Vijay Gupta

Violinist | Speaker | Citizen Artist


June 25
Featured Speaker at Association for Schools and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Virtual Conference
July 13
Keynote Speaker at American Organization for Nursing Leadership Virtual Conference
July 28 - August 8
Residency at the Strings Festival (Steamboat Springs, CO)

Vijay Gupta is a violinist, speaker and citizen-artist dedicated to creating spaces of wholeness through music.

On Social

TMM was thrilled to welcome Street Symphony back for their 76th visit. They brought an ensemble of world-class musicians, including Vijay Gupta - Violinist, Ian Pritchard, Dustin Seo, and Elizabeth Asher, to perform for our guests via Zoom. Music feeds the soul in the same way food feeds the body. ...

#themidnightmission #themidnight #streetsymphony #TMM #SkidRow #musicwithamission #mwam

A few years ago, @reenaesmailcomposer pointed out that in Skid Row, art is not a form of entertainment - it's a lifeline.

​​Skid Row is the epicenter of the crisis of homelessness in America today, but Skid Row is also a community. A community is defined by people who create ...belonging, together. There are many ways to gather - in a park for a picnic or concert, in a church or sacred space, or even in the day room of a shelter. In every space, art convenes people: it's not just an empty form of entertainment, but the actual, tangible element which brings people together. It's like food - for the soul.

​This photo is a throwback to 2019, when I saw @streetsymph name on a building for the first time! We joined forces with the incredible @lapovertydepartment - one of the first theatre companies in the US to ever work with a predominantly homeless community of artists.


"For me, listening is an act of love...Where we listen, how we place our attention in the world, is really where we direct the most precious resource we have: our time, our focus, our attention. It’s not only that music and art are being commodified, but our very attention itself is the ...greatest commodity that everyone seems to be bidding for."
​I had a really lovely conversation with @attache4culture last week - on listening, my album "When the Violin", and music as an act of giving and receiving. I'll be posting more of the interview soon, so stay tuned!

Here's the truth: my dad actually wrote to @Oprah, not me.

He also wrote to David @letterman, Sally Jessie Raphael, and countless other talk show hosts, trying to get his precocious, pudgy son into the spotlight. Funnily enough, he often joked that the day I went in Oprah was the he knew he was going bald, because of a hot spotlight boring into the back of his head. The story always got a massive laugh from our family friends - as did my vest and my haircut, which I didn't find quite as entertaining.

I first saw the letter (which I had allegedly written) when the producers of the Oprah segment on "Letters to Oprah from Memorable Mini Musicians". It was my first attempt at acting out, with complete sincerity, a passionate, burning desire to meet a talk-show host I had never heard about until that day. As a kid, I rarely watched TV, and if I did, it definitely wasn't Oprah. My little brother and I may have watched some cartoons from time to time, or we snuck around the corner of our parent's TV room to watch episodes of Seinfeld, completely oblivious to what was actually funny - we just wanted to stay up a little longer.

​I'm about 7 in this photo - and I remember, I played the first few notes of the Mozart 4th violin concerto, which I had practiced for about 6 months, in preparation for my audition to Juilliard Pre-College. The memory was a flash: bright lights, Oprah's brilliant smile, her saying something like, "you really got that *head* thing going on!!!".

​What I remember more than the bustle of the show was staying at my very first Omni hotel in Chicago and my dad and I ordering burgers, fries and an ice cream sundae bigger than my head from room service.

​I think my mom still has the vest.

​Happy Friday, everyone!

How do you practice change?

​Music is fleeting. We can't hold on to it. It only exists in the moment we pay attention to it. Music only exists in the moment of deep listening. For traditions which write notes on a page - those black dots and lines are just symbols, suggestions ...and guides to expression.

​Change is also fleeting: it only exists in the moment of imagination. What is the world you envision, and how do you live into it? If you want to see more compassion in the world, what does that look like?

​How do you feel when you receive compassion? How do you feel when you are compassionate to others?

​Change manifests in the smallest habits: a more compassionate world is born in the moment we embody a practice. One breath, one glance, one small hello to a neighbor you've never said hello to before.

​You may wonder, 'so what'? It's just one moment. What difference could one fleeting possibly make?

​The same difference as one single note.

​Well, perhaps it's one moment where you made a choice to not be indifferent. Maybe that tiny moment might grow into a chain of moments, where the attention you pay the world becomes your own practice of change. That's a #creativesadhana. ​
​Photo: @bawdenka

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I ...dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
​- Antonio Machado
​This fugue is like the work of honeybees, busily building 'white combs and sweet honey' of the two motives Bach puts before the player: a quirky octave leap and a long descending chromatic line. The entire movement is a working out of these two ideas - one leaping and bounding, the other crawling, sometimes sluggish and dragging, other times pushing forward. Of course, Bach turns both subjects upside down and inside out - trying out variations towards some point of resolution and arrival.

What's something you lost, which you wish you could have back?

Esa-Pekka Salonen's "Lachen verlernt" (Laughter unlearned) is a chaconne, based on a repeating pattern of harmonies, but reflecting the narrative of the 8th movement of Schoenberg's "Pierrot ...Lunaire", a prayer to the clown, Pierrot. The narrator begs, cajoles, implores the clown to teach her to laugh again in increasingly desperate pleas to restore what she has lost - or what she thinks she has lost.

Esa-Pekka has written about how he finds this is a moving metaphor of what a performer does: we remind an audience of their capacity to feel - something, which in our days of endless scrolling and numbness - we have lost, or at least think we have lost.

Image for shared link
Lachen verlernt: Esa-Pekka Salonen - Vijay Gupta, violin

Lachen verlernt (Laughter Unlearned)Esa-Pekka Salonen (2002)Program note from the composer: "The title "Lachen verlernt" (Laughing unlearnt) is a...

The Skid Row community in Los Angeles is the epicenter of the crisis of homelessness in America today. Yet, for all that is broken in this neighborhood, Skid Row is also a vibrant, artistic community. The work of Street Symphony is to offer music as a conduit for connection, as a way to see and be ...seen, and to create experiences of transcendence, awe and joy. My work is not to empower people or help them find their voice. There is already voice here – and it’s a vital, resilient, brave voice. Our work is to listen.
​I'm very honored to be sharing my work at @UCSB in a conversation with the remarkable Pico Iyer on October 28. Stay tuned for more details to follow.
​Photo: @bawdenka

The writer David Whyte says that humiliation — the public unveiling of our humble humanity — is the pathway to true evolution. The ego-shell of the former self shatters into a new self-knowing, often in the form of pain. But time passes, and we find ourselves laughing at a past failure: “can believe I did that?”

Vulnerability is the humus of our humanity, the compost of our past failures metabolized into a new way to be in the world. A rueful laugh births a new story, a new Self. What better prayer could there be, but laughter itself?

I love stand-up comedy. I wonder if it’s because I’m strangely attracted to seeing my innermost secrets and longings publicly embodied by a lone performer onstage, while I sit in the safe dark vantage of the audience. There is an attraction to seeing that inner shadow made real in the body of another. As everyone in the audience watches and laughs at the unveiling of a fragile or vulnerable part of myself, I watch and laugh. I learn to see — and perhaps laugh at — myself.

We need the painstaking labor of the performer to articulate the murkiness of our inner lives. Their labor becomes a conduit for the realization of something we — the audience — thought was a private pain, a vindictive joy, a shameful secret to be lost to memory. Now, we know someone else felt that, too. Someone took the time to be broken, and remade, by that feeling. Someone else knew that that story was important — too important — to ignore.

How might we reclaim what we have lost — or what we think we have lost — and write a new story?

The performer is a channel for that story. That story — first private, then communal — flows through them, becomes them, lives in and through them. Ultimately, the performer — that human bridge — gives that story back as an offering. Artists of all kinds remind us that we’re not alone in our feelings.
​Photo: @bawdenka