Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TED.com Talk – Robert Gupta: Music is Medicine, Music is Sanity

Robert Gupta is a violinist with the LA Philharmonic and is also a 2010 TED Fellow.  According to TED.com, Gupta received his master’s in music from Yale University and was afforded the grand opportunity to obtain the extraordinaire, Nathaniel Ayers, schizophrenic musician featured in The Soloist, as his violin instructor.  In this TED talk, Robert inspires his audience through speaking about how music has such an influence; how music is medicine, sanity, and changes people.  He does this through elaborating on Nathaniel Ayers’ life, how Nathaniel influenced the life of Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times columnist and his own personal experiences with Nathaniel Ayers.

Gupta initiates this talk by telling how Steve Lopez was walking down the street one day and heard beautiful music playing on a two-string violin by an African American man who was “charming, rugged, and homeless.”  From this, Steve Lopez turned his columns into a book, which then inspired the movie,  The Soloist.  Robert further explains how talented Nathaniel was growing up and unfortunately due to the sickness of paranoid schizophrenia and a breakdown, he dropped out of Julliard and became homeless.  However, because of his passion and love for music, Nathaniel continued to play on the streets of Skid Row in Los Angeles, CA, and by hearing such beautiful music one day, Steven Lopez gravitated towards this extraordinary man.  The bond between Steven and Nathaniel was like no other and it was because of the influence of music.  Gupta stated, “I encourage all of you to read Steve’s book, or to watch the movie to understand not only the beautiful bond that formed between these two men, but how music helped shape that bond, and ultimately was instrumental, if you’ll pardon the pun, in helping Nathaniel get off the streets.”
TED.com Talk - Robert Gupta: Music is Medicine, Music is Sanity

In 2008, Robert Gupta met Nathaniel Ayers at Walt Disney concert hall.  He stated that Mr. Ayers came backstage to introduce himself after hearing a Beethoven symphony performance Robert just participated in.  Because of his passion for and influence of music, Nathaniel explained to Gupta how such events would never occur due to “treacherous first violin passage work” in Beethoven’s symphony.  Now to the ear of an everyday individual, such events had no correlation to the present Beethoven symphony at hand, but that is just how powerful music is to Nathaniel Ayers.  Furthermore, Mr. Ayers illustrates how music speaks for and through various events and circumstances.  A few days later, Robert Gupta received an email from Nathaniel expressing his interest in a violin lesson with him.  Gupta explains in his TED talk that Nathaniel Ayers refuses treatment and because of this, he has schizophrenic episodes.  Furthermore, because of his treatment refusal, during Nathaniel and Robert’s first violin lesson, Nathaniel was “lost”, according to Robert.  He was talking about demons and smoke haunting him in his sleep and Gupta was afraid that he would ruin Nathaniel’s relationship with the violin if he started talking about scales or anything related to playing the violin.  Therefore, Gupta just began to play, and Nathaniel had a “profound change” due to the music. “…Nathaniel’s manic rage was transformed into understanding, a quiet curiosity, and grace.”  Then he began to play, by ear, the violin concertos snippets along with Robert Gupta.  Through dialogue, Robert began to realize that Nathaniel not only had an “encyclopedic vocabulary”, but that he also related to music on a personal level.  Music transformed Nathaniel, and therefore serves as confirmation that music is medicine, sanity, and changes people.
                               Nathaniel Anthony Ayers & Steve Lopez

I was completely inspired by this documentary because music has a tremendous impact on me as well.  While growing up, music was my remedy-my medicine to many situations.  I feel Robert Gupta’s talk spoke to me on a different level.  I was also inspired by this talk because I absolutely love the film, The Soloist and admire Nathaniel Ayer’s story.  In my opinion, Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. had excellent performances in the movie as well.  Throughout my career, at any given time if I feel that I cannot go any further, I will always remember and reference back to the life of Nathaniel Ayers and know that I can, not only go further, but go the furthest that I can go.  Furthermore, Robert Gupta did an excellent job in illustrating to his audience and viewers how music is medicine, sanity, and changes people not only through Nathaniel Ayers’ life story and Steve Lopez’s bond with Nathaniel, but also through his own personal experiences with Nathaniel Ayers.

How has Robert Gupta’s TED talk inspired you?  How do you feel about the life of Nathaniel Ayers?  Why don’t you Share In The BlogLedge, and post your sentiments about this topic?

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