Oral Histories

Interview of Mehli Mehta

Immigrant from India, conductor, and violinist.
Maestro of the American Youth Symphony
Interviews not in a series, part one
UCLA and University of California History
UCLA Faculty
Biographical Note:
Immigrant from India, conductor, and violinist.
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.