In our current exhibition, curated by Batya Monder and Beth Reese, we are featuring Ittai Shapira, a virtuoso violinist and composer whom The New York Times described as an “Israeli dynamo with a flourishing solo violin career.” Shapira, who performs with leading orchestras across the globe, has been called “a rarity in the 21st century.” In recent years Shapira has begun composing and using his compositions to help individuals and communities to heal. It is this story we want to convey. The healing, though in a different setting than an analytic office, is sufficiently close to the healing we aim to provide for our patients, hence the inclusion in the VPM.
On a winter afternoon in 2017, Ittai Shapira, a warm and affable man, arrived at my home with Beth Reese, my analytic colleague and Guest Curator of this exhibit. Shapira is disarming in his demeanor. He is gentle in his manner but exudes confidence – confidence that developed through music. His extraordinary talent was recognized early and honed with good training.
In 2005, in the aftermath of a head injury, Shapira experienced a need to compose. It was his way to express what had befallen him and to heal from the trauma, recovering the memory of the attack in bits and pieces as the composition took shape. He had studied theory and composition with Mark Kopytman in Israel, and had analyzed many pieces in the classical repertoire. With composers he knew, he made suggestions for changing passage work, and he wrote his own cadenzas. In 2004 he even wrote a piece, entitled “Virtuoso Variations,” that he describes as less an original composition than a study in various styles and techniques, as an homage to violinists who had left their mark in history. He had no plans of writing his own original compositions until 2005 after he was assaulted. It was then that he composed “Concierto Latino,” his first full violin concerto. And in the process of composing it, he developed a new and deep interest in how the mind processes trauma and how music, so healing for him, could also play a part in healing others. His interest led him to confer with trauma experts— neuroscientists, physicians, and psychologists —to share his own experience of trauma and to learn from them.
With years of accomplishments as a performer on his resume, both playing the classical repertoire and compositions written in his honor, he turned his attention and talent to new endeavors of humanitarian interest, a way to “pay forward,” as he puts it, by focusing on “therapeutic healing” in a myriad of settings.
In this exhibit we hope to give you a picture of Shapira’s stellar career and steep rise to prominence and familiarize you with his background, including his early training in Israel with the extraordinary pedagogue Ilona Feher. We will also discuss the humanitarian projects and compositions that he has completed and performed as well as those that are in progress, and we include links to videos of some of his performances.
We quote from his new website and nonprofit, Sound Potential, to give you a sense of the breadth of his interests and the limitless reach of his projects.
Sound Potential engages the power of music to build understanding and empathy for humanitarian issues around the world. Using music as the foundation, our projects focus on therapeutic healing for individuals and communities. . . and on raising awareness and education related to humanitarian issues, through performances, videos, recordings, and other programming.