MUSICAL ROOTS:AN EXPLORATION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE AND MUSICAL INFLUENCES

As a young child, I travelled a great deal with my parents and spent every summer abroad. This experience probably laid the foundation for my love of exploring the world and fascination with hearing and learning other languages, tasting and enjoying many cuisines, and in general, feeding my curiosity and imagination.   

Later on, as my career evolved, my traveling took on a different dimension. I started looking forward not only to performing, teaching and sharing music and ideas, but to the adventures and experiences of discovering new places all over the world, as well as meeting and interacting with people from many diverse backgrounds. Music was the language and passion that brought us together, through which meaningful friendships and relationships developed, ultimately contributing to a deep sense of global connectedness.

 

As time went on, I began to think a great deal about cultural heritage and the role it has in our lives.

My parents came from dramatically different life stories and cultures; my father was born in 1923 in Soviet Russia, and my mother was born in 1933 in Jerusalem. They were as opposite as two people could be. Yet their singular and very distinct threads came together to weave the tapestry that is unique to me. For as long as I can remember, I was and am fiercely proud and grateful for the gift of my cultural heritage which resonates deeply within me, imparting a multi-hued kaleidoscope to interpret and understand the world around me.

 

However, as a child growing up in a small rural town in Wisconsin, it was not always easy being "different". I was reminded almost daily that between my somewhat unusual musical talent and and the customs and language we spoke at home, I was an outsider and vastly different from my classmates. The feeling of not quite belonging, could be confusing and challenging at times.  
 

Over the course of time, I have come to understand that my heritage was the driving force that shaped so much of my perspective in life and as a musician. I also understand that the many great musicians I have had the privilege of studying and working with, imprinted and planted seeds of influence that took root and guided my growth as a musician and as a teacher. 

In recent years, I have had a growing sense of dismay, sadness and unease witnessing events which echo of the past, unfolding both here and abroad. As the daughter and sister of immigrants to this country, I felt compelled to address this issue in the way that comes most naturally to me-through my music. The resulting project, "Musical Roots-An Exploration of Cultural Heritage and Musical Influences"  became my platform and response to these events.

As my ideas grew and developed, I found myself on an extraordinary journey of discovery through which I came to understand that what initially began as my story, is the shared story of so many in this country. The culmination of this journey inspired me to create a series of four stories relayed via musical narratives in recitals.

 

 

Part I of "Musical Roots, "In My Father's Footsteps-A Daughter's Search for Answers", had its genesis in 2006 with the discovery a very old letter from Moscow written to my father, and my attempts to locate its author.

Born in Russia in 1923, my father died when I was quite young. Because I left home when I was fourteen to study in Italy and then Juilliard, I never really had the opportunity to truly know him as an adult and ask him the many questions I have about his life. 

 

The mystery of the letter piqued my curiosity, and I began my quest to learn all I could about my father's life and his journey to America which I discovered had traversed five continents. "In My Father's Footsteps" tells his story which became my story and inspiration, and was the impetus to continue this journey of exploring my cultural heritage and musical influences. 


I would like to invite you to read more about my father's journey in the following pages, and to join me on the continuation of my musical journey with the launch of "Songs My Safta Sang To Me",  Part II of the project "Musical Roots" which will debut in Season 2020-2021. 

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© 2020 Sandra Shapiro.