With his eloquent story telling and violin playing, Vijay Gupta charmed students and audience members alike, on Wednesday evening in the Strafford Room in the Memorial Union Building (MUB) during his lecture “The Medicine of Music.”
The MUB lecture series welcomed Gupta, who was introduced by assistant director of the MUB, Dave Zamansky, who oversees the Current Issues Lecture Series.
“I work with the MUB Board of Governors and we have this huge list of speakers that we narrow down to four or five and [Gupta] just has a great story and he’s doing some incredible things in his community, it’s just a really cool subject and anything you can learn outside of the classroom that is new and different is a really great thing for your development,” Zamansky said.
Gupta’s lecture attracted not only music and arts majors, but also health majors, looking to find out the healing power of music. Health Services also sponsored the event.
Sitting in the front row was first year music major Justin Leach, who was interested in the lecture for personal reasons.
“When I saw ‘The Medicine of Music,’ I was interested mostly because in high school I played with a jazz band that would go around to assisted living homes and play music of their time to the old dementia patients, like when they were my age, in order to try to trigger some memories. So being a musician the healing aspect of it is definitely something I can think about,” Leach said.
Gupta received his master’s in music at the Yale School of Music and also studied at the Julliard School in New York. He opened his lecture with a rendition of Bach’s “E. Minor Prelude.”
Gupta’s lecture told a series of stories about revelations he had through his encounters with music, later on in his career, stories of how the homeless and the incarcerated affected him and his understanding of music as a whole.
“Musicians operate within four walls. And the audience wanted us to break down that fourth wall and interact with them. We want to give what we all want, simple human acknowledgment. A chance to be seen and a chance to be heard is at the core of what we are trying to do,” Gupta said.
Gupta started an outreach organization, Street Symphony, that performs for the homeless and incarcerated near San Julian Street in Los Angeles, also known as Skid Row. Street Symphony also takes in many musically talented individuals that are living on Skid Row.
“I want to create a platform of advocacy to where people can take ownership for their own lives. We can’t change people but we can give them the tools and the skills they need to become advocates for themselves,” Gupta said.
Gupta works strongly to reengage with vagrant people, remembering that they too once had a family and a home, and had some sort of stability in their lives where they were able to connect music with a sense of comfort.
“Music is a chance to tell the truth, a safe space where we can tell stories and ask questions,” Gupta said.
Closing his lecture, he sent the audience off with a performance of another Bach melody, “Sarabande in D minor.”