I met Joshua Roman, a TED Fellow, at TED 2011. TED audiences are very hard to please. Because of the nature of the TED Fellows, speakers and performers, the bar for any presentation is set so high that an appearance on that stage is absolutely nerve-wracking. Many in the audience pay thousands of dollars to attend TED and come from the wealthiest families in the US, corporate giants and Hollywood. In sum, they are usually those with a passion for new ideas and a penchant for music, art and culture. That Joshua received standing ovations every time he performed on stage in front of this critical audience is a singular measure of his musical prowess. As Yo-Yo Ma notes,
“Occasionally I get to meet an extraordinary young musician. Such is the case with Joshua Roman. … To me, Joshua is one of the great exemplars of the ideal 21st-century musician. He’s deeply grounded in a classical tradition and he is a fearless explorer of our world.”
Chatting with Joshua during TED I was surprised to discover a person almost embarrassed by the praise showered on him, who complained in a whisper that too many people wanted to just touch his cello case (possibly because during TED he had on loan a cello worth several million dollars)! Joshua’s deliciously sardonic wit and his wide interests in reading were appealed to me as much as his musical talent. Given his family connections to Sri Lanka, I asked whether he would like to come and play over here. I was delighted when he responded enthusiastically.
If there’s one concert you attend this year, let this be it.
Recorded live at TED 2011, the following video features Joshua playing with the equally talented Robert Gupta on the violin.
It’s a master class in collaboration as violinist Robert Gupta and cellist Joshua Roman perform Halvorsen’s “Passacaglia” for violin and viola. Roman takes the viola part on his Stradivarius cello. It’s powerful to watch the two musicians connect moment to moment (and recover from a mid-performance hiccup). The two are both TED Fellows, and their deep connection powers this sparkling duet.
This video is from Joshua’s YouTube Channel.