school/music balance

“The 21-year-old American violinist’s weeping tone and spot-on intonation made you wonder whether this was what it was like to hear a Perlman or a Stern in his early years. Jackiw’s playing was by turns passionate, precise, and unflagging.” Washington Post

Clearly Stefan dedicates a lot of time and effort to achieve his quality sound. But when you’re in college practicing six hours a day, and playing over 30 concerts a year, sometimes you miss an assignment or two… or in Stefan’s case, an entire midterm. As countless university music students will tell you, some professors are not as accommodating when it comes to their students’ performance career. But despite getting a zero on a psychology midterm, Stefan graduated from Harvard with a Bachelor of Arts degree and an Artist Diploma from the New England Conservatory in 2007. While touring, he would bring his books with him and fax and email assignments on the road – talk about multitasking to the max!

health insurance for your fingers?

When Stefan is not practicing his violin, he can be seen running through the streets of New York City. No, he is not late to his next world tour. Actually, Stefan’s favorite pastime is running, but sometimes it’s more than just a sweat he’s breaking. In 2013, Stefan fell while running and severely injured his arm and neck. Recounting it as one of his scariest moments, Stefan was forced to stop playing violin for six months and cancel his Australian tour and it wasn’t clear whether he would play again. But being the optimist he is (When asked if the glass is half empty of half full, he replies “overflowing.”) Stefan reflects that “all of a sudden I saw the bigger picture of where the violin is in relation to music, art even the world. I am not saying I discovered all of that just in two months but it gave me a little bit of perspective.” Given how devastating hand injuries can be for violinists, maybe a $3,500 monthly premium for insurance doesn’t seem so crazy after all.

from violinist chair to conductor’s podium

Before becoming an accomplished conductor, Peter Oundjian was a performing violinist who studied under Ivan Galamian, Itzhak Perlman and Dorothy DeLay. Like Stefan, Oundjian suffered injuries. But unlike him, Oundjian had to end his violin career permanently when he developed musician’s dystonia. If you’re a string player, the words “musician’s dystonia” probably sends shivers down your spine. The condition causes involuntary movements in the hands, and makes it difficult for string players to play with precision. Usually this means the end of musician’s career, but for Oundjian, it meant leaving the violinist chair for the conductor’s podium. With encouragement from his teacher Hubert Von Karajan, Oundjian created a career in conducting. Perhaps conducting was his true calling all along!

miracle worker

Although you won’t see Oundjian walking on water anytime soon, he performed a miraculous feat when he resurrected the declining Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Prior to Oundjian’s arrival, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra was swimming in an $11 million debt. While many people thought the Toronto Symphony Orchestra would be become extinct, it turns out they were dead wrong. Since Oundjian took over as music director and conductor, the TSO is seeing record-breaking attendances and filling their concert halls with paying customers. This amazing comeback piqued the interest of film director Barbara Willis Sweete, and served as the inspiration for the Documentary 5 Days of December.

tickling your funny bone

Peter Oundjian isn’t Ellen Degeneres, but he is by far one of the funniest conductors you’ll ever meet. In fact, comedy runs in the family (his cousin is the British comedian Eric Idle of Monty Python fame). It’s not surprising, then, that Oundjian performed a Toronto Symphony Orchestra Program collaborating with the comedy ground Second City Chicago. You can watch the teaser here: While Oundjian won’t be pulling out stuffed unicorns or wearing a gorilla suit when he’s conducting the LA Chamber Orchestra this season on December 12/13, after watching this performance, you can’t help but smile. Buy your tickets today!