Music’s classical world is buzzing around the globe about the phenomenally talented child prodigy, cellist Sujari Britt. At just 11-years-old this past April, her extraordinarily deep understanding of music and her technical prowess have bought cheers and standing ovations from audiences worldwide.
The New York City-based Britt has performed in recitals and concerts including at Carnegie Hall, at the White House for President Obama in November 2009, and with orchestras around the country. She is the recipient of awards and scholarships such as the Dianne Flagello Precollege Division Foundation Scholarship and the Sidney J. Frank Foundation Scholarship both from the Manhattan School of Music, and the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, among others. As a recognized soloist, she is also a member of the JoSunJari String Trio along with her violinist sister Joelle and brother Sunnaj.
EBONY recently had an opportunity to speak with the young star and to hear all about her passion in her own words.
EBONY: You just celebrated your 11th birthday. When did you start playing the cello?
BRITT: Well, I started to learn and to perform classical musical when I was two years old on the piano. I moved on to the guitar and violin when I was about three or four years old. But when I heard cellist Yo Yo Ma play Camille Saint-Saens’ The Swan (from his orchestral work The Carnival of the Animals) I fell in love with it, and from that moment I wanted to play that instrument. I wanted the cello. I actually begged my parents to please let me play the cello.
EBONY: So why do think it was the cello that spoke to you more than any other instrument?
BRITT: I think that the cello’s voice resembles my own strong voice and I wanted to communicate through it, to share with anyone who will listen. It’s the strength of the voice of the cello. You can really put emotion into the sound.
EBONY: You mentioned Yo Yo Ma. Is he one of your musical idols?
BRITT: Yes, as a matter of fact he inspires me, as do a handful of other accomplished musicians. I’m inspired by my cello teacher Marion Feldman because she encourages me and recognizes and corrects my mistakes and helps me to figure out the message I’m telling with my music. She really cares about me and my progress and that helps me to want to do my best.
And one of my fondest inspirations is Alisa Weilerstein. She has a rich sound, and she is very creative and arousing on the cello. She has also taken time out of her busy life to mentor me. Other classical cellists such as Jacqueline De Pre, Pablo Casals and Mstislav Rostopovich also inspire me.
EBONY: Maybe this is an unfair question, but when you performed at the White House were you just a little nervous. I mean you were performing for the President of the United States after all.
BRITT: Yes, but first of all President Obama inspires me to believe that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s dream can come true. So I was really really excited to play for him.
EBONY: You have also performed at Weill Hall in Carnegie Hall. What was that experience like?
BRITT: It was amazing! I was in awe that I could play there.
EBONY: Because you know there are a lot of musicians who spend their entire lives hoping to perform at Carnegie Hall, but never achieve that goal and you’ve done it already.
BRITT: (laughs) Yes, thank you. I hope to go there again.
EBONY: Believe me you will. Which reminds me who are your favorite composers or the composer who speaks to you in some way?
BRITT: Well, I prefer Johannes Brahms, because he’s so very emotional and Haydn because he’s light. And I also love Saint-Saens who expresses a wide range of emotions and sounds. I also really enjoy Antonin Dvorak, Edward Elgar and Samuel Barber. Those are some of my most preferred composers. They also inspire me to write my own compositions.
EBONY: And finally where do you imagine you will be, say, ten years from now?
BRITT: I think that my possibilities are endless! I would definitely like to keep sharing myself through classical cello. I really enjoy knowing that when I play my cello I make people feel.
Special thanks to Sujari’s parents Janice and Sunfree for making this interview possible. And for more info go to www.josunjaristrings.com