The Sunday Magazine

Why virtuoso violinist Leila Josefowicz champions the music of living composers

Josefowicz, born in Mississauga, Ontario, began violin lessons at the age of three. She performed at Carnegie Hall at the age of 16. Today, she is a much-in-demand soloist who plays with the world’s most prestigious orchestras. The composer John Adams says Josefowicz possesses “an incredible combination of emotional intensity and supreme technical virtuosity, and some extra level of charisma, a kind of electricity onstage.” She joins Michael Enright to talk about her passion for contemporary classical music.
Leila Josefowicz performs January 10, 2019, with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. (Nick Wons)

Leila Josefowicz was born in Mississauga, Ont., and began violin lessons at the age of three after her family moved to Los Angeles. 

Her teachers quickly recognized her gift for music.

Josefowicz graduated from high school while simultaneously earning a Bachelor of Music, all while appearing on concert stages with world-class orchestras.

At age 16, she performed at Carnegie Hall with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

She continues to be a much-in-demand soloist.

Unlike many classical violinists, Josefowicz prefers the work of living composers, and loves jazz, improvisation and new music.

Why is it that people feel they have to know what they're going to hear before they hear it?- Leila Josefowicz

She says she often hears from people who don't want to hear new classical music, because it's unfamiliar and they don't understand it.

Leila Josefowicz (Chris Lee)

"If you were to go to a modern art museum and look at modern art, you didn't expect to have those images in your head before you went there. If you go to a play that was written yesterday — it's a brand new, exciting play by an incredible playwright, you didn't expect to know what was going happen on the stage before you sat down in your seat," she told The Sunday Edition's host Michael Enright.

"Why is it that people feel they have to know what they're going to hear before they hear it? They feel they have to understand what's going to happen, and if they don't they feel bad."

"I'm here to say to everyone, don't feel bad. You don't have to get it. There isn't one way to hear it. And if you reminds you of something else, if you see a colour, if you feel a memory, if you have a past experience, it comes back shooting into your head — any which way you respond to it is right," she said.

"Even if you don't like it! You're entitled not to like it."

Click 'listen' above to hear the interview, and excerpts from Josefowicz's performances.