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Columbus’ Ariel Horowitz and the Making of a Concert Violinist

black-and-white photo of Ariel Horowitz sitting on a sofa, holding her violin, and laughing
publicity photo
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Violinist and former Columbus resident Ariel Horowitz will compete in the Senior Division of the 2016 Yehudi Menuhin International Competition next month in London.

On an average lesson day, violinist Ariel Horowitz rides the elevator up to the fifth floor of New York’s Juilliard School. She takes a sharp left off the elevator and walks down the hallway toward the studio of her teacher, the great violinist ItzhakPerlman. The hallway is filled with the sound of violin playing emanating from Perlman’s studio. With each step Horowitz gets closer to her own moment of truth – to her opportunity she to drink in her teacher’s technique, wisdom, artistry.

Horowitz steps into the studio, and Mr. P, as his students call him, asks her what she’d like to play. She hands him a photocopy of the music she’s working on at the moment. He makes notes in the score while she plays through the piece. Then they get down to the business of crafting an artist.

“It’s kind of like any other lesson, it’s just that he’s really famous,” Horowitz said of a typical lesson with Perlman in a recent phone interview.

Still, it’s heady stuff, this business – the pressure of risking it all for a chance to become an international concert soloist, the mystique of a profession packaged ever more glamorously in an age of maverick photo editing and instant global media, the enormous competition that favors artists made of sterner stuff and even sterner networks, the pressure to make one’s name – and one’s career – with dazzling performances at prestigious competitions.

As she prepares to compete in the senior division of the 2016 Yehudi Menuhin International Competition next month in London, Horowitz, who lived in Columbus for almost all of her growing-up years, will return to Columbus to give a preview performance of her competition repertoire with pianist Mariko Kaneda on Sunday, March 20 at 3 p.m. in the Columbus Museum of Art’s Cardinal Health Auditorium. The performance is part of Sunday at Central’s Where Are They Now? series, which spotlights the careers of emerging musicians with Columbus ties.

What Competitions Mean

Though the stakes are high for the Menuhin Competition - a win, or even a memorable performance, could well launch an international solo career - Horowitz brims with sanguinity as the competition nears. She has participated in any number of other competitions, including the junior division of the 2012 Menuhin Competition, and thus is no stranger to them. As big a deal as winning competitions could be for her or any emerging artist, Horowitz says staying true to herself is far more important.

“I think it’s really important to never play to try to please a jury and to never play to try to make anyone else happy other than yourself,” Horowitz said. “I think it’s important to have that integrity of knowing that you’ve done a good job, even if no one else gives you that affirmation, and of being able to perform and feel good about your work and not need to win in order to feel that satisfaction.”

Horowitz’s philosophy of competing has also clarified for her what she says is the real value of competitions.

“I think for me, the competitions themselves serve more as a way of growing and learning,” Horowitz said. “No matter how well you play, no matter how well everyone else plays, it’s someone’s opinion, and music is so inevitably subjective there’s not really much that you can do to control whether or not you’re going to advance or whether or not you’re going to be a finalist or whether or not you’re going to win. So for me I find the whole process to be something that really challenges me and helps me get repertoire and my technique to a really high standard and then go in and perform and feel really good about myself and feel like I’ve accomplished something in terms of my own musical growth.”

“Cathartic Revelation”

This formula has proven successful for Horowitz, including most recently a year ago, when she competed in the Juilliard School’s violin concerto competition. Less than two days before the competition, Horowitz had an experience that clarified for her that being a musician is about something much deeper, something much more human, than winning prizes.

“I was just practicing, going over things. And all of a sudden I had this moment where everything just sort of made sense, and I just started playing real music, and it felt so connected to my life and my spirit as a person, and it didn’t even matter if I was playing all of the right notes or if I was making mistakes or whatever. It just felt so honest and real. And I don’t think that I would have been able to have that if I hadn’t been preparing for that competition. I realized that to perform is not to get everything right. It’s about communicating honestly your feelings and your experience as a person.”

Horowitz placed second in the Juilliard competition and says what she calls the “cathartic revelation” she had before the competition was a definite milestone in her career.

“It was the moment where everything I had done up to that point kind of was solidified, and then from there I felt I really blossomed,” Horowitz said.

Some of what Horowitz had done up to that point includes her studies in Columbus with former Columbus Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Charles Wetherbee and her later studies with Indiana University’s Mauricio Fuks, along with winning the silver medal at the 2013 Stulberg International Competition and a fourth-place finish at the 2015 Klein Competition.

"A Place of My Childhood"

As the Menuhin Competition approaches, Horowitz isn’t leaving anything to chance. She’s creating opportunities to perform the competition repertoire in recitals in Washington, D.C., and here in Columbus. And in the way life often brings us full circle, her Columbus performance – her final public run-through before she heads to London to compete – will bring her back to a place that fostered her early musical growth.

“I always love coming to Columbus. It’s really such a place of my childhood,” Horowitz said, “and I can’t wait.”

Ariel Horowitz performs works by Bach, Bartok, Chausson, Paganini, Enescu and Panufnik Sunday, March 20 at 3 p.m. in the Columbus Museum of Art’s Cardinal Health Auditorium. The performance is presented by the Sunday at Central concert series.

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.