One of the greatest violinists of all times, Jascha Heifetz, began teaching master classes at his private home studio in Beverly Hills in 1958.
Young violinists Yuki Mori and Min Jung Park met while studying with Heifetz in the 1980s. They were part of the last generation of students Heifetz taught. Those master classes led to a very successful marriage … and careers for Yuki and Min. Both students went on to the Julliard School of Music.
During their subsequent careers, Yuki and Min have garnered multiple awards and are regarded as exceptional musicians. (Yuki won the Astra Competition and Min is the recipient of the Artist International Special Presentation Award in New York.)
I was privileged to share lunch with these two talented musicians at Irvine’s North Italia restaurant.
Some years after their first meeting at Heifetz’s studio, Yuki and Min established the Violin Studio of Mori and Park here in Irvine. Their music school attracts many gifted students, with over 16 international student awards listed on the studio’s website.
When our conversation began, I asked the couple if they began each day as musicians, artists, performers, or teachers. Without missing a beat, they both replied: “teachers!”
Min wanted to expand on her answer by explaining: “Teaching doesn’t end when we stop teaching a class. Our students send us recordings of their practice sessions. Yesterday I received about thirty recordings.” I was delighted to hear Min add, “We try to instill in our students, playing the violin, it has to have the element of joy.”
In addition to teaching and playing, Yuki and Mori are often invited to act as judges in violin competitions. Since 2018, the two have served as judges at the annual Cecilia International Competition held in Tokyo. “Just hearing the level of talent out there is a great experience,” Yuki remarked. Their students have won both the senior and junior divisions in the prestigious international competition.
I have learned that an artist who dedicates their life to music makes an enormous commitment to the pleasure of their audience. Sitting with these two professionals, I asked how they perceive the audience.
“We’re always aware there is an audience.” Min responded, while Yuki added, “We always consider the audience first, because music is a form of communication.”
Min continued: “We have to grab their attention but we always keep in mind, the audience is the king.” Yuki expanded by saying: “It is important that the audience be uplifted. Our intention is to give our audience joy and enjoyment.”
In addition to being a performer, Yuki is also a conductor and composer. Curious about the interplay, I asked where he finds inspiration to maintain his focus. His wife stepped in to explain, saying “You don’t have to wait for something to give you inspiration. It’s in yourself. There is always something that you can tap into.”
I asked Min how she spends her days when she isn’t playing violin. She divulged what I took as a professional secret. “In your mind, you put the sound out in front of yourself. You visualize your hand positions and bowing technique.” Yuki added, “This is a necessary tool to be able to do this. It’s a very powerful way to practice when one does not have an instrument.” Musing to myself, I wondered how a crane operator might practice during a day off.
Just as we were finishing our discussion, Min’s phone rang. She excused herself and took the call. I have occasionally overheard another person’s cell phone conversation, but until then I had not overheard the discordant notes of an 11-year-old violin student come through the phone. Min provided gentle direction and encouragement.
Yuki placed this call into a broader context by saying: “We consider ourselves lifetime supporters. Teaching is no short-term commitment. We have 20 former students who are still connected to us.”
After our lunch date, I couldn’t help but think back on my time with these two remarkable teachers. If I had shared the privilege of tutelage from such committed instructors, my career path would not have been what it turned out to be.
Though not a violin student myself, I feel as though I have learned more about life from Yuki and Min.
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