Oral Histories

Interview of Mehli Mehta

Immigrant from India, conductor, and violinist.
Maestro of the American Youth Symphony
UCLA and University of California History
UCLA Faculty
Hast, Sybil D.
Mehta, Mehli
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Sybil D. Hast, B.A., French, Smith College; M.A., French, University of Pittsburgh; M.A., German, UCLA. Lecturer in Music, UCLA.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Born in Bombay, India; the Parsi exodus from Iran to India in eighth century; ethnicity and religion in India; British colonial rule; independence; Zoroastrianism; St. Xavier's School in Bombay; introduction to Western music; studying business at Sydenham College; attitude towards Indian music; examinations from Trinity College of Music; organizing the Bombay Chamber Music Society in 1935; founding the Bombay Symphony Orchestra; the audience for Western music in Bombay in the 1930s; the Bombay String Quartet; marriage to Tehminah Daruvala; becoming a full-time professional musician; memory and performance; the germ of conducting; meeting Yehudi Menuhin; inspiration and great art; concerts in India during World War II; family life in India; Zubin Mehta; Navroji Mehta; the busy schedule of a conductor; Mehta's grandchildren; orchestra tours; music audiences in Los Angeles; Zubin Mehta's education; an all-Schoenberg concert in Vienna; how Zubin came to be music director of the Israel Philharmonic; coming to New York in 1945 to study violin with Ivan Galamian; the Bach violin repertoire; musicians of the late 1940s; evaluating the talent and potential of students; decision to focus on conducting; income of concert artists and orchestra players compared; opportunities to learn conducting; need for government funding for music; pressures upon concert artists to give too many performances; returning to India in 1949; decision to move to England in 1955; auditioning for John Barbirolli; the Hallé Orchestra; life in Manchester, England; recruited as second violin in the Curtis String Quartet; moving to Philadelphia; the art of the string quartet; the New School Orchestra; recruited to direct the University Symphony Orchestra at UCLA; helping to organize an orchestra for the Department of Music at the University of California, Irvine; the UCLA Department of Music in the mid-1960s; building a foundation in the classical symphonic repertoire; difficulties in getting students to attend rehearsals; Mehta's first concert at UCLA in 1964; working with a youth orchestra in the San Fernando Valley; evolution into the American Youth Symphony; expenses in mounting the American Youth Symphony concerts; concert halls in Los Angeles; the annual Music Center of Los Angeles County benefit concert and dinner; the UCLA Chamber Orchestra; changes in the UCLA Department of Music faculty in the mid-1970s; auditions for the American Youth Symphony; importance of grounding in the classical repertoire; responsibilities of a music teacher; distinguishing soloists from symphony players; responsibilities of conductors; Beethoven's nine symphonies; audience preferences; the Bartók Concerto for Orchestra; the need for appreciation; Arturo Toscanini; Wilhelm Furtwängler; analyzing a score; concertmasters of the American Youth Symphony; rehearsals of the American Youth Symphony; changes in the United States between 1945 and 1987; careers of former American Youth Symphony players; Los Angeles music critics.