Vijay Gupta

Violinist. Speaker. Advocate.

May 24, 2020


There are many ways to be alone. 

Gupta…is one of the most radical thinkers in the unradical world of American classical music. With Street Symphony, he has created a formidable new model for how musical institutions should engage with the world around them. – Alex Ross, The New Yorker

Handel's 'Messiah,' on Skid Row

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Vijay Gupta is represented as a speaker by the Lavin Agency.

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Vijay Gupta is a violinist and social justice advocate.

An esteemed performer, communicator, and citizen-artist, Gupta is a leading advocate for the role of the arts and music to heal, inspire, provoke change, and foster social connection. Gupta is the founder and Artistic Director of Street Symphony, a non-profit organization providing musical engagement, dialogue and teaching artistry for homeless and incarcerated communities in Los Angeles.

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October 13, 2018

NPR’s Weekend Edition

October 10, 2018

KCRW Press Play with Madeleine Brand

October 5, 2018

BBC World Service (London)

October 5, 2018

Washington Post: The violinist for LA’s skid row wins a MacArthur ‘genius’ grant

October 4, 2018

KPCC Take Two Feature

August 17, 2018

NBC Dateline Feature: Vijay Gupta’s Story

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1 month ago

Vijay Gupta - Violinist


Comment on Facebook 109542755785816_4018468568226529

This concert was brought to you by the number 1...

I remember I went to one of your practices when we were 6. Lol


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“Generosity is doing something for someone else expecting nothing in return” - @simonsinek⁠⠀
In “The Gift” #LewisHyde teaches that all art is a gift. The artistic act is ultimately always generous - music, painting, dance, song - is always an offering. What price tag can be attached to years of quiet, applauded labor? Every time we reduce art to a commodity - to a product to be bought or sold - we cheapen a spiritual offering. Of course, we must pay our artists - but we must first understand: what artists give the world isn’t anything that can be bought or sold. We give our souls. We give, knowing that any accolades, any applause, any payment - is a shadow of the truest gift that *we*, the artists, receive - that we get to make art in the first place. ⁠⠀
#artsadvocacy #generosity #give ⁠⠀
#BachEveryday 179: Gavotte en Rondeau from the Partita in E major⁠⠀

“Life is a carousel. It goes up and down. All U gotta do is just stay on.” - @pharrell
This movement is a carousel: “Rondo” literally means “to return”. Each return to the leaping theme is like the return home, like completing a loop. Except each return feels different, somehow. The journey is unexpected, erring, questioning. We never quite come home the same person. Playing the Partitas of Bach - the collections of old dances (old even for Bach, when they inspired these pieces) - have taught me that dancing isn’t always confident. What does it mean to dance when we’re lost, dance through sadness? Stay on the ride. Stay on.
#pharrell #stayon #dance
#BachEveryday 178: Gavotte en Rondeau from the Partita in E major

“Return to yourself. Sometimes it takes losing yourself many times before you understand that you need yourself more than you need anyone else” - @loveaprilgreen⁠⠀
I wonder if returning to one’s self is a journey that needs to be taken alone. It needs to be taken after falling and scraping your knee. It’s not a triumphant journey of speed and skill. It’s not fast, or convenient, or necessarily even one of confidence. Why does it take failing and falling to finally turn to the voice within, and ask ourselves to return? Maybe we’re the only ones who can give ourselves what we truly need. ⁠⠀
#takewhatyouneed #returntoself #loveaprilgreen⁠⠀
#BachEveryday 177: Gavotte en Rondeau from the Partita in E major⁠⠀

There is a dancer who sways beneath⁠⠀
all I know. She can’t be summoned,⁠⠀
only followed. I have been her apprentice for years. ⁠⠀
She has led me to you⁠⠀
and to poetry and to the soft truth⁠⠀
inside suffering. If pressed, I’d say⁠⠀
she shimmers before I sing and⁠⠀
thunders when I cry. She turns⁠⠀
every why into how and calms my⁠⠀
doubts the way water smoothes each⁠⠀
hole in sand. Oh she won’t come out⁠⠀
while we’re talking like this, but⁠⠀
only when we drop our words⁠⠀
and put down everything⁠⠀
we don’t want to put down.⁠⠀
Here’s to following that which can’t be summoned. Here’s to always being an apprentice. ⁠⠀
#BachEveryday 176: Loure from the Partita in E major⁠⠀

Intimacy is the capacity to be rather weird with someone - and finding that that's ok with them. #alaindebotton⁠⠀
Even though Bach wrote these works for solo (unaccompanied) violin, I often wonder at how these movements - especially the slower ones - feel weirdly like conversations we would have in moments of intimacy. There is the lilt of voices, rhythms, melodies - all happening in synchrony - yet, the overall mood to me is deeply private. A space to be weirdly and fully ourselves. ⁠⠀
#care #conversation #intimacy⁠⠀
#BachEveryday 175: Loure from the Partita in E major⁠⠀

As this movement turns towards the minor key, I’m reminded of the image of dancing through sadness. The incredible nuance of Bach’s music gives us a chance to move through emotions stated simply and clearly. There is a frankness to how sweet this section is. ⁠⠀
#sad #sweet⁠⠀
#BachEveryday 174: Loure from the Partita in E major⁠⠀

“Fake It Until You Become It” - @jamesclear⁠⠀
There is so much that leads to those sinewy questions of doubt in the placement of every note and bow-stroke, the doubt of purpose and meaning in this world we leap into. Yesterday, my @YouTube deep dive unearthed a video of the incredible dancer #JunichiFukuda performing a Loure of Lully - a composer of the French Baroque. His movement was fluid, unabashedly graceful, and confident. It was the kind of confidence that makes you question the movement of every joint in your skeleton - how could someone’s bones be *that* confident? ⁠⠀
#confidence #dance #goforit #leap⁠⠀
#BachEveryday 173: Loure from the Partita in E major⁠⠀

“Leap, and the net will appear” - John Burroughs⁠⠀
The Loure is a leaping dance - the jump happening in those first two notes of the upbeat, before a (hopefully) graceful landing. What was it like to dance the Loure? Diving down the YouTube rabbit hole has been fascinating - finding dancers ornamenting their leaps with the most graceful balance of power and delicacy. In a sense, the leap into the next step - they leap, and the way appears. Our lives are a lot like that. We leap from day to day, hoping to land, with some semblance of grace and purpose. We leap, and we might stumble. Sometimes stumbling is the way. ⁠⠀
#dance #goforit #leap⁠⠀
#BachEveryday 172: Loure from the Partita in E major⁠⠀

“Unlearning is not about forgetting. It’s about the ability to choose an alternative mental model or paradigm. When we learn, we add new skills or knowledge to what we already know. When we unlearn, we step outside the mental model in order to choose a different one.” @harvard_business_review⁠⠀
Practicing is about unlearning. For me, it’s about unlearning tension in my middle back, especially on the right side - the muscles which control the bow arm. I would immediately punish myself with some negative thinking - “you’re wrong for being tense”. It was only after surrendering fully - choosing a mental model of this practice - that flow, a ‘state of swing’, emerged. ⁠⠀
Speaking of practicing and Preludios, check out the incredible @rachellviolin and her latest video tutorial on some of the challenges of this movement! ⁠⠀
#learn #swing #surrender⁠⠀
#BachEveryday 171: Preludio from the Partita in E major⁠⠀

“Swing is a state of arrival” - Craig Lambert, “Mind Over Water”
What does it mean “to arrive”? I thought of this idea while playing this movement, so easily and so often a struggle. What does it require for us to get out of our own way?
The larger version of this Craig Lambert quote from David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” @gtdtimes. “Rowers have a word for this frictionless state: swing. . . . Recall the pure joy of riding on a backyard swing: an easy cycle of motion, the momentum coming from the swing itself. The swing carries us; we do not force it. We pump our legs to drive our arc higher, but gravity does most of the work. We are not so much swinging as being swung. The boat swings you. The shell wants to move fast: Speed sings in its lines and nature. Our job is simply to work with the shell, to stop holding it back with our thrashing struggles to go faster. Trying too hard sabotages boat speed. Trying becomes striving and striving undoes itself. Social climbers strive to be aristocrats but their efforts prove them no such thing. Aristocrats do not strive; they have already arrived. Swing is a state of arrival.”
#swing #rowing #arrive
#BachEveryday 170: Preludio from the Partita in E major

"Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness."⁠⠀
— Maya Angelou⁠⠀
#BachEveryday 169: Preludio from the Partita in E major⁠⠀

"Wherever you are is the entry point"⁠⠀
— Kabir⁠⠀
#BachEveryday 168: Preludio from the Partita in E major⁠⠀

"Creativity requires faith. Faith requires that we relinquish control."⁠⠀
— Julia Cameron⁠⠀
#BachEveryday 167: Preludio from the Partita in E major⁠⠀

“Notice the rage. Notice the silence. Notice all of the stuff. And that’s the culture-building that I’m talking about. That’s the container-building.” @resmaamenakem @onbeing⁠⠀
#BachEveryday 166: Allegro Assai from the Sonata in C Major⁠⠀

"What is seen is not the Truth⁠⠀
What is cannot be said⁠⠀
Trust comes not without seeing⁠⠀
Nor understanding without words⁠⠀
The wise comprehends with knowledge⁠⠀
To the ignorant it is but a wonder⁠⠀
Some worship the formless God⁠⠀
Some worship his various forms⁠⠀
In what way He is beyond these attributes⁠⠀
Only the Knower knows⁠⠀
That music cannot be written⁠⠀
How can then be the notes⁠⠀
Say Kabir, awareness alone will overcome illusion."⁠⠀
— Kabir⁠⠀
#BachEveryday 165: Allegro Assai from the Sonata in C Major

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MacArthur Photo Credit: John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation