FAQ: Simin Ganatra

pacifica_quartet_1814_simin

What is your secret for long-term success in a quartet?

There are a lot of secrets. One of the main things is to make sure that as intense as the rehearsal process can get, our friendships aren’t affected, and those tensions don’t leave the rehearsal. We can have conflict during rehearsal but know that we still respect each other personally. A lot of young quartets may not know how to do that. One of the things we learned early on is that as long as everyone feels respected and valued in the quartet, you can be as critical as you want in rehearsal. It’s just a rehearsal. After the rehearsal, everything is the same as it was before.

How do you balance family life with frequent travel?

Well, it’s not easy, but we’re lucky that we have two girls who are good travelers. They happen to be just fine on the road and are used to it; they’ve been doing it since a very young age. We take our family with us. A lot of our really good family time is on the road, traveling in a plane or by car. It’s a lot of planning, and one has to be ready to make changes at the last minute if suddenly something comes up, being flexible to make a last-minute change. It works for us. There are pros and cons to it. A lot of people just see the cons, but there are a lot of pros. We probably spend more time together on the road than we do at home.

What is currently on your iPod’s most-played list?

I don’t have an iPod, but on my iPhone there is a lot of classical music—quartets, piano, solo violin. That’s the majority of stuff. There is a lot of kids’ music for when we are traveling with the kids. That’s basically what is on there right now.  I do enjoy listening to classical music when I have a chance.

Do you have any pre-concert good luck rituals?

Everyone has different things they do backstage. Masumi drinks tea. I like to be playing the violin before I go onstage because I like to feel warmed up. I go through the first page of what we’re playing at many tempos right before so I can feel warmed up when we first get onstage. By the time that’s done, hopefully my nerves are done too! I like to feel confident with the first page.

What is the most memorable experience you’ve had onstage with the Pacifica Quartet?

One time when we were in Europe, I had a situation where I flew on an all-night flight with my 6-month-old daughter, and I was meeting the quartet there. The concert was going fine, and then suddenly, one of my contacts came out!  I kept playing, and a page later, the other contact came out! And I REALLY need my contacts. So I was onstage, and basically blind. That was memorable!  There are others—one time Brandon’s cell phone rang during the slow movement of the Smetana quartet (a huge cello solo). That was also memorable. There have also been many musically memorable moments too.  Our first performance of Op. 131, our first Beethoven cycle, those sorts of big moments would be right up there.

I don’t know why I’m sharing all these embarrassing times… There was a time when we were trying to get into Canada…wait, Brandon’s going to get mad at me!

Another one: Early European tours when we had the kids, all the luggage and gear, and we were traveling in vans. We were driving in Europe with James Dunham in a tiny little car, that’s the whole quartet plus violist James Dunham and the cello in the backseat. Masumi decided it would be a great idea to tell dirty jokes—it was SO uncomfortable!

What is something your fans don’t know about you?

I like to make jewelry.  That’s my hobby. Wire wrapped stuff. I would really like to learn how to solder. I read a lot, and I like to cook.

If you were not a musician, what else could you imagine yourself doing?

I could imagine teaching. I love teaching. Doing something with writing—I was really into writing before I decided on music, so maybe being a journalist.

How do you stay sane while traveling?

We try to keep as many home rituals in place as possible. We bring food on the road with us so we’re not eating strange things. I keep the same routines like practicing early in the morning at home, which is what I do in hotels as well (with a practice mute). With the girls, we try to do the same things we do at home.

Any recommendations for finding good food on the road?

We like to read reviews online, and we get recommendations from each other and from friends. It’s an important thing. We like to go out to eat and eat well. Sibbi writes down all the different restaurants that he hears about and goes to, so we often consult with him.

Who do you most admire?

There are so many people. Musically, Menahem Pressler is definitely up there with his attitude toward music and his work ethic. It is always so inspiring to play with him. We are lucky that there are so many great American quartets and so many older-generation ensembles like The Juilliard, Guarneri and Cleveland Quartets. We have been influenced by playing for them and listening to their recordings. As a group, we aspire to play like the players we’ve had a chance to work with.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Be careful what you wish for because it just might come true! You really have to think about what you want. You can’t just wish for something you haven’t really thought through. It can be different when it happens. If you work hard enough, it will happen, and you have to make sure it is really what you want.

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