a teacher that any pupil would be lucky to have," said pianist Alessio Bax, who performed with Kozlov in chamber music recitals and master classes in South Dakota.

So at least for now, Kozlov spends roughly four hours a day practicing and teaching. He's taking a break from the travel schedule, which means the cello, at least for now, won't be on many airplanes taking up a passenger seat.

"People always ask, 'Did you have to pay for a ticket for the cello?'" Kozlov said. "I always say, 'Well, it's not free.'"