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Echo Park violinist and activist Vijay Gupta awarded $625,000 “genius grant”

Robert Vijay Gupta in his Echo Park home | Courtesy John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Echo Park  —  Vijay Gupta has wasted no time. By the time he was 20 he had graduated from college with a degree in biology, earned a masters degree in music and  began playing violin for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Today, Gupta, who is 31, was awarded a $625,000 grant in recognition of his work with the “Street Symphony” that has performed for the homeless on Skid Row as well as for inmates in jails.

The Echo Park resident was one of 25 fellows who received the no-strings attached award — dubbed “genius grants — from the MacArthur Foundation. The grants honor individuals for their innovation, creativity and contributions to society while encouraging them to continue their efforts.

Said the MacArthur Foundation of Gupta:

“Dedicated to bringing beauty, respite, and purpose to those all too often ignored by society, Gupta is demonstrating the capacity of music to validate our shared humanity and focusing needed attention on interrelated social issues that cluster at places such as Skid Row.”

Gupta co-founded the nonprofit Street Symphony, which holds monthly performances and offers musical education through workshops.

The symphony works with residents to create or perform their own pieces that are showcased during an annual performance of Handel’s Messiah on Skid Row.

Gupta told the L.A. Times said he was driving into to the parking structure at Disney Hall when he received a call about the grant.  “I think I shouted expletives at the committee for the first minute of the phone call “because I was in utter disbelief. It was the wildest, possible dream.”

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4 comments

  1. Hard to believe Vijay Gupta is already 31! Such a gifted musician and goodness-filled being deserves every good thing that comes his way! Happy to have read this in The Eastsider first! You folks rock 🙂

  2. In a day full of horribly depression national news, this sweet little story made my heart sing! Thank you, Vijay Gupta for making the world a better place and thank you EastsiderLA for finding these sweet spots in the City of Angels! http://streetsymphony.org/

    It’s up to each of us to do what we can to shine a light wherever we see a dark corner. Be a flashlight!

  3. Congratulations to this fine artist and for his generosity tonsgare with those around him. Thank you for sharing this story!

  4. I am always in awe of those who receive this grant. Congratulations to Vijay who has accomplished so much and given so much of himself at such a young age. My heart swells just thinking about him.

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