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Arts & Entertainment

Overcoming Barriers

Itzhak Perlman

Lesson time 5:52 min

Anyone can become a great violinist with practice, dedication, and talent. Mr. Perlman shares his personal story and reminds you to separate your abilities from any barriers you may face.

Itzhak Perlman
Teaches Violin
In his first-ever online class, virtuoso violin player Itzhak Perlman breaks down his techniques for improved practice and powerful performances.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - The question of barriers for people with disabilities has followed me all my life, and it's followed a lot of people all their lives. You know, there is sometimes a lack-- not sometimes, almost all the time-- a kind of basic lack of understanding of what it means to have a barrier in society, whether it's a social barrier or an architectural barrier. Barriers are barriers. And when I first started to play the violin, you know, my great challenge was proving that I could play the violin and for people not to associate my disability-- which was polio, you know, at the age of four-- not to talk about that and connect it together. You know, there is the violinist who sits down and plays. You know, I mean, my goal was to just say there is the violinist. [VIOLIN PLAYS] But the deal about this is to separate the abilities from the disabilities and not to bunch everything together. And so as I was getting older, and my progress on the violin became not just, a-ha, very, very nice, very sweet, you know. He's sitting on a chair, but he kind of plays OK. I became very serious about wanting to have a career. And so the minute that became a serious sort of thing, people started to then take my disability more seriously and to say, oh, well, we're not sure that he'll be able to suffer the rigorous travel schedules, et cetera, et cetera. And I had to constantly prove that one did not have anything to do with the other. That, you know, that people have to just shut their brains from one thing and just concentrate on another thing. And the thing is, am I OK as far as music is concerned. How am I doing? Am I moving you? Am I, am I giving you a good feeling about music, about the way I play, and so on and so forth? So that, in the beginning, when I first started to play, has been quite a challenge. And you could see it in the reviews that I would get. The reviews always said things like, you know, you know, he walked on stage with crutches, you know, and very slowly sat down. And then once he sat down, you know, that all disappeared, and all we heard was the music and so on, and that was always mentioned. And I even remember that there was one review. A critic said that he was not sure-- I was playing in New York-- and the critic said that he was not sure that the standing ovation that I got after my concert had anything to do with the way I played or the fact that I played sitting down. And that was actually, you know, at that time, quite hurtful. But, you know, I went through that, and after a while people got used to me. And, you know, so when I went onstage with my crutches, they knew that I was doing this. Now, today, I sit on a scooter. I go on stage on a scooter. Fine, that's me. You know, I'm, I'm on the scooter. As a matter of fact, I think people are a little bit happier with me on the scooter. They're not worried about every time I take a step, I might fall down. So they see the scooter, say, oh, that...

Play with passion

The world’s reigning virtuoso violin player, Itzhak Perlman performs for presidents, royals, and classical music lovers around the world. Now the beloved Juilliard instructor and 15-time Grammy Award winner brings his passion for teaching to a wide audience for the first time. Learn fundamental techniques, practice strategies, and how to add richness and depth to your sound. Give your most dynamic performance yet.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This is a must for any violin student wanting inspiration

This is absolutely my favourite master class. Thank you so much for enlightening us so generously with your knowledge and wisdom Mr. Perlman! I loved how well organised and engaging the class was. The three takeaways that you made at the end were very useful. Thank you very much.

Itzhak Perlman is an incredible teacher and he covered the violin from many different angles, from intonation, to different playing styles, and even purchasing a fine instrument. It was lovely going through this masterclass and I have learned a lot not just about playing violin, but the complexity and passion of music.

Absolutely incredible. As a student violinist looking at playing the violin as a hobby and not a career, I still learned so much and it felt like I was truly listening to him in person. I admire you so much, and it's wonderful to see all the hard work and the behind-the-scenes of every performance you put on. Thank you for helping a high school girl out with some of her struggles with practicing!


Alexander S.

Barriers can become blessings if they fuel your burning desire to excel and succeed in overcoming them.


I've loved this Masterclass because I've learnt a lot about playing the viola - but that was a given. This lesson is awesome, thanks for saying what you said so well and in such an inspirational way.

Kit W.

Well said! I totally agree with what you said. Music is about humanity as well. I could not imagine that a great musician without humanity and a great listener without humanity. Bravo!