Vijay Gupta ’07MM, on music as a vehicle for social justice

Vijay Gupta

Violinist and YSM alum Vijay Gupta ’07MM is a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the founder and artistic director of Street Symphony, an organization that “serves to foster a dialogue which tells the unheard stories of the most marginalized communities in Los Angeles through the power of musical expression,” according to language on its website. We spoke with Vijay about the artist’s role in society.

Q: What experiences at Yale and the Yale School of Music, and in New Haven, inform the work you’re doing now with Street Symphony and in terms of how the arts can be a vehicle for social justice in a larger sense?

A: Well, it was two classes in particular. One was my Hearing class with Joan Panetti, which totally transformed the way that I teach and perform and collaborate. I was actually Dr. Panetti’s TA for my second whole year at YSM, so that was really, really special for me. And it’s kind of amazing, I kind of feel Dr. Panetti coming up in my voice and in my steps when I teach, so that’s very cool. The second class was a survey of late Beethoven by Markus Rathey, and he went through, I think, from Op. 90 until the end of Beethoven. And just being able to present in his class, and being able to look at the composers for who they were as people and not just as these marble busts of dead white guys, really, really changed the way that I approach playing. And it’s a direct correlation to the way that I lead programs when I play Beethoven or Schumann in a county jail, because our audiences are not interested in how well we play, they’re interested in the stories. They’re, in a sense, interested in the humanity of the composers. So those are two things that I got from those two classes. And of course I have to give credit to my amazing teacher, who was Ani Kavafian. She was just so wonderful and kind and got me to think about different aspects of my playing that I hadn’t even thought about before, but she also cared about me as a person, which was kind of new for me having come from the conservatory system. Oftentimes in those situations my personhood didn’t count as much as how well I played my etudes. But I played a lot of Baroque violin at school with ISM; I was playing with Robert Mealy and that was an extension of what I was getting from Markus Rathey’s class and from Joan Panetti’s class. It was a very natural extension of what was going on in the life of these composers as they were composing. And one direct example of how that’s showed up for me in my organization is in our Messiah project. We do a yearly sing-along of Handel’s Messiah in Skid Row at a homeless shelter. And we’ve actually now started placing formerly homeless Desert Storm combat veterans as our soloists, and we give them lessons all year long. And when you look at the situation in which Handel performed his Messiah, it wasn’t in a concert hall, it was in an orphan’s hospital, and the first concert released 142 men from debtor’s prison. So if we’re really doing authentic performance practice, if we’re really going to put our mouth where our money is with regard to what these composers were actually dreaming and thinking as they composed, then we also have to have the same kind of social understanding of what kind of music our community needs. It became very clear to me at school that these composers were writing for their communities. I’m sorry to go on a little bit here, but Bach’s passions would have been called engagement sing-along concerts today, because everybody in the audience knew those chorales and they stood up and sang them. So what’s our modern day Messiah? That’s the kind of question that I’m asking in my head right now as I lead my life and do my stuff.

MORE

Published August 29, 2017
Share This Comments

David Shifrin and friends celebrate clarinet music in Nov. 15 recital

YSM performers join Shifrin in music from Mozart to Brahms to Panetti

The Yale School of Music presents clarinetist David Shifrin and friends in a Faculty Artist Series recital on Tuesday, November 15th at 8 pm. Shifrin, who just enjoyed a successful performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, will perform a diverse program including not only Mozart but also composers as diverse as Poulenc, Ponchielli, and Joan Panetti.

The program opens with Mozart’s Divertimento No. 1 in B-flat major for three basset horns – an instrument similar to the alto clarinet but with a different tone color. Shifrin, along with two of his YSM students, will play basset horns in this performance.

Recent YSM alumna Romie de Guise-Langlois will join Shifrin in Poulenc’s Sonata for two clarinets, and piano alumna Amy J. Yang will play the Brahms Sonata in F minor, Op. 120, No. 1, with Shifrin.

This concert will offer the world premiere of the newest version of Lobgesang for seven clarinets by YSM faculty composer Joan Panetti. The piece was written for Keith Wilson, the School of Music’s longtime clarinet professor (before Shifrin’s tenure), and will be performed by current and former YSM students – including Thomas Masse, now the University’s deputy provost for the arts.

The program will also include two pieces with string instruments: Alan Shulman’s Rendezvous for Benny, a piece written for clarinetist Benny Goodman, and Ponchielli’s Il Convegno for two clarinets and strings. MORE

Published October 27, 2011
Share This Comments

Memorial concert to honor Jesse Levine

Event will feature spoken tributes and performances by colleagues and students

levine_v2

The Yale School of Music presents a memorial concert in honor of Jesse Levine on Sunday, February 22 at 4 pm in Battell Chapel, 300 College Street in New Haven.  In addition to spoken tributes and remembrances will be performances by Levine’s former colleagues and students. Performers from the Yale School of Music will include the Yale Cellos, conducted by Aldo Parisot; Syoko Aki, violin; Frank Morelli, bassoon; pianists Joan Panetti, and Elizabeth Parisot; and several of Professor Levine’s viola students.  Levine’s longtime colleague and musical partner, pianist Morey Ritt, will  also perform.

Admission to the memorial concert is free. For further information, please visit the School of Music web site at music.yale.edu, or call 203 432-4158.

Jesse Levine, violist, teacher, and conductor, was known for his loyalty, devotion, sense of humor, strength of convictions, and compassion. He was Professor in the Practice of Viola and Chamber Music and coordinator of the String Department at the Yale School of Music since 1983. He was principal violist of the Buffalo, Dallas, Baltimore and New Jersey symphony orchestras, and was the music director of several orchestras, including the New Britain and Norwalk symphony orchestras, Orquesta del Principado de Asturias, Chappaqua Orchestra, and the Feld Ballet. Known for his work in contemporary music, he was frequently invited to conduct the Buffalo Philharmonic in its annual North American New Music Festival and participated in the annual June-in-Buffalo Festival. In the dual role of conductor/teacher Mr. Levine conducted the National Youth Orchestra of Spain, the Youth Orchestra of Andalucia, and the Youth Orchestra of Catalonia. As a member of the Bruch Trio he recorded the music of Max Bruch, Rebecca Clarke, Jean Francaix, Gordon Jacob, and Mozart for Summit Records.

Mr. Levine previously served on the faculties of the State University of New York at Buffalo, Stony Brook and Purchase, and the Peabody Conservatory of Music. He presented master classes at conservatories and  festivals throughout Spain and France. Jesse Levine studied principally at Mannes College of the Arts. He also studied conducting with Igor Markevitch in Monaco. Early career highlights included summers as principal violist at Tanglewood, performing the Stravinsky elegy on stage with the composer (and introducing him to his mother), as well as several missions to Argentina as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department. Jesse Levine is survived by his wife, Jill Pellett Levine, his sons Alexander and Josh, and his sister Lisa Nowakowski.

Published February 6, 2009
Share This Comments