Yoni Battat ’13

Yoni BattatChoosing Brandeis wasn't easy. Attending an arts intensive high school in addition to my local public high school, I studied alongside many friends who were planning to continue their education at a music conservatory. Although music is the field I planned to devote my life to, I have other intellectual curiosities as well. It seemed more logical to continue my education at a place where I could pursue music as well as my other interests, a place like Brandeis. But when it came time to pack up and leave for school, my logic didn't seem to carry the weight I hoped it would. I was anything but sure of my decision. After a few weeks at school, however, I found the following quotation on a bulletin board in Slosberg Music Center.

"Art isn't everything; it's about everything."

Reading these words attributed new meaning to my path at Brandeis. Being surrounded by a world of academic curiosity has proven to provide a distinct advantage over my conservatory friends. I have made it my mission to take advantage of my environment in every way possible, using my studies in many different subjects to enrich my understanding of music as a global artistic medium that can contain the scope of the world in its notes.

This exploration began when I enrolled in Yiddish 10. Languages have always fascinated me, and Yiddish seemed particularly relevant to my interest in Klezmer music. I quickly became enthralled with the experience of learning Yiddish. Once a week, I brought my violin to class to play along with the Yiddish songs we were learning. I expanded my studies in Yiddish even further when I set music to a Yiddish poem for a music theory class. I chose poetry by the iconic Yiddish poet, Itzik Manger, and attempted to create a meaningful setting by expressing the words the way I best know how: through music.

Another major academic interest of mine is philosophy. Taking Intro to Philosophy during my first semester truly opened my eyes to a different way of thinking about the world. The philosophy course papers I have written have given me a chance to put some serious thought into issues that affect everyday life, such as the notion of free will, or the concept of a good life, or what it means to really know something. At this point, it doesn't matter whether or not I uncover my fundamental purpose, but in the struggle to define my beliefs, I can discover something much more meaningful about my world and myself. This has allowed me to explore the philosophy behind music, considering issues like the musician's role in society, the structure of an orchestra, and my role as a performer to convey certain messages with my work. In fact, my string trio will be presenting an iconic Mozart Divertimento we prepared, in collaboration with students in Intro to Painting last semester, at the (EL)2 2011: Experiential Learning, Engaged Learners Symposium in March.

I have come to learn that the process involved with preparing musical endeavors such as the abovementioned Mozart performance is less concerned with skill and technical proficiency. Rather, successful performances are achieved through questioning and exploring the big ideas of life and the world around us. Although music, in and of itself, isn't generally considered to be the most academic area of study, Brandeis has given me the opportunity to make it as academically vivacious as any other field. I look forward to finding ways to continue to incorporate many more academic interests into music while gaining hands-on experience sharing my passion for music with my community at Brandeis.

Yoni recently completed masters study in viola performance at Boston University.