In Memoriam: Isaac Stern
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TERENCE SMITH: As violinist, mentor, and activist, Isaac Stern left his mark on the history of 20th century American music. Born in the Ukraine in 1920, he grew up in San Francisco, where he began playing the violin at age eight.
ISAAC STERN: I came from a family where no child was an educated child without some knowledge of the arts.
TERENCE SMITH: Stern debuted with the San Francisco Symphony in 1936 at the age of 16. By 1943, he was playing Carnegie hall. For decades, Stern performed hundreds of concerts a year, becoming one of the most recognized and recorded classical musicians in the world. (Violin playing) In the early ’60s, he played a key role in saving Carnegie Hall from demolition. Stern later served as the President of the Carnegie hall corporation, and spearheaded the campaign for the restoration of the famed concert hall in the 1980′s. Stern acted as a mentor to such talents as Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Yo-Yo Ma. He was also a cultural ambassador for music, speaking to and teaching young people around the world, including in China in 1979.
ISAAC STERN: Sing in here and play here.
TERENCE SMITH: During a 1983 appearance on the NewsHour, stern talked about his musical connection with young people.
ISAAC STERN: It’s the most wonderful thing in the world to see young people, to touch them with music, to touch them with the idea and see the whole thing up and see them do it themselves, and to open their ears, to make them hear not what they’re doing but what is possible, what might be done, what might happen, and that they can do it.
TERENCE SMITH: In an interview last year, he spoke of his relationship with his violin.
ISAAC STERN: A violin is not changeable as a woman. But it also has to be taken care of and caressed and loved and made a part of one’s life. The violin and the violinist, once they find each other, are a couple for life.
TERENCE SMITH: And that relationship was much in evidence during this performance in China. (Violin playing) (applause)