In 2019, Chester Englander began a collaboration with violinist Vijay Gupta with a nuanced mission: to explore the centuries-old sonic kinship of violin and cimbalom, while using its unique spectrum and history to engage with traditional audiences, students, and populations most disconnected from society.
In March 2023, Vijay began his year as Artist-in-Residence for Music Worcester in Worcester, MA. Vijay invited Chester to join him in presenting a program titled MIRROR/LENS. Indicating the significance of the title, Vijay writes,
“Music is a mirror and a lens: we see a reflection of ourselves – or who we hope to be – a kind of hopeful projection. But we also look through music, a lens through which we perceive the world and each other. During the pandemic, the mirror we held up to ourselves and the lives we used to know shattered. As we turned to the mirror/lens of ZOOM for human interaction, we learned to see ourselves anew: as artists, we held up reflections to each other of who we hoped to be, and what our art could accomplish in a world which would be forever changed.”
In addition to their recital, Vijay and Chester delivered a keynote speech and discussion about citizen artistry with the students of Worcester State University, and discussed the music of Kurtág with the bright and talented students of Burncoat Music Arts Magnet School. They closed the week by visiting the Worcester County Jail with support from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. The goal was to assist the terrific work by OpporTUNEity Music Connections, a local organization that aims to “strengthen the ties between post-secondary music programs and their local communities, using music to engage college students in educational programs that emphasize social change.”
Chester and Vijay have performed in Los Angeles at the Men’s Central Jail, the Midnight Mission in Skid Row, the Skid Row Museum and Archive, and the Wende Museum in Culver City. They have also performed in Cleveland, OH at the City Mission, Cleveland State University, and Joseph and Mary’s Home, a place whose mission is to “fill the gap between hospital and home by providing medical respite care to medically-fragile people experiencing homelessness, helping them heal, obtain housing, and rebuild their lives.”
While in residence at the Wende Museum, Chester and Vijay made videos of two masterpieces:
Acht Duos by György Kurtág
Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt
Vijay’s bio +
Vijay is the founder and Artistic Director of Street Symphony, a community of musicians creating spaces of connection for people in reentry from homelessness, addiction and incarceration in Los Angeles. Vijay is also a co- founder of the Skid Row Arts Alliance, a consortium dedicated to creating art for – and with – the largest homeless community in America. For his work in “bringing beauty, respite, and purpose to those all too often ignored by society,” Vijay was the recipient of a 2018 MacArthur Fellowship.
A riveting speaker, Vijay has shared his work with dozens of corporations, campuses, conferences and communities across America over the past 10 years, including The Richmond Forum, The Aspen Institute, Hallmark, Accenture, Mayo Clinic, US Psychiatric Congress, American Planning Association, and the League of American Orchestras, just to name a few. Vijay delivered the 33rd annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy for Americans for the Arts and his 2010 TED Talk, “Music is Medicine, Music is Sanity,” has garnered millions of views.
Vijay has performed as an international recitalist, soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral musician for over 20 years, playing his solo debut with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Zubin Mehta. Vijay was a member of the first violin section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 12 years, and has collaborated with the Kronos Quartet, the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, Yo-Yo Ma, and appears regularly with the Strings Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
A dynamic recording artist, Vijay recently released Breathe, an album of the piano chamber music of Reena Esmail, under his own label. His solo violin album When the Violin, featuring the music of Esmail, J. S. Bach, and Esa- Pekka Salonen will be available on Bandcamp in June 2021. Vijay currently serves as the Senior Artistic and Programs Advisor for Young Musicians Foundation. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Marist College, and a Master’s in Music from the Yale School of Music. His principal teachers have included Ani Kavafian and Glenn Dicterow. Vijay plays a 2010 violin made by Los Angeles-based luthier Eric Benning, and can be found on Instagram @guptaviolin.