[The following are my liner notes from my first solo violin album, “When the Violin” which was released earlier this summer.]

The writer David Whyte says that humiliation — the public unveiling of our humble humanity — is the pathway to true evolution. The ego-shell of the former self shatters into a new self-knowing, often in the form of pain. But time passes, and we find ourselves laughing at a past failure: “can you believe I did that?”

Vulnerability is the humus of our humanity, the compost of our past failures metabolized into a new way to be in the…


You are surrounded by darkness on all sides. You don’t know the destination, or the way forward. You have a sense that you are made for something, but you’re not sure what, exactly. You don’t know who you are. You are in a dream. All you can do is imagine — and so you do. Your work is to make that fragile vision into something real.

In the creative process, it’s incredibly seductive for us to seek these answers in the world — to demand that others give us reassurance. But as Seth Godin says, “reassurance is futile”. …


Heading south on San Pedro, the landscape changes. As I drive past Little Tokyo, past 3rd, then 4th street, tents appear on either side of the street. The tents hearken the change: you’ve entered Skid Row — the largest community of unhoused people in America. One is confronted with a new facet of Los Angeles: here, a human pain is apparent, unmasked, laid bare in the form of people grappling with demons unseen.

Hans Gutknecht: Thanksgiving Day in Skid Row

I remember the first time I drove down San Pedro — by mistake — in 2007. Ensconced in a dark blue Toyota Camry, I felt myself reach…


[The below is an excerpt from the liner notes of my solo violin album “When the Violin”, which was released on Bandcamp earlier this summer. If you’d like to listen to more of the album or my recordings, please visit the link. A video excerpt from the album is at the end of this essay.]

Sei Solo: you are alone.

I’ve always loved the parable of Bach as an orphaned 10 year old, copying music alone by candlelight. His guardian, his older brother, had forbidden him from learning music of an older master, so the 10 year old Sebastian snuck…


[Yesterday, May 15, I delivered the Commencement address for the 2021 class of graduates at Claremont McKenna College. Interspersed with my remarks were violin performances, in a kind of musical kintsugi.]

***(Amazing Grace)***

It is indeed amazing grace to be with you all today.

In the 15th century, a shogun — a lord of the samurai — broke his favorite porcelain tea bowl.

He sent it back to China to be repaired — but as was the custom at the time, it was returned to him remade with metal staples. Perfectly usable, but ugly.

The shogun was unsatisfied, so he…


Sometimes, without knowing it, we open a door for our future selves. At the time, we can’t really imagine what it will be like on the other side — in fact, it may be utterly terrifying. At the time, all we can do is utter a quick prayer and keep moving.

Today, 11 years ago, I gave my first TED talk. I was 22. I had never given a talk in public before. I was terrified.

At the time, I didn’t have a writing practice. During the 2009 holidays, I remember exchanging frantic emails with the TED curator who stressed…


[On June 23rd, I delivered the 33rd annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy for Americans for the Arts, introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Below is a transcript of my remarks. The video link to the address can be found here.]

When
The violin
Can forgive the past

It starts singing.

When the violin can stop worrying
About the future

You will become
Such a drunk laughing nuisance

That God
Will then lean down
And start combing you into
Her
Hair.

When the violin can forgive
Every wound caused by
Others

The heart starts
Singing.

— Hafiz, translated…


There are many ways to practice being alone.

There is the restless spectrum of FOMO, a fear of missing out on a world missing out on us. We consume comfort in redundant, high-glycemic answers. We spiral into numb scrolling and autopilot, soothed by algorithms.

Then, if we’re lucky, there are moments where we break open. We reach out from within like some tender octopus, our fraying edges holding up a frail offering of ourselves. We search for communion with some soul which might hold up a mirror to ours. …

Vijay Gupta

I’m a violinist and speaker living in LA, and I direct Street Symphony, which engages communities affected by homelessness and incarceration through music.

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