Vijay Gupta, who joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic as a violinist at the age of 19 and has since dedicated his life to bringing music to LA’s skid row and county jails, has been awarded a MacArthur genius grant. The 31-year-old co-founded Street Symphony, which performs at jails and shelters and hosts an event each year in which professional musicians and skid row residents share the stage, and will receive the $625,000 prize.
When Gupta became a part of the LA Philharmonic in 2007, Los Angeles Times writer Steve Lopez wrote a profile about Gupta that more importantly connected Gupta to Nathaniel Ayers. The subject of the Jamie Foxx movie The Soloist, Ayers studied at Julliard and has schizophrenia, eventually becoming homeless. Gupta became Ayers’ violin teacher, and Gupta’s outrage at the conditions in which Ayers and other homeless people were forced to live led to the founding of Street Symphony.
The MacArthur Foundation’s statement announced that Gupta brings “beauty, respite, and purpose to those all too often ignored by society.” The foundation also stated that Gupta’s work demonstrates “the capacity of music to validate our shared humanity.” The 24 other 2018 MacArthur recipients can be found here.
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