My Interview…it has finally arrived! This year it was considerably harder to get an interview, seeing as my person is not so well known to the general public. I really had to dig deeper to find a knowledgeable expert on my person. Despite my many failed attempts, in the end I was able to reach out locally and speak with my violin teacher on this topic.

So to trace my steps back to step one…

My first attempt to secure an interview was about one month ago, starting with an inquiry to the Juilliard School of Music. Being the prestigious music school that it is, I assumed that there would be at least one professor with significant knowledge on Niccolo Paganini. I contacted their general human resources department with the email following.

The Juilliard School in New York

Hello,

My name is Alison Kim and I am an aspiring violinist as well as a student in the Academy of Learning for Outstanding and Notable Students (TALONS) at Gleneagle Secondary School in Coquitlam, BC, Canada.
Currently, I am pursuing a research project on the life of Niccolo Paganini, and I am hoping that Juilliard (or perhaps a single individual) could provide me with more information on this virtuoso.
This research project really means a lot to me personally as a violinist and academically as a student so I would greatly appreciate your help.
Please let me know if I’ve contacted the correct department, and if not, it would be wonderful if you could refer me to the correct one. If this is the correct department, I would greatly appreciate a reply, perhaps directing me to an expert in this field.
Thank you so much for your time!
~
Unfortunately, despite the cheery tone of this email, I did not receive a response, or even any acknowledgement. So I proceeded onward with some hope for my next step. I contacted the authors of two prominent biographies on Paganini’s life, the first being Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod and the second being John Sugden. What I didn’t realize until a couple days into my research for their contact information was 1. They were at least both over 70 years old, 2. They lacked an email address and 3. Their contact information (on university, publishing, and personal sites) were all incredibly out of date. Sadly, that closed another chapter in my interviewing process.
By this time, Eminent was already starting to draw near. The panic was started to tickle my feet and I decided that I shouldn’t waste any more time looking for an interview with a person I didn’t know.
My last resort was to interview my violin teacher Mr. Taras Gabora. Born in 1932, he is a graduate of the Vienna State Academy of Music. Some of his many successes are: serving as a jury member for the Paganini, Tchaikovsky, and Sarasate International Competitions, teaching at McGill University, and performing in over 11 countries in the world. Although it may seem as though I could ask him questions about Paganini at anytime, once again I was quite unlucky. My teacher just happened to be leaving for a business trip to New York the day after I decided to interview him and he only came back just now. Due to this scheduling conflict, I resorted to a phone interview instead of one face to face. To receive more detailed and thought-out responses, I sent an email with my questions one week in advance. These are the four questions that I believed my teacher could answer the best with his knowledge.
  1. How does playing Paganini change a violinist’s technique or musical style?
  1. In your opinion, what made Paganini so unique from any other violinist in his time?
  1. What would be one key factor that would help you successfully play Paganini’s music?
  1. Has the way violinists play Paganini changed at all in the last 50 years or so, or is it still stylistically quite similar?

I believe that sending these questions in advance really helped me receive the answers that I wished to hear. Although I received these after the official Night of the Notables, I was still incredibly interested in these answers and even it was only for my own personal knowledge and for this blog post, I still think it was very valuable. By clicking this link, you can hear the audio recording of my interview. I apologize in advance if the audio is not very clear.

Through these four questions, I learned a lot more about Paganini as a violinist than I ever could from a biography. This knowledge was really valuable because it also provided me with a deeper understanding of Paganini’s technique and musical style, which I can apply not only to this project but also to my violin practice. Although this was a bit different from the traditional information we get from a school project interview, I found that the answers given were more beneficial to me personally and it only improved my previous knowledge about Paganini. Night of the Notables may be over, but my keen interest in Paganini hasn’t died down just yet.

This year, it may have been tougher to get an interview and it may have caused a bit of internal panic, but it was still a great learning experience especially because it wasn’t so easy. It was completely different from the ease in which I acquired my interview last year although it wasn’t any less valuable. Compared to the rest of my research this year, this interview was really valuable on a personal scale. Reading a biography definitely let me know more about Paganini’s life, but I felt that the interview allowed me to step into Paganini’s mind for a bit through the mind of an expert. Despite the project being over, I would still like to know more about Paganini as a violinist such as the fingerings and bowings he used. I hope that my teacher would be willing to share some more of his expertise at my next lesson.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this experience regardless of the hardships and I’m slightly sad that this is my last Eminent Interview, but I look forward to whatever the future will bring next!

Thanks for reading and my last two eminent posts for this year are coming very soon!

 

My division of 50 points:

Organization: 20

Information: 15

Overall: 15