Violinist Bethany Grace on Music and Spirituality
Interview with Bethany Grace by Phil Bolsta
Watch Bethany Grace’s interview:
This is Phil Bolsta, and I'm here today with violinist Bethany Grace. Bethany, thank you so much for joining us today.
You're so welcome. I'm so honored to be here. Thank you.
Bethany first picked up a violin at the age of six, and within a month she was a local celebrity, being featured in newspapers, and performing around town in Chicago, being hailed as a child prodigy and a musical genius. Bethany, can you share some of your career highlights?
Yes. I first started out very young, and immediately I started performing pretty much all the time, and luckily I got into the San Diego Symphony at a very early age. I loved playing in an orchestra, and then I thought, "Okay, I'll join the LA Philharmonic." I went out for them, and I started playing with the LA Philharmonic, and then I wanted to play in the opera, and then I wanted to ... Then I was going to become a grandmother so I thought, "I got to join a rock band."
Then, magically, I was asked to play with some great musical rock stars. I got to tour with The Moody Blues, and Kenny Loggins, and Yanni. I had a great tour to India and China with Yanni, and James Taylor, and John Denver I got to play with, and Sarah Brightman. Let's see. Oh, so many I can't even name them. I'm so blessed. Now I'm a member of the Hutchins Consort, which is an 8-piece violin group. There are eight violins in that group, and they're all violins. An 8-foot-tall violin, believe it or not, and a 14-inch violin, and they're all violins. They're amazing instruments. They're better than Stradivarius. I'm so glad to be able to be playing one of those, so honored.
Then I'm also in another rock band. When I found out I was going to be a grandmother again I joined a rock band, and it's a spiritual rock band called Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe. We sort of combine rock with bhakti ... We call it bhakti rock, and sort of a New Age fusion of rock and roll. It's pretty rock and roll, but it's also very spiritual.
Is Bhakti devotional chanting?
For us it is, yes. Yes, it is. It's not like a chant, per se. They're actual rock songs, but yeah. It's very spiritual and very devotional.
You also, if I recall, played with Pavarotti.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I did. I got to tour with Pavarotti, and I got to play with The Three Tenors, and Placido Domingo, and Andrea Bocelli.
That seems to me like a very common response to finding out you're going to be a grandmother is, “Gotta join a rock band!” I've always envied musicians, because they can get lost in their performance, lost in the music, and that to me seems like it would be a very spiritual experience. Now, you're a longtime devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda, who's behind us, who wrote Autobiography of a Yogi. The question I have for you is, what do you see as the link between music and spirituality?
For one, I could not play music without spirituality at all. It wouldn't be possible for me. One thing I do before I perform every time is I pray to God that everything is His, or Hers, and that I give out love and healing and peace, and that's very important to me. I also threaten God with, "If you don't, I'm not going to play anymore ever," so I have to say that He's not disappointed in me. I'm still playing. I'm still able to give that piece of me. If it was me playing, it wouldn't be good. I already know. I've done that. I've been there, and it's just not who I am anymore. My best thing I do now is I get out of the way.
Your performances don't come from you, they come through you.
Oh, that's a good way to put it. I like that, and it's true. Because I have no sense of myself, I don't really feel anything. It's like I'm really not there. I do, I must say, I do feel God bumps a lot, and I feel like my body is sort of electric. I can tell that, and I can feel the love coming out, and it's almost like everything comes up through here, through my heart and out my violin.
You're playing an instrument, but you're also an instrument being played.
Ooh, I love that. That's beautiful. It's so true. And I've practiced a lot to be able to do that, and it takes a lot of practice of technical work of just doing the work. Just like in spirituality, you have to have the right position. When I give lessons, you know. It's amazing. It's almost like a spiritual lesson. I'm teaching the children, "Okay, sit up straight," and you have to have exactly the right kind of posture to be able to project the music, and the whole thing. You have to do all these... like in SRF [Self-Realization Fellowship], we have techniques, and you have to do these techniques correctly with great attention and intention or else it doesn't work. It works maybe a little bit, but you certainly can waste a lot of time.
If you just incorporate your attention and intention, and put that forth in your practicing, then when it comes to performing, you can let it all go and it becomes an experience.
Well, thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights with us Bethany. And now I'm really excited because Bethany has agreed to perform for us. Let's take it away.
About Bethany Grace… in Her Own Words
For me.... the best part of being a musician is to bring healing to the masses or the individual. To make a living... by living my passion.
It is in music that humanity finds a single common language. A language of feeling, a language of beauty. And it is through this language that I wish to communicate to everyone the most important message of all… LOVE.
I'm currently a member of The Hutchins Consort. We play locally in Encinitas, in Newport Beach, and in Los Angeles — and tour worldwide. On our website, you’ll find brief videos on the complete set of eight violins, designed and built by Dr. Carleen Hutchins, that span the entire range of orchestral musical notes.
I also am performing with Larisa Stow and Shakti Tribe....a fusion of rock music and spiritual mantras.
I’ve played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera, San Diego Symphony, San Diego Opera, and toured with Yanni, The Moody Blues, Placido Domingo, Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, James Taylor, John Denver, and many other great musicians.
I also organize and co-founded Concerts for a United World, which performs throughout Southern California for Self-Realization Fellowship since 1980. We vary from chamber groups to a 140-piece orchestra. Soloists and chorus members are drawn from members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, and Metropolitan Opera.
Concerts for a United World, dedicated to the victims of 9/11, was one of our special events that received extraordinary responses from the audience and the orchestral players. Audience members were moved to tears. Large donations were given to the Red Cross from this special free event.
Click here to visit Bethany’s website.
Click here to listen to a wide variety of Bethany’s music.
Click here to watch a number of Beth’s videos.
Bethany with her Larisa Stow and Shakti Tribe bandmates