Alisa Weilerstein talks about her experience at the Aspen Music Festival and School

Alisa Weilerstein at the Aspen Music Festival and SchoolAlex Irvin / Courtesy Aspen Music Festival and School

Fred Child interviews Alisa Weilerstein


August 06, 2016

In this interview from the Harris Hall stage in Aspen, Performance Today's Fred Child talks with renowned cellist Alisa Weilerstein about the Aspen experience, and what the school and festival means to her.

Fred Child: Alisa, welcome back to PT!

Alisa Weilerstein: Thank you so much!

FC: You spent a lot of time at Aspen as a very young girl. Do you even remember the first time you were here?

AW: No, because I was three months old. I came to Aspen, I think, for 16 summers of my first 18 years of life, so I spent a lot of my formative years here, so it really feels like another home to me.

FC: So you were just an infant-in-arms for a while, and you started playing cello when you were four. When did you come here as a cello student?

AW: I was 13 when I first came as a student, so that was 1995, and I studied with David Finckel, and also, I played for Dorothy DeLay quite a lot. And I played in master classes for Zara Nelsovanand for Lynn Harrell. In fact, I played for Zara Nelsova when I was much younger, but I wasn't officially a student, I was around maybe 6 or 7 when I had my first lessons with her.

FC: And you mentioned Dorothy DeLay, who's a legendary violin teacher at Julliard and here in Aspen. What did she as a violin teacher have to offer you?

AW: No, she actually offered quite a lot of technical advice because - contrary to popular belief - the violin and the cello are really not that different, it's actually the same but just reversed. She was just an incredibly encouraging presence. I also always enjoyed playing for non-cellists in addition to cellists, because I always found they gave me great perspective and I grew up practicing with my father who was a great violinist, of course, and I was quite used to that.

FC: Was it hard playing at home for your dad - this world-famous violinist - when you were just learning how to play the cello?

AW: Well he was just my dad to me, I mean, he wasn't this world famous violinist. He was Dad (laughs). But he had this remarkable - actually both my parents did, but especially my father because I worked more intensely with him between the time I was 9 and 15. He had this incredible way of distancing himself when we were working together, so it never felt like I was, sort of, battling a parent. We were just working together, and I wanted to be a better musician and a better cellist. I realized that what he was telling me was very valuable. Even when I was a very, sort of, unruly teenager, I still realized what he was telling me was good, so I took it (laughs).