At the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, our community is our pride and joy. We recently checked back in with Stephanie Yoshida—AFIPO’s 2019 New York YPC Gala Chair, in-house counsel at private equity firm Landmark Partners, and a remarkable ambassador for classical music. She answered six questions about the role of musical organizations, how the arts are impacted by COVID-19, and how classical music is able to provide solace in uncertain times.
AFIPO: You work very closely with classical music organizations—what draws you to support classical music and the arts?
STEPHANIE YOSHIDA: I have been playing classical violin since I was 4 years old, so music has been with me from a young age. It opened a window into a world filled with pure beauty and truth, a place where I could express myself freely without fear of judgment and help me connect with my feelings. It is so important that in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we find the time to connect with music and the arts, as it provides much-needed nourishment for the soul. When I spent countless hours in the office, it was the music of Mahler, Bruckner and so many other great composers that kept me company late at night. Live performances at Carnegie Hall would once more open the window to that ineffable world where I find myself transported. I am incredibly grateful to classical music for helping me be in touch with my feelings and highlighting so much beauty for me.
AFIPO: How have you seen engagement change within the organizations you work with in response to COVID-19?
STEPHANIE YOSHIDA: Understanding the hardships and suffering in this environment, it is difficult for arts organizations to be in a position to ask for contributions. Yet, precisely for this reason, it is more important than ever for music lovers who are capable of giving to do exactly that. With performing venues currently shut down and likely to be shut down for a long time, performers and those involved in the performing arts industry are struggling. While there are so many pressing needs out there, we must not forget that music can provide hope, inspiration and indeed, much-needed nourishment for the soul.
AFIPO: So many are struggling to find ways to get out of the shadow COVID-19 has cast on us… What can classical music offer us now that other forms of media cannot?
STEPHANIE YOSHIDA: Many of us find ourselves in an emotionally dark place these days, and I am grateful to have classical music in my life, as it amplifies what I am feeling at any given time, helping me better connect with my own thoughts and feelings. It also opens the door to that other world which fuels my hope for the days when our spirit can once more soar with joy. Introspective music of Philip Glass envelops me in the quiet of night while Brahms’ piano pieces remind me that I am not alone when I feel pangs of loneliness. There is tremendous beauty in solitude, which classical music helps me process. I typically love traveling, and I am also grateful for the ability to travel across countries and cultures with music: the dream-like and ephemeral notes of Poulenc transport me to France while the charm and mystery of Spain come to life through de Falla’s music. I couldn’t imagine going through quarantine without classical music!
AFIPO: What, if any, is your connection to Israel?
STEPHANIE YOSHIDA: My mentor growing up was Jewish and I have many close friends who are Jewish, so I naturally developed a fondness for Jewish culture and customs. I had the chance to visit Israel a few years ago, which allowed me to stay at an IPO musician’s home – I will never forget waking up to recordings of Beethoven symphonies, complete with commentary. I found myself in awe of the rich history of Jerusalem and the faith of its people. What a remarkable country.
AFIPO: You were our YPC gala committee chair for the 2019 NY gala—what was that experience like, and why is it so important to offer these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for our patrons?
STEPHANIE YOSHIDA: It was a joy to help bring young classical music enthusiasts together to celebrate the Israel Philharmonic. It is important to rally around groups that bring us so much beauty. The Israel Philharmonic, particularly as the cultural ambassador of Israel, is no exception. The IPO brings incredible music into so many people’s lives, through live performances, tours and recordings, and as consumers and lovers of music, we need to do what we can to ensure the IPO is supported.
AFIPO: As an esteemed violinist yourself, what is your favorite piece (or pieces) to perform?
STEPHANIE YOSHIDA: I am a romantic at heart, so I love playing Brahms’ chamber music. I find the perfect combination of wistfulness, yearning, sublime and just the right amount of restraint in his music. During this time of quarantine, I have been learning the Poulenc Violin Sonata, which makes me feel as though I am soaring above the clouds in a dream.