Sujari Britt is an extraordinarily prodigious young cellist who is already taking the classical music world by storm. Now age 12, Sujari has begun her college level studies at Manhattan School of Music in New York City, and maintains a busy performing career, with a prior Carnegie Hall debut and White House performance for President Obama to boot. Sujari was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions in the interview below:
Q: How did your life as a cellist/musician begin?
SB: I began my studies on the cello at age 4 years, after having had formal piano lessons at age 2, along with guitar and violin lessons. I selected the cello as my instrument of choice because of the joy I felt listening to and watching YoYo Ma perform Camille Saint Saens’, “Swan”. I felt as if the cello spoke directly to me; I was immediately and deeply moved both by the longing in the piece, and by Mr. Ma’s seeming connection to the instrument.
Q: What is your most memorable performance experience?
SB: When I perform before an attentive and appreciative audience, I feel as if all of my senses become tuned-in to the magic of life all around us! It seems as if I become one with the music and it takes me into the very souls of those around me. While I have thoroughly enjoyed my performances at the White House, Gracie Mansion, TED-x, Carnegie Hall, and United Nations because of the special guests in the audience, and/or owing to the coveted fame of the stage, each and every experience of performance holds treasured memories for me. For example, I remember clearly a performance in Gary, Indiana where students my age, older and younger approached me to congratulate and marvel with me about how deeply the sound of the cello can feel. I remember performing for an aging couple in New York who literally cried as I presented Bach in their living room. In a recent performance in New Mexico, I was moved when a young girl in the audience promised that she would give extra attention to her violin, having heard and met me. No matter when, for whom, or where I thrill to the inspiration that my presentation seems to bring, and can almost taste the special flavor of each performance.
Q: Who or what has been your biggest musical influence as a young musician?
SB: I have the fortune of being touched by gifted devotees who have helped to mark my path. For example, my instructor Marion Feldman is a superb cellist and a committed instructor. Owing to her unique ability to hear and to feel me through the cello, she is able to push me just so. At a very young age I met and enjoyed an impromptu Master Class with YoYo Ma, and have since had the fortune of visiting with him at the conclusion of his New York performances. Alisa Weilerstein is another remarkable cellist who inspires me through her gifted delivery and seeming unquenchable passion. Our duet at the White House will linger in my memory for time to come! I also count the noted “greats” amongst my influencers: I never tire of indulging in performances by Jacqueline Du Pre, a deeply riveting performer. The great Pablo Casals holds special sway for me as do Rostropovich and Feuermann.
Q: What other hobbies do you enjoy in addition to school and music?
SB: I enjoy composing music for the cello. I dream of someday creating for my performance with orchestra! I also enjoy painting on canvas with acrylic, oils, and water paints, jewelry-making, and sketching with charcoals. I am a long-distance walker, and I enjoy practicing (Bikram) yoga.
Q: What musical projects are you currently working on?
SB: This is my first semester as a college student! My focus has been on learning to live in this wonderful new forum for exploring ideas both musical and academic. Besides my individual study focused on technical and literature mastery, I am working with a couple of chamber groups and orchestras.