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Celebrated violinist takes a bow on the South Coast

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Vijay Gupta at UCSB on Thursday

Can you imagine being just 19-years-old when you joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic? Celebrated violinist Vijay Gupta did just that.

He's playing for students at UC Santa Barbara – but Vijay Gupta is more used to performing for audiences of thousands.

He was a member of the first violin section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 12 years, having joined when he was just 19 years old.

But he was just 11 when he performed solo for the first time with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

"For so much of my life, I had grappled with what music's role was in my life," Gupta told KCLU.

"I think so many young people whether they are drawn to the classical arts or to any kind of creativity, are asking questions of belonging.

"So I was remarkably fortunate to join the LA Philharmonic family."

He says music has been a way to articulate deep feelings during the pandemic.

"For me personally during the pandemic, playing the violin was both a glimpse into what it meant to grapple with grief - and what it meant to metabolize that pain into something nourishing.

"I think music gives us the opportunity to go deep into ourselves and to sit with feelings that are so difficult to articulate with words.

"But also to be able to come back, to be able to resurface from that deep solitude and give something of our gifts to the world," said Gupta.

Hailed by The New Yorker as a “visionary violinist” Gupta has put his talents to work with more than performing to audiences in concert halls.

He founded Street Symphony, a non-profit organization providing musical engagement, dialogue and teaching artistry for homeless and incarcerated communities in Los Angeles.

The organization performs at jails, shelters and transitional facilities and every December, the group performs Handel's "Messiah," with musicians from skid row joining with professional musicians to perform.

"We the musicians come away with the far greater gift," he said.

The musician was in Santa Barbara as part of the Arts and Lectures Series at UCSB.