The beauty of music has the ability to speak where words fail.”- Robert Vijay Gupta
We were fortunate enough to be serenaded by the talented and articulate Robert Vijay Gupta this week. Narendra introduced him with the story of their chance meeting at a Korean taco truck when they bonded over the fact that Robert was an Indian guy with a white guy’s name, and Narendra was a white guy with an Indian name
Gupta started his talk by playing Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin. To say that it was an amazing and emotional experience would be an understatement. Goosebumps! Between performances, he shared some hilarious and heartfelt tales of growing up with Indian parents who made sure he began playing Suzuki violin method at the age of 4. His parents also expected “the expected” of him – that he become Dr. Gupta – of course. So off he went to university (at age 14).
After attending Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music, then getting a Master’s Degree from Yale, he joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the age of 19 – the youngest conductor they’d ever hired. Pre-med in college, Gupta became fascinated with the effect of music on the brain. Luckily, his neurosciences professor, a musician himself, encouraged him to follow his passion for playing and urged him to pursue a musical path as a means to healing instead.
Engaging and interesting, Gupta was especially inspiring when speaking about his nonprofit, Street Symphony, which brings live classical musical concerts to the underserved mentally ill and homeless of Los Angeles. He really believes that “music is sanity, music is medicine.” It was here that he met his inspiration, Nathaniel Ayers (the musician featured in the film ‘The Soloist’) and saw the transformational effects of music when they studied and played together.
Nathaniel, a former Julliard-student, suffered from debilitating paranoid schizophrenia and had been living among LA’s homeless on Skid Row. Connecting through Beethoven and Bach, Robert witnessed firsthand the power of music in reaching Nathaniel.
Thank you, Robert for sharing your gift with us as well.
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