Interview with Ben Mygatt ’20, violin

Ben Mygatt ’20 is a prospective music and math major from Raleigh, North Carolina.

First of all, what concerto will you be playing with the Berkshire Symphony?

I’ll be playing the Shostakovich violin concerto. The first one – the good one. And just the cadenza and fourth movement.

Why did you choose that piece?

So, I actually started working on it last year around December. And I guess it has always struck me as a really intense piece. So I thought that, because I am kind of coming to this new place, and a new violin teacher who is also very intense, that it would be good to sort of switch things up in that way – I hadn’t played that much 20th century music before, especially solo repertoire. I’d mostly stuck with classical and romantic.

Well, we’re excited to hear it! How did you first become involved in music?

I started violin when I was… four or five? But I spent two years on Twinkle, so I wasn’t very committed to it. The main reason I started was my brother and sister both played, so it just seemed natural to my parents, I guess. I didn’t really get into it until I was 11 or 12 – at that point I had this Itzhak Perlman CD of encores, and I listened to that over and over again. I really wanted to sound like him. And now I realize I can’t ever sound like him…

Note to readers: Ben in fact sounds just like Itzhak Perlman, and therefore you should all come to the Berkshire Symphony performance on April 20th and be amazed!

So how did you decide Williams was the right choice to further your musical studies?

I knew I wanted to keep doing music, whether it was to pursue it professionally or just recreationally. And as far as liberal arts colleges go, Williams is a pretty good one in terms of music departments. I also really liked the location. And the coldness.

You certainly chose the right place for coldness! Now that you’re here, what do you do when you’re not playing music?

I read, and I eat. (long, thoughtful pause) Lately, I’ve gotten really into this contemporary composer, who’s a twelve year old girl. And she wrote this opera about Cinderella, in the classical style. And it’s just my favorite thing. So I also spend a lot of time watching that, and memorizing it.

Memorizing it? That must take some patience.

I actually screened it here in the music department, and the video didn’t have subtitles – even though it was in English, it’s nice to have subtitles for opera – so I wrote them all out myself.

Wow! How long did that take?

Probably about fifteen hours? And I went back to the video a few days later and they had added the subtitles. But at least I learned the opera really well.

Come hear the incredibly patient Ben Mygatt play Shostakovich’s 1st violin concerto on April 20th with the Berkshire Symphony! And if you need something to listen to in the meantime, check out his “favorite thing”, the opera Cinderella by 12-year-old Alma Deutscher.