Q & A Corner is a collection of interviews with mentors, friends, and family. Here, Formosa Quartet speaks with Miriam Fried about music and life in general.
FQ: What do you do when you should practice but don’t really feel like it?
MF: It depends- sometimes I just don’t! I think that you can always do some practice that’s practically useful, even if you don’t feel inspired. I find that the more regular your routine, the more you’ll feel like it. I practice before teaching. I just cannot do it after a full day of listening intently. And once I start practicing, I find that my enthusiasm for music makes me feel like it, even if initially I was not in the mood.
FQ: Do you have any strange obsessions or addictions?
MF: I don’t think so… although I’m kind of a fanatic about order. I can’t practice with an unmade bed in the room.
FQ: Is there anything violinistic that didn’t or doesn’t come as easily to you? If so, what?
MF: I can’t staccato to save my life.
FQ: What was your first reaction when they announced you had won 1st prize in Queen Elisabeth?
MF: Total shock. For days afterwards, I couldn’t believe it.
FQ: What are some of your fears or phobias?
MF: I have a fear of heights. I can’t look down over a high railing; I have to close my eyes.
FQ: If you had to choose any book to turn into an opera libretto, which would you choose?
MF: I like books that are kind of the opposite of opera libretto type books. I like books that are philosophical in nature, and operas are about drama and story. I’m less of a story person.
FQ: What do you do when you get home after a long day of teaching?
MF: It depends on what needs to be done… Often I just cook dinner. I try to do something quite different from music. I find that listening all day is a very tiring thing. So I like some silence, actually.
FQ: What were you like as a kid?
MF: I was pretty shy. People said I was serious–I didn’t think I was that serious, but people said I was. I was really very shy. [Pause] I kind of lost that habit…
FQ: What is the secret to a long, happy marriage?
MF: Respect each other. That’s the main ingredient. Respect and trust. Those are the two things I would put first.
FQ: What do you consider the biggest challenge in raising a child?
MF: In my case, it was juggling work with spending time with them. There was some guilt–even though I knew they were with their father and weren’t on their own, but still I felt bad about it. I never expected to not make mistakes. I recognize that you make mistakes, but I always believe that if you love them, and respect them, they’ll know that you have good intentions.
FQ: Please describe one of the funniest performing experiences you’ve had.
MF: Oh, god. If I don’t have to say the name of the conductor, I’ll tell you. It’s a true story. I was playing Sibelius Concerto with a conductor who was clearly not one of the better conductors, and you know how in the 1st page of the 1st movement, the solo violin holds a high “e”? And then the orchestra is supposed to pay “da da”? Well, they didn’t play, and they didn’t play, and I had already changed my bow three times. And then I thought I’d better go on. So I went on, and started the broken-chords passage, and right when I was in the middle of that, they went “DADA!!” And I just lost it. I was laughing so hard, my make-up got all messed up.
FQ: How do you help students become their own teacher, or to become artists in their own right?
MF: I don’t think some of what you’re asking is teachable. It’s an innate thing; you either have it or don’t. Sometimes it’s inside and they have a hard time expressing it, and you can help them find it–help them think about what effect they would like [their music] to have on others, etc. But I don’t think you can make someone into an artist if they’re not. You can teach them the principles of music-making, of theory, harmony, structure, but you can’t make them an artist. Some young teachers, including me before, think they can do anything… but you can’t. Everyone needs to be whoever they are, and whoever they are is fine.
Thank you Miriam for this interview!