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In Conversation with Pinchas Zukerman

The Violinist/Violist/Conductor shares his passions & inspirations

by Rhiannon Nachbaur of Award-Winning Fiddleheads Violin Studio

I first saw legendary violinist/violist Pinchas Zukerman play in San Diego, California in 1994 with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra performing the Beethoven Concerto.

I waited around afterwards for an autograph from him and not-so-casually walked by his side as he left the building. A seventeen-year-old valley girl with a crush on a handsome violin idol! A year later I was in Canada studying music, where I met my husband and later immigrated.

I followed love to Canada, first my violin music, then my husband. My admiration for Pinchas' playing brought the whole thing full-circle again when I saw him, now the conductor for the Canada National Arts Centre Orchestra, playing in my new home just ten years and a different country later.

After the concert I approached Maestro Zukerman, hoping to ask some questions on life, music and his passions. A man of few words, he asked me to email him and grinned, "If you send it to 'JaschaHeifetz.com' it won't get to me."

Rhiannon Nachbaur: Did love bring you to Canada? Where do you call home these days?

Pinchas Zukerman: I am very happy to call Ottawa home these days. It's very nice to feel connected to the community where I work and spend at least half of my time!

RN: What are your passions in life?

PZ: Sports, food, wine, my family, and of course music!

RN: I am a violin & fiddle teacher and I’m sure we both share an appreciation for students who are engrossed in their music and who love playing from their hearts. But there are always plateaus, the times when even the best of players find it hard to be motivated, improve consistently or keep focused in music. How do you keep your students inspired?

PZ: I keep my students inspired by constantly changing things along the way. If one thing doesn't work, you have to try something else. And, above all else, PASSION! Your students will be inspired if they can sense you are passionate about the music and about teaching and learning.

RN: How about yourself? You play all the repetiore with apparent ease and total concentration, always playing it as if it were fresh and inspiring. We'd all like to know, do you ever feel frustrated with yourself as a player? If so, how do you manage through the lows?

PZ: No. I just work very hard and realize that the Fundamentals are very important!

RN: What inspires you to keep up your busy tour schedules and play the repetiore with such originality, creativity and passion every time?

PZ: You've answered your own question without realizing it! PASSION. I am passionate about the
music - that is why I do what I do.

RN: And how much on average do you practice each day or in a week?

PZ: As much as necessary. There is no magic formula. It all depends on what I'm working on and
what concerts are coming up.

RN: When I was 14 my conductor, also a violist, encouraged us violinists to take up viola. She said as violists we'd have better chances of getting into ensembles, college and jobs. Add to that my love for Bach’s Brandenburg 6 and Mozart’s Symphonietta Concertante, which featured viola solists, and I was inspired to take up this wonderful instrument. What was your motivation behind taking up viola?

PZ: Hearing the sonority of the instrument made me want to play the viola.

RN: How would you explain the differences between the instruments, aside from the usual dimensions,
clef, and range.

PZ: The bow application is different on the viola. A slightly slower bow application is used on the viola because it's heavier and easier to control.

RN: Do you think differently when playing viola?

PZ: No. I am always concentrating on the music - it doesn't matter if I'm playing violin or viola - the music is what's important.

RN: Do violists who start out on viola play differently than violinists who take it up later?

PZ: They shouldn't.

RN: Do you recommend violinists double on viola to broaden their career and musical opportunities?

PZ: Yes.

RN: Who is your greatest inspiration in music?

PZ: There are so many it would be difficult to list.

RN: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and provide inspiration for my local violin community. I also thank you for being an inspiration in my music and for all of us.

Back to Writings

You may also like to read "Viola Players Have the Last Laugh"

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