A Personal Message
By nature and by choice I look for the things that we have in common, threads that link different musics together, threads that link different art forms together – they tie us together as human beings. It is the most natural way for me to exercise my musical and creative leadership in the world.
Here is how it all started: When I was 15 years old, I went from my home in Norwalk, Connecticut to Newhall, California as a student of violinist Yoko Matsuda, at the brand-new campus of California Institute of the Arts. CalArts, as it is more widely known, was the brainchild of Walt Disney, who conceived it as the West Coast counterpart to MIT (they used to refer to the school as CIA, but that didn’t last too long!). In part, Walt saw it as a place where creative artists from many disciplines could receive the best and latest training. Students were expected to spend part of their course of study in other disciplines; teachers were expected to be active practitioners of their art, and involve themselves in other disciplines as well. Why? Walt believed that the arts, in their essence, are all inter-related, and should be studied and taught with that in mind. Studying there was one of the most powerful transformational experiences of my life. Certainly, being taught, mentored and accepted by the powerful young faculty from the European tradition was incredibly uplifting. However it was the active guidance from faculty who were major performing artists from South India, North India, Ghana and Bali that SO completely blew the gaskets of my teen-age mind.
I — this Euro-centric violin prodigy who rose early every day to spend hours practicing the (so-called) “highest” art — was suddenly confronted with the unavoidable reality that phenomenal artistic and musical mastery existed in many different cultures, races and belief systems. And they were all there for me, inviting my participation as practitioner or listener!
It is true that after CalArts my two principal teachers, Violinist Broadus Erle and Pianist Sophie Feuermann, gave me a sense of lineage, of structures, a depth of technical and artistic knowledge from the purely European Classical tradition — of a quality I believe few have been privileged to receive.
Yet to this very day my CalArts years continue to shape my thinking, my artistic choices, and my career more than any other influence. They spur me ever onwards to seek out that Unity which lies within Diversity.