Bejun Mehta

Singer & Cellist. Guilford HS '86/SY '90

“Freedom”


It is impossible to overstate the influence Aldo Parisot has had on my life and career. I was a lost 16-year-old singer/cellist when I found my way to his and Elizabeth's door. They took me in and taught me. But it wasn't just cello being taught on Moose Hill Road. Aldo seemed to know innately that I needed a place to be myself, to discover who I was, that his brand of optimism, zaniness, love of music, and joie-de-vivre was what I needed. Scotch and cigarettes included.

 

For a man with such a huge personality, Aldo was remarkably subtle when it came to the really important things. With the gentlest of hands he changed the course of my life at three critical junctures:

 

First: there was the simple act of taking me in, never remarked upon.

 

Second: though I had secured place at the Curtis Institute to continue my cello studies after high school, one day at breakfast in my senior year Aldo casually mentioned that maybe I should also apply to Yale College. Not the Yale School of Music, mind you, Yale College. I had never even considered such a thing, not only because I didn't dare dream I could get in but also because I couldn't remotely afford it. But Aldo seemed to know that my destiny wasn't to be found at a music school, that I needed broadening, though he didn't share that insight with me at the time. He simply expressed the idea without pressure, and precisely because the advice was so light I approached the application process with the kind of freedom Aldo was always looking for in music, art, and life. When–astonishingly–I did get accepted, he made me feel that of course somehow solutions for the financial side would materialize. Not only did they, but I never had to clean toilets at Yale as Aldo had to when he was first there as a young man.

Third: directly after Commencement four years later as a newly-minted Yale College graduate, after all the lessons, the Tuesday at 4 cello

classes, the Yale Cellos concerts and recordings, I went to see Aldo one last time in his studio not only to say good-bye and thank him but also to tell him I had decided to return to singing. I felt I needed his blessing. I was incredibly nervous for this talk because I was afraid he might feel his huge investment in me had been for naught or that I was somehow rejecting what he had so generously given, gifts which had changed my life for the better at every turn. When I finally stammered out what I came to say, he smiled and without missing a beat said, "Well, it's about time!" In my great relief I realized Aldo had probably known since the very beginning that I wasn't going to end up a cellist, but he had found something of value in me–in all of his students–simply as a human being which was worthy of nurture and support, that his guiding star had always been the big picture: the lessons of music and art are life lessons, so be open, give what you've got, share–you never know where it all will lead.
 

In my case, it led to the world's great opera and concert stages in a singing career beyond my imagining. But Aldo imagined it. And there's not a day when I don't use what he taught me. Among the many maxims: Don't phrase from a weakness. Never play a phrase the same way twice. This second maxim is one of Aldo's biggest, and particularly applicable to a singer regularly involved with da capo arias!

But by far the biggest gift I have from Aldo is freedom. Not just freedom in phrasing or to explore musically, but the freedom one develops when one has once been seen and supported at a crucial moment simply as a human being. In all the ways one can be set free, Aldo set me free to live my true life. When you are standing in the white hot glare of center stage and the house is full and expectant and seven cameras are pointing at you like a firing squad, you had better know who you are; I am calm at moments like these because of Aldo.