Master and teacher

According to Shaham, teaching is an important part of his music activity.

hagai shaham 88 (photo credit: )
hagai shaham 88
(photo credit: )
Hagai Shaham, one of the few Israeli musicians who manage a globetrotting career from Israel, will perform Mendelssohn's famously melodic violin concerto with the Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra under maestro Luis Gorelik from February 13 to 20. Late at night, speaking by phone from his home on the day of his return from a three-week European tour, Shaham says that "Despite many worrisome changes, I still believe in this country's potential. This is my home, where my family lives. This is the country where Jews are not strangers. People are warm and straightforward here, and this is where I want my three children to be raised. There's a lot to be done here." With many years of teaching to his credit, these are not empty words for Shaham: Teaching is an important part of his music activity. He was the last student of the legendary violin pedagogue Ilona Feher, who had taught Pinhas Zuckerman and Shlomo Mintz, among others. "Well, not exactly the last," corrects Shaham, "I was 21, the eldest among her students when she passed away in 1988. In the last year of her life, she transferred a part of her teaching load to me." Shaham, who together with his violinist colleague Ittai Shapira is a co-founder of the Ilona Feher Foundation that supports promising Israeli musicians, recollects that Feher herself received attractive offers from all over the world, yet stayed in Holon. "She was very demanding of her students. 'In studies, there are no friends,' she used to say. She demanded from her pupils more than the best, but she always managed to preserve their individuality. They all played well but differently," says Shaham. Shaham is a faculty member of the Rubin Music Academy and conducts master classes in Israel. He is also involved in the Maestro educational project, in which young musicians acquire a second academic degree in pedagogy and go on to careers in teaching. "We believe it is far easier to teach a young person according to our vision of teaching than impose new ideas on established teachers. We want to raise the level of music education in this country, and this is one of the reasons I stay. You know, more good teachers - more good kids - more good people in this country," says the violinist. But teaching, important as it is, is just a part of Shaham's musical life. He appears with major orchestras and in recitals throughout Europe, the US and the Far East, as well as recording for various labels. He points out that managing a performing career from Israel is more complicated and more expensive than doing so from abroad. "For an artist's manager, Israel is somewhere halfway from India because you can't hop for a minor concert to a neighboring country by car or by train, like in Europe. It makes tours more intensive and concentrated. But on the whole, it's okay." Hagai Shaham appears with the Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra Tuesday in Beit She'an; Thursday at the Kibbutz Beit Brenner auditorium; next Saturday (February 17) in Givatayim; February 18 at Kibbutz Dorot; February 19 at Kfar Shmaryahu; and February 20 in Nahariya. The program also features the world premiere of the Canaan Symphony by Israeli composer Boaz Ben-Moshe and the Italian Symphony by Mendelssohn.