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Heartless musicians

A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours
SC Public Radio

Many years ago I was having dinner with a group of colleagues when the name of a viola player we all knew came up. When I mentioned that this violist had just had his third heart attack, the instantaneous response from an old-timer across the table was, “Really? I didn’t know he had a heart.”

As it happens, the heartless violist in question was not a terribly good player, to put it mildly. But we musicians have all known people we’ve found to be thoroughly unpleasant, even cruel, or thoroughly insipid and boring, who walk on stage and play or sing beautifully, movingly. How is this possible? Well, for one thing, people are complex, and as much as we may sometimes hate to admit it, no one is a hundred per cent awful. Warm hearts can beat under even the coldest exteriors. And luckily for all of us, where there’s even a warm corner of a heart, it turns out it’s usually susceptible to the beauties of music. 

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.