Commencement '20: grads reflect

We talked to eight new Yalies about their time at Yale, and the future.

Harold Shapiro

Harold Shapiro

Gabriel Mairson ’19MusM,’20MusAM (center), with Olivia Martinez ’21MusM (left) and Nivanthi Karunaratne ’20MusM (right) at the March 2020 opening of the brass exhibit at the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments. View full image

Gabriel Mairson / Boston, MA
MM and MMA, School of Music
Speaking from New Haven

Please tell me about your choice of instrument, the French horn.
My mother’s a pianist, and I started piano when I was five. I thought I was going to be a pianist. I started horn in middle school just to have a different experience with music. And at 17, I suddenly realized I like being in an orchestra. So I started practicing horn for the first time.

So you’re saying that being in an ensemble is what
motivates you to practice?
Yeah, playing with other people and responding to other people. I had a teacher in my undergrad [at McGill] who was principal of the Montreal Symphony [Orchestra] for 30 years. I asked him what helped him with nerves in a performance. He said, “I just think about the beauty of my colleagues’ playing and the things that they have to say, and what I want to say in response to them. Not so much worrying about me, but listening to them.” I love that.

Luckily, I’ve had just an incredible horn teacher, Bill Purvis. His approach to teaching is helping students find what they want for themselves rather than modeling them after himself. I think a lot about the spirit of his teaching right now, because none of us know what’s going to happen next. The idea of seeing people come together around music—I just took it for granted.

What does your teacher say?
He says music’s not going away.