US orch appoints Buddhist concertmaster

US orch appoints Buddhist concertmaster


norman lebrecht

July 11, 2016

Santa Cruz Symphony has recruited Nigel Armstrong, 26, as its new concertmaster.

A contender at international competitions, Nigel went ‘to live with and learn from the Plum Village community founded by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, where he spent a year working on their organic farm and taking part in their daily life.’

Not your average circuit fiddler, then.

nigel armstrong


  • Michael VC says:

    Irrelevance reaches new heights or is it depths? I knew being Jewish and/or female can be of major significance in classical music, but Buddhist? Does a Buddhist “fiddler” do it differently?

    • Robert Holmén says:

      I think the point is that it’s not disqualifying in the way it may have been in the past.

      And he offers it as part of his CV so it’s fair to report it.

  • Dave says:

    Talk about a non-story. I don’t see Christian or Jewish violinists being singled out.

  • Marc says:

    To what year in the past must one go before a US symphony can be found that ‘tested’ a concertmaster’s religion?

    And, perhaps more to the point, it doesn’t say anywhere in the linked article that what’s his name, Nigel Armstrong, is a Buddhist. not that I care whether he is or not.

    • Andrew Constantine says:

      “What’s his name” is a fabulous violinist and wonderful person – that’s all you need to know.

    • Bruce says:

      Well, you should care, because it’s clearly the most important thing about him. (Second to his violin-playing skills, I suppose, since we wouldn’t even have a chance to be fascinated by his religion if he couldn’t play.)

  • Marc says:

    I don’t doubt that Mr Armstrong is a ‘fabulous violinist’. To be fair to NL., he does point out in the first place that NA has won competitions &c, however the nonsense about his religion or lack thereof (depends upon how one analyses ‘religion’, I think) did distract from that. And I don’t know what the species of ‘average circuit fiddler’ is, either, although I’m guessing it means all those other 2,192 violinists who have participated in (& perhaps won!) competitions who are also, probably, quite skilled at their art and are, but perhaps not as certainly, wonderful people? but I am wrong about so much.

  • Jon Teske says:

    I do remember when seeing any Asian violinist was unusual. The one I remember first was Toshiyo Eto who I believe was a Curtis professor in the 50’s 60’s. (I saw him do the Glazunov in Washington, DC.) He also made some recordings. Agree that this is totally irrelevant. It is to be expected when different musical genres get introduced into cultures in which they traditionally have not been seen. It only took about 20 years for various Asian cultures, Korean, Japanese, Chinese to move from a curiosity in Western music to their ability to compete at the highest levels as well as becoming a significant numerical presence. Their presence is quite common now even in high level amateur groups….starting with occasional individuals to now measurable percentages. Nary an eyebrow is raised anymore. The fact that a fellow player is of Asian ancestry is no more or less relevant than the fact that I am of German-American ancestry. The cellist in my string quartet is Chinese-American, a Ph.D in her non-music field. I recruited her not for her ancestry (nor would I have excluded her because of it) but simply she was the best cellist available and willing to participate when I and another violinist were putting together a quartet.

  • esfir ross says:

    Congratulation to Nigel Armstrong for become concertmeister of Santa Cruz orchestra.
    He’ll stay permanently in Bay area and we enjoy his performances.

  • OperaGene says:

    I see his Buddhism as a huge positive. Meditation is likely to improve his mental acuity and concentration.