Happy birthday, Jaime! How does it feel to reach such a wonderful age with such panache?
Oh my god. I don't know. I have to be honest, it doesn't feel any different. I don't feel older. I don't feel different in any way. But in a way, it's a lovely, lovely feeling. I have been sorting out all kinds of lovely cards and letters from colleagues, former students, and friends from all over the globe. It's a very, very nice feeling that I might have made a difference in some people's lives.
Wonderful. How are you celebrating?
We are spending the day with my daughter Jennifer who is married to the cellist Paul Watkins. They live in Birmingham NY, which is 40 minutes from the city. It's just a family thing — we are going to grill some good steaks, have some great wine, and open a great bottle of champagne. I couldn't think of a nicer way to do it.
Can you tell us about your mentors throughout your career and how each has helped get you to where you are today?
Well, there are a few people that I can definitely say had a tremendous impact on my life musically. Joseph Gingold and Ivan Galamian were both my violin teachers. Then after that, definitely Pablo Casals, Rudolf Serkin, and Issac Stern. If you were to absolutely insist to pinpoint me to one person, it would probably have to be Casals. I think that he is the greatest influence that I have had. Because honestly, to this day, I don't think a day goes by when I'm playing or thinking about music, that I don't think about him and what he would have said and done.
What would you consider to be the major milestones of your career to date?
Well, I think winning the Queen Elizabeth competition when I was just about to turn eighteen. That without a doubt, launched my career. Also, I would say without a doubt that the second would be the first summer that I spent at the Marlboro Music Festival. I think that Marlboro is the place where I started to work with some of the people that I just mentioned (Casals, Serkin). It really made me the musician that I am today.
What advice would you have for the younger generation, especially given the year we have just gone through?
Oh, my God. It's the worst year we have all been through. But I have to say one thing. What certainly has saved our lives this year, Sharon's and mine, has been teaching. We are very grateful to our school, the Cleveland Institute of Music, that made it possible to teach in person. That has been just incredible.
What I've learned is that the kids today are so different than the kind that I was growing up with as a student. They are so much more resourceful, they're so much more innovative. It's amazing what the kids have done on their own, to make it possible for them to really survive.
How have you navigated the pandemic, especially with your teaching at CIM?
Well, it's been the strangest year because there were no concerts for a while. But we have done livestream initiatives, and a couple of them had people in the audience. The lack of as many concerts also allowed us to make use of the time to do other things. I spent a lot of energy and time teaching, plus going back to playing pieces that I hadn't played in many years. This horrible year has definitely had its very bright moments.
Tell us about your long association with CIM.
It actually isn't that long. I started teaching there nine years ago. But those nine years have been absolutely wonderful. It has wonderful students and wonderful colleagues to play with in small ensembles. It has a family atmosphere.
Living in Cleveland has taken me back in many ways to my childhood because, when I was twelve years old, I lived in Cleveland and studied with Joseph Gingold, concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra. That was the year when I first met George Szell, another person that was very important in my life. He not only played as a violin soloist, but he would also spend many, many hours working with me, playing through sonatas, and really teaching me. Somehow going back to Cleveland has brought back a lot of memories. The most amazing, ironic thing is that the house where we live is exactly three doors down from the house where George Szell lived.
Your musical career has been so diverse and so impressive. You have collaborated with many of the world's greatest musicians, as well as trained some of the finest violinists performing today. Are there any special moments for you that stand out above the rest?
Too many frankly to mention. I just feel very lucky and blessed that I've been able to have such a varied career and the ability to do so many things. I feel that I've been able to have my cake and eat it too. I'm very fortunate.
One final question. What are you most looking forward to between now and next year's birthday?
Well, I'm really looking forward to what I hope will be getting back to some kind of normal, concert life. I still don't have anything really scheduled for the rest of this summer and fall. But, we do have a lot of concerts starting in January. I'm just praying that these are all going to happen.
Actually, the first thing that I have is returning to Carnegie Hall with the New York String Orchestra. This year will be a little bit smaller because we're only going to be doing one concert instead of two. Hopefully, by next year, we'll be totally back to normal. I really can't wait for life to return to normal.
Wonderful. Thank you so much for your time and we hope you have a fantastic birthday!