I was born in San Francisco and I started violin when I was six-years-old with a woman across the street from my parents who, I didn't know at the time, had been quite a concert violinist in her day.
Then I switched teachers to a violist in the San Francisco Symphony. He was a wonderful, old, Hungarian bear of a man. I started on the violin but the seeds of my viola playing were sown very early because [he] was a violist and we used to play Bartok duets for two violins or violin and viola in his house and I remember that very, very fondly.
I moved to New York when I was eight and continued lessons at Saturday morning music school at Mannes. My mother's friends were abhorred that she would send me on the subway by myself. I think by the age of nine or ten I had memorized the New York City subway map.
I liked maps and that's also part of being a conductor. A score is really a map of a piece and you're the one with all the information. When my parents' friends got lost they would call me up and I would say, 'Go to DeKalb Avenue and change to the J train.' I would get people unlost on the subway.
So I studied music and I was not a child prodigy but I was, you know, I was fairly good and I think what I've learned is that musicians are the ones who don't stop being a musician.
My parents didn't want me to go to conservatory. I got into Julliard and Indiana but, for some unknown reason, I also got into Yale. I felt I couldn't turn that down so I went into the pre-med program and I hated it. I gave up the violin for a year and I got very upset. By my second year I was a music major and I had switched to the viola.
There was a wonderful new viola teacher there who had been the original violist of the Julliard String Quartet and he took me on as a student so that gave me some confidence.
I also took some conducting classes there. I was dabbling in conducting a little bit and I loved analyzing scores. I like having the whole picture and I was good at harmony
Music and math go hand-in-hand for many people. A lot of doctors, scientists, engineers were musicians and just sort of made the right career choice. I didn't make the right career choice. Until I was 35 my mother would send me little notes like, 'It's not too late for medical school.' And this is after I had my first couple of professional jobs.