October's Young Artist: Jivan Ramesh
October's Young Artist: Jivan Ramesh 8 year old Ontario prodigy cellist Jivan X. Ramesh has already made his mark on the classical scene as the youngest string player on record to make a Carnegie Hall appearance, and will soon have his picture mounted on Carnegie Deli's Wall of Fame! Jivan composes his own cello works, makes his own arrangements of works by Grammy winning film score composers and is working towards a black belt in Karate.
Jivan has performed for the Opening Ceremony of the International Children's Games; he was profiled by CTV News and was one of 19 young musicians selected from 1,600 to perform in the 2016 Windsor-Essex Awards Ceremony at Capitol Theatre last spring. The Ramesh family are currently moving from Ontario to New York City, where Jivan will begin studies as a scholarship student in the Manhattan School of Music's Pre-College program with renowned cello professor Marion Feldman. Neapolitan Connection is extremely grateful to Jivan for granting us the following interview at such a busy time:
NC: What made you decide to become a cellist?
JR: I decided to play the cello when I heard a recording of Yo Yo Ma play "The Swan". It was so beautiful and I could actually imagine the swans in a pond and I could see the story in my head of what the music was trying to say to me. I wanted to be able to do the same and let a person feel the music when I play. For me the cello is an instrument closest to the human voice. It can play very high notes, very low notes and everything in between. A cello rests completely against your body when you play. You can feel the vibrations of it and you are completely a part of it. In fact, I have a name for my cello - Aawaz, which is Sanskrit for Voice.
NC: Do you play any other instruments?
JR: I also play a little bit of piano. I like lots of other instruments as well. I love music.
NC: On average, how many hours a day do you practice cello?
JR: Most days I practice around 1-2 hours a day. But if I have a big performance or
competition coming up, I'll practice a little bit more to prepare for them.
NC: Do you have a favorite music composer, or a favorite piece of music?
JR: I don't exactly have a favorite composer. I love all sorts of music and there are a
lot of composers who move me. Being a cellist, I love Bach's Cello Suites, I think you can
express so many feelings in them. I like that they have almost no markings and a musician
can express himself. The music can grow with you and change as you change.
When I first started playing the Bach Cello Suites, I listened to lots of different cellists
playing it on YouTube and could hear each one playing it differently. From the great cellists,
Yo Yo Ma and Mischa Maisky in particular, I got to hear them play from years ago and also
recently. Their latest version is so different from years ago. It has a different feeling and a
I think composers have a story to tell and the musicians interpret it. It goes hand in hand. I want to be able to play the music so that I can take the listener on a journey with me. I want them to feel and see the full story the composer had in mind I like all genres of music so I also play composers who are not classical. For example, I recently arranged "Eternal Vow" from the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. It was by grammy winning composer Tan Dun. It is a piece written for Chinese orchestral instruments but I arranged in for solo cello because I was really moved by the emotion of the piece.
Another piece I arranged recently for solo cello was "Ashokan Farewell". That is a fiddle tune written by Jay Ungar. I fell in love with it when I first came across it. I have been very fortunate with both these arrangements since the composers are living, I got a chance for the composers to hear my arrangements and comment on them. I even got a chance to play Ashokan Farewell with Jay Ungar and his wife Molly Mason.
NC: You are already a successful music composer at the age of 8! Can you tell us how you began composing music?
JR: I don't exactly know how I began composing. I'm always humming. I see music in everything. I guess I also feel in music. Also when I play my cello, sometimes a particular phrase will strike me and I start playing something completely different from what is written on the page. I start composing on the spot. That happens a lot. So my mom bought me a little recorder so I can record it and later hear back and write it down if I like it.
NC: How many musical compositions have you written so far?
JR: I have about 30 finished compositions, and many, many others that are still in the works. I don't sit down and compose one piece at a time. It depends on how the music comes to me. Sometimes it is only a phrase that comes to me and then I put it aside until another time it comes to me. I don't try and force it at all. I only compose what comes to me very naturally. I want my music to make the listener feel what I'm feeling. It is a story I want to tell.
NC: Aside from music what are some of your other hobbies and interests?
JR: I love reading. If I am not humming then i'm reading. But of course I hum and read at the same time too :-). I also love karate (I'm 1/2 belt away from my black belt). I love math, sciences, and all sorts of games like chess, board games, computer games, and playing imagination games. I also love dinosaurs and I might want to be a paleontologist as well as a cellist.
NC: You were among the youngest performers selected to take part in the 2016 Ontario Kiwanis Provincials String Category! Can you tell us about that experience?
JR: I was invited by 3 regions to represent them for the same category which was wonderful and very fulfilling since I had worked hard. I was the youngest to play at the festival. I know that the judge was surprised when I walked in and had to bring my own little chair. He even offered me the music stand in case I forgot because he thought I was too young to remember all the difficult pieces. I did not accept the music stand as the music was a part of me and part of my fingers. I feel happy when people can look beyond my age and just sit back and listen to me playing.
NC: What has been your most exciting performance experience so far?
JR: Playing at Carnegie Hall was great. I've played there twice and you don't ever get used
to it. Each time was exciting. The venue is so beautiful and the atmosphere so calming.
I would definitely love to play there again if I am lucky enough to get the opportunity again.
But my most exciting performance so far was at the International Kiwanis Convention this
year in the Toronto Convention Center. I was very fortunate to be the only musician invited
to play at their Opening Session. It was huge. There were about 8,000 people there, and I
was also displayed on 3 humongous TV screens so everyone could see every move I made.
I got nervous when I had to walk out on the stage alone and introduce myself before all of
those people. But once I started playing I forgot about the audience and fell into the music.
Getting a full house of standing ovation at the end was really something very special.
I did play at Opening Ceremony of the International Children’s Games and it was a fully
packed stadium and a televised event. I was only 4 at the time so I don't think I knew what
being nervous was at the time.
NC: You have already accomplished so much at the age of 8!
Do you dream of performing anywhere in particular when you are older?
JR: I would love to play at places that are not really venues but historical landmarks like the
Acropolis in Greece, Taj Mahal in India, The Forbidden City (I guess if I could play there it
wouldn't be Forbidden anymore :-) , in Beijing ... etc. I don't know if I would get to do this.
Here is a video of Jivan performing P. Bloomfleild Holt's Lyric Piece no. 2
at the Windsor-Essex Kiwanis Awards Ceremony: