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Elizabeth Fayette: In general, loving what we do is enough

Jacqueline Vanasse

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Published: July 9, 2014 at 1:30 PM [UTC]

The violinist Elizabeth Fayette is a pretty unique musician. The way she looks and the way she plays are very different. Muscular and earthy, she has this gorgeous tone and musicality that make you want to listen to her again and again. Above everything else, she is one of the most inspired and wise young women I have ever met. She thinks about things and without ever imposing them on you, she has opinions.

Elizabeth FayetteWhere did Elizabeth get her individuality? “There is nothing to do”, she answers. “I can’t be anything else except what I am, that’s what I am. In my practice I never think how can I be more special, how can I be more unique. What I do, comes from the text and the music and from my training and I don’t see how I am any more or less different than anyone else.” When we interact with people we often use others as a mirror. We use people to reflect back to us what we want to see about ourselves. We see in other people the affirmation of an opinion or a reflection of what we want to see. Elizabeth believes you shouldn’t measure yourself against other people. If others have things you would like to have then try to understand how they got there. But you can’t live your life as a person or as a musician comparing yourself to other people. First of all your skill set is completely different from everybody else’s: the way your brain works, the way your hands work, the way your heart works. You can glean knowledge from other people, you can gain information but you can’t measure yourself against them. You can only live your life the way you believe you should. You can’t do anything else. “I really believe that and I think it shows somewhere. I think when you are not convinced of what you are doing I think it shows in your playing, that emptiness, that hollowness”, comments the young woman.

You should be convincing about what you are doing. You can easily be paralyzed by all the choices you have: which bowings, which fingerings. Really sometimes all you need to do is to decide to go a certain way, to make a choice. You don’t need to have an emotional attachment to it; you have your whole life to play it differently. To really believe in something even if it’s something like down-bow or up-bow, to really feel it’s right changes everything. “When you go up on stage you don’t have the luxury of doubt. Doubt is not a useful emotion on stage,” Elizabeth reminds us.

The first thing Elizabeth said when the issue of practicing came up is that there is more to life. “Sometimes I find when I have a lot going on and I am really busy it helps to go to a concert or read great music with people whose playing I really love. So I am still playing and I am still thinking about music on a high level but I am not trapped with myself.” Of course there is no substitute for practice. Hopefully, practicing is never a chore for musicians. There is an element of a repetitive thing: you have to do it every day; it’s a cumulative thing. But it should always be in the vein of exploration and excitement.

Elizabeth remembers something a friend at Juilliard, the violinist Jiafeng Chen, told her once. “At a certain point you are practicing for yourself, you are practicing because to be a musician is in some way a humanistic endeavor, and philosophical and you are sort of an embodiment of human. Think when you play Bach or Mozart, you are sort of the embodiment of the best, of the best thing that humanity can offer. So you have a moral obligation to practice, you have a moral obligation to play well because you are so privileged.”

Elizabeth Fayette is really in love with what she does and is persuaded that everyone can love classical music. Playing music is one of the best parts of humanity; it brings out the best in us. Not only what is most refined because you can have a very primitive visceral emotional response to very refined music. Elizabeth gives the example of Don Giovanni: “yet the most refined opera it makes you feel terror, joy, alienation, humor. You don’t need to know anything to feel that and it’s something completely apart from the industry of opera. People should separate what they don’t like from what moves you. There is a difference.” She is convinced that everyone can love classical music. They just don’t know what it is. They don’t even know where to start. They also don’t know how much classical musicians love it. “I think if people see that somebody cares about something even if they don’t care about it, they start wondering why shouldn’t they care.”

The young violinist doesn’t think it’s pandering or dummying to present classical music to a large variety of audiences as long as it’s done at a high level. In the end that’s the only thing we all look for: well played great music. “I don’t think classical music is dying. First of all how can something that I feel is so basic and so essential and so integral to the human experience be dying? Human emotions don’t change. I think in general loving what we do is enough.” Love is the best way to convince people. People who are fascinated by something fascinate by association. “I have this constant reminder that music is human, even the most complicated Carter or Babett, it’s human. These are people – very smart people sometimes, but people. Same way that Notre-Dame was build by people, same way that the pyramids on the backs of people – people!”

Be alert, be interested, reminds us Elizabeth. You are always the sum total of who you are and you never know if something from years ago will fit back in your life of today. “It often feels like things that I am still working through from years ago that I wasn’t ready to use or to explore but now it’s kind of relevant. Be hungry for everything I guess even if you can’t use it right now. This is your life don’t you want to learn, don’t you want to know? We are so lucky to do something that you really can fall more in love with it all the time. We do something that we can be fascinated and fully occupy an entire life with.”

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