The Musical Medicine Man

During his decades as a conductor, Zubin Mehta has served as one of the world's most important cultural ambassadors, bringing together cultures and countries in conflict through the power of music. Music was Zubin Mehta`s first language. Born in Bombay, India, on April 29, 1936, he was the son of the late Mehli Mehta, founder of Bombay String Quartet and the Bombay Symphony Orchestra. Music was a crucial ingredient in the Mehta family's daily diet. Yet the young Zubin first went on to study medicine. But after only two semesters, at the age of 18, he abandoned his medical aspirations to attend the Academy of Music in Vienna.   Bringing people together He may have left his medical studies behind, but throughout his career music has become the medicine Zubin Mehta prescribes. `I think music should be used to bring people together -- to make people who don`t normally smile at each other sit next to one another in a concert hall,` he says. "In a concert there are only positive vibes. There is only peace there.` Mehta has used his musical medicine on a number of historic occasions throughout his career. One such highlight was in 1988, when he took the New York Philharmonic orchestra on a 10-day tour of the Soviet Union. This culminated in a historic joint concert with the State Symphony Orchestra of the Soviet Ministry of Culture in Moscow's Gorky Park. In 1994, Mehta and members of the Sarajevo Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performed Mozart's `Requiem` amid the ruins of Sarajevo's National Library. This concert was broadcast to 26 countries with the aim of raising money for the UN Refugee Fund.   A peacemaker During the same year, he brought the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to his birthplace, India, and realized a longtime ambition. By conducting the orchestra in Bombay and New Delhi, Zubin Mehta helped bridge a political gap that had prevented the Israeli orchestra from performing there for three decades. "For me it was very special because, ever since the Six Days War in 1967, India had broken off diplomatic relations with Israel, and it wasn`t until 1993 that they picked them up again,` he says. `For those interim years, I was known as the unofficial Indian ambassador to Israel," he adds, shyly. Zubin Mehta`s conducting career took off after he won the Liverpool International Conducting Competition and the Koussevitzky Competition in Tanglewood in the '60s. He was just 25 years old when he conducted two of the world`s great orchestras -- the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics. "When you talk about orchestras with great tradition, they didn`t only inspire me, they educated me," he says. "There is no doubt about it." Mehta attributes much of his success with these groups to the respect he has always had for orchestra members. "I was so honored to conduct these musicians,` he says. Mehta today continues to nurture these relationships with his orchestral colleagues and says his door is always open for any suggestions they may have about a performance. "The experience of a good orchestral musician should never be underestimated,` says Mehta. `One can always learn and be inspired by them." Please see the link below to see and hear the genius of the man himself.

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