Article (print & digital) for The Korea Times


"When your profession becomes your hobby or the other way around, this is when it becomes inevitable. This is what you must do."

Vadim Gluzman once hated the violin. He was a child who persistently tried to avoid practicing the violin and enjoyed going to the movies and playing ice hockey. He often resisted authority and got kicked out of numerous orchestras, even as a young adult. But this boy has grown into a renowned violinist whose love for music unravels beautifully on stage. 

Gluzman, an Israeli classical violinist, was born in Ukraine when it was still part of the Soviet Union. Under the guidance of parents who were musicians, he was exposed to the world of classical music early on. He studied at the Juilliard School and has appeared with major orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony and London Philharmonic to name a few. 

On Nov. 14 at the Seoul Arts Center, he will join the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Michael Francis for a highly anticipated performance. 

Gluzman first started the violin out of what he labels as "jealousy," jealous that his parents were teaching other kids music. He commented, "I didn't know what I was getting myself into." After taking many exams, he was accepted into a specialized music school for gifted children. On the first day of school, Gluzman was assigned the violin and his career as a violinist officially began. 

The school's rigorous, 14-hours-a-day schedule and the intensive music lessons exhausted Gluzman. He wanted to go out and play ice hockey, but his parents and teachers disapproved as the sport posed a danger to his hands. 

Furthermore, living in the rigid society of Soviet Union did not make life easy. He recalled, "As any dictatorship, there was no freedom whatsoever. What is really upsetting is how closed the society was and how little information we had from the outside world. We had nothing to compare. Many things which seemed okay to us, they only seemed okay because we didn't know any better." 

But with endless practice, he gradually developed a love for the violin. "When your profession becomes your hobby, or the other way around, this is when it becomes inevitable. This is what you must do." The violin became a crucial part of his identity, something that he just had to pursue. 

He confessed that now, the greatest part about playing the violin is when it became a part of him, when the physical barrier between his body and the instrument disappears.

Last month, Jean-Michel Molkhou's book "Great Violinists of the Twentieth Century, Volume 2" was published. The book features 30 greatest violinists of today, including Gluzman. Gluzman's chapter is titled "In the footsteps of the great old masters" ("Sur les traces des grands anciens"). 

As the title suggests, many mentors have influenced Gluzman. Most notably, Isaac Stern, a renowned Soviet-born violinist and conductor whom Gluzman met in Israel, has inspired him to never settle and always seek more. To Gluzman, Stern was "one of those people who was really able to show you no matter how well you think you're prepared, there's 180 degrees of musical depth and knowledge that you still don't know." 

Perhaps the lessons he has gained from these teachers have motivated Gluzman to always stay hungry. Despite all the achievements, he still believes that the highlight of his career is yet to be reached. He quoted a famous cellist, that "to be invited is one thing, but to come back, to be invited back, ­is the greatest compliment." 

When asked what he wanted the audience to feel most, he stated, "I want them to fly with me. Music is very much like flying. That's why many musicians are very attracted to being pilots. There's something very much in common. It really is like gliding. I want to make them feel what I feel. I truly love music dearly and I think it can give a lot of joy."