Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Meet Eric Silberger Virtuoso Violinist of Two Volcanoes

Eric Silberger (all images: ericsilberger.com)
Even though the chance to make a professional website did not materialize (see my post on 9/21/16), the inspiration to continue this blog did flourish. Part of it is thanks to violinist Eric Silberger who I saw perform last month at the Hawaii International Music Festival. I thought it would be great to lead off the website with an interview with the artist as I was quite impressed with seeing him perform on a local morning news program to promote the festival which was only reinforced as an attendee seeing the rising star play the violin live at the festival.

Because of the demands of his schedule in continuing the festival events to the neighbor islands we were finally able to touch base a week after the the festival's Honolulu performance via telephone. It is with great appreciation for his graciousness and for the opportunity.

As I dispensed with my alternate travel website to return to this blog, my apologies to Mr. Silberger that it took an additional month to present the published interview; (Note: Due to technical issues with the alternate beta-website and incomplete transfer of the HTML code to this blog, much of the original interview article has been rebuilt.)


The Hopeful Traveler had the wonderful opportunity to interview virtuoso violinist Eric Silberger a week after the last events of the Hawaii International Music Festival which he co-founded and co-organized. Mr. Silberger was back in the East Coast during the long-distance conversation. One immediate observation about Eric is he is quite eloquent and very organized in presenting his thoughts to each question.

At the festival’s Honolulu engagement, a couple of women were having a conversation during the intermission and were wondering about his background. In Hawaii many people identify themselves very closely to their ethnic heritage, the 27-year-old artist who is Chinese, Hungarian and British does not define himself in that way. He says he’s just Eric and as he travels around the globe playing the world’s stages he keeps finding different perspectives of himself. 

However music is in his blood. Eric is a fourth generation musician and begun violin studies at the age at five. He holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master of Music Degree from The Juilliard School.  Learning his craft the person to most influence him as a musician would be the late conductor, violinist and composer Lorin Maazel (1930-2014) of whom he speaks respectively and fondly. In a very personal essay for slippedisc.com, Eric leads the article with what Maazel once told him “always remain humble, our friendship depends on it” and recounts his time with Maazel at Castleton, from which the festival that Maazel founded is named and which nurtures young artists.  Being part of the Castleton festival and learning from Maazel, Eric also writes that his mentor was always very encouraging both personally and musically. It would not be an understatement that this is a highlight and very close memory in his growth and career as an artist.

There is one line in Eric’s essay where he reveals he will miss not only the music that Maazel brought to the world, but also his external optimism, belief, fearlessness, and most of all his sincerity.  It appears Eric has taken his experiences with Maazel to heart: On the phone Eric displays a tone of authenticity, genuineness and positivity. This may be part of the reason why critics in their music reviews recognize not only his artistry on the violin but his charisma on stage. 

But why introduce a festival in of all places Hawaii?  Eric said he heard good things about the islands and the people that with soprano Amy Shoremount-Obra and pianist Carlin Ma found it would be inspirational to inaugurate a music festival for Hawaii.  How it came all together was both by organized madness and happy accidents. The festival at the Blaisdell Concert Hall opened with a chocolate tasting presented by Will Lydgate. Eric met the chocolate connoisseur while on a layover at the airport in Barcelona. He was also already a colleague of cellist Daniel Lelchuk and with the additional contributions of pianist Ian Parker, taiko master Kenny Endo and soprano Mikayla Sager, the founders had a full line-up for the festival’s premiere concert performances that played Honolulu, Maui and the Big Island.

One of the more dazzling and unusual combinations at the festival was a melding of the talents of Endo, Shoremount-Obra, Lelchuk, Parker, Ma and Eric into “Tears of the Earth/Jugoya”. It was a piece that one could say spanned continents and cultures.  Eric admits that Shoremount-Obra’s vocal contribution was improvised. He added that one of the many challenges of putting the festival together was working with all the artists to put together the program that honors the festival’s intentions.

Eric looks forward to presenting the festival’s second year in 2017 and mentions the emerging music of JP Jofre, a bandeonist, as a possibility. The bandoneon is an essential instrument in most tango ensembles and folk music. JP (Jean Pablo) Jofre is an Argentinian musician, composer and arranger whose debut album called “Hard Tango” is described as “classical-tango hybrid” by the New York Times.

So what would be a perfect day for Eric? Maybe a vacation. Because of his extensive traveling and performance schedule a vacation means something different to him than to most people.  He may have a day off here or there but he likes practicing and preparing for a performance that this is a source of enjoyment for him and does not feel like work at all. He has become a seasoned performer that he says he does not get nervous performing live anymore but he does feel the adrenaline and has since gotten used to it. Outside of playing any music, he seemed uncertain what kind of day that would be like and said it will only be different from day to day.

Eric hopes that recordings are a part of his future and is expecting one to be released soon on digital and CD platforms that will include a couple of violin sonatas. That brought on the question that as a musician, what would Eric be listening to. He says his music tastes are diverse and could include artists of soul/R&B to country music. But Eric is also on the lookout for the music of up and coming artists, perhaps to invite for the next Hawaii International Music Festival. Possibly even composing himself may be down the line.

So you may ask why “Eric Silberger Virtuoso Violinist of Two Volcanoes” well that’s because of two videos that are available on YouTube. One of which films Eric as the first violinist to play inside a volcano in Iceland and a second video he made during his travels to the Big Island of Hawaii in August where he plays the violin at Volcanoes National Park, the location of active Kilauea crater. He’ll likely be the only violinist ever to make this dual claim. The two videos are posted below. He has noted elsewhere of the Hawaii video that “at one particular moment of the video I could hear the wind play the violin together with me.”

Eric plays a rare violin from 1757 and performing in unusual locations present hazards to the instrument. He says he takes no extra special precautions when traveling (his violin is a carry-on on planes) but when playing outdoors he took the precaution of having a second violin available.

One purpose that Eric said he looks forward to fulfill is to connect with people to find a sustainability in the arts. Although not likely within this intention The Hopeful Traveler mentions that he found a connection to Eric’s television appearance playing Paganini because of musical theatre. Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber who adapted that Paganini composition for a rock band is a huge influence in the Hopeful Traveler post archives and travels.  Eric says of musical theatre that he finds it is something amazing of how all the parts come together.  When Eric mentions Maazel, the first thing that came to The Hopeful Traveler’s mind is the conductor’s contribution to Lloyd Webber “Requiem” mass which produced the hit single “Pie Jesu”.  But it was the connection in hearing Eric perform the Paganini piece on the news that lead to attending the Hawaii International Music Festival which lead to the interview and to this blog post about Eric. And there you have it. We never know how music will connect or inspire each of us in the future but in some way it manages to do so.

Learn more about Eric by visiting his official website at ericsilberger.com or by searching for Violinist Eric Silberger on Facebook (or just click HERE).

Hear Eric on JP Jofre's Hard Tango Chamber Band's Manifesto available on Amazon.com (MP3 and CD) and on iTunes.


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