At the time of this interview, violin prodigy Corey Cerovsek was 15 years old, and finishing up his B.Sc. in mathematics at Indiana University. The interview, taped in Kitchener, Ontario, was originally broadcast on CBC Radio.

LT: You've been approached by a documentary filmmaker who wants to do a movie about you. You've said you're surprised that anyone would want to do that. Why?
CC: I suppose it's because to me, my life is normal. It's hard for anybody to think their own life is unusual, and I can't imagine why anyone would want to make a film about me when there are a lot more important issues, like why so many supermarket products are loaded with sugar.
LT: Do you read your own reviews and the press about yourself?
CC: Well, I usually can't resist, even if I'd prefer not to. So, yes, I do. But I try not to pay too much attention to it. If it's good, then I don't pay any attention to it at all. If it's bad, then I try to find something useful in it, but I don't let it get me down. If someone tells me they don't like my little finger because it has a white dot on it, I'm not going to take it very personally. People have different opinions, and if somebody says something, I can't just stop and say, "This is the end of my life," or never play another note in public. That's just inappropriate.
LT: When did you know you wanted to be a violinist?
CC: I suppose when I got my first violin, I was already pretty enthusiastic about music. In fact, according to my mother and to our tape recorder, I was very enthusiastic about it. That was the Christmas before I started grade one. I know I was making good progress on the violin and I was having a good time. The best proof I have of that is that we had to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I said I wanted to grow up and play in the Orpheum, which to me at that point was what a career in music was all about. I drew a picture that I don't remember, but my mother says I got the hands reversed.
LT: And you went to study with Joseph Gingold in 1984?
CC: Yes.
LT: You've described Gingold as a musical link to the past. What do you mean by that?
CC: He has so many anecdotes, so now these dead people who used to be just names in a book or a recording and didn't seem like real people, now I feel as if I've met them. As a teacher, he's passing along all this knowledge which has come from his teachers, and they got it from their teachers. It's a nice comfy feeling. I feel that I'm part of a chain of people handing their knowledge on to the next generation.
LT: Of the musicians he's told you about, do you feel any special affinity for anyone in particular?
CC: Musically speaking, they're all pretty far away. I don't feel any affinity in the sense of being someone's successor. I wouldn't be that presumptuous. But there are certainly people who I admire more than others. Kreisler, for instance, and Ysaye. They seem really great.
LT: Have you heard recordings of all those old players?
CC: Most of them, yes. Gingold has all their old recordings that he lets me borrow, and I enjoy listening to them. They're wonderful to listen to.
LT: One thing I've noticed is that when those old guys played, even if it wasn't perfect, you could always tell who was playing. Each had a distinctive style. Nowadays, everyone's so perfect that they tend to sound the same and you can't tell who's playing.
CC: It's the same with orchestras. It used to be that you could hear the difference between orchestras and conductors. Nowadays, it all sounds the same. The style seems to be gone, even though the playing is technically very proficient.
LT: Do you feel you've developed your own style of playing?
CC: Not entirely. There are certain ideas I have, but at the moment, I'm still listening a lot, getting ideas from people, and filtering through things to decide what I like.
LT: Do you think of yourself as a romantic player?
CC: That's hard for me to say. A lot of the pieces I play are part of the romantic repertoire, but I have to say that if I play a baroque piece, Bach or Vivaldi, for instance, I almost can't help but play it somewhat romantically. A lot of people want violinists to play the baroque composers as if they just came out of theory class writing these nice progressions and sequences and counterpoints. According to them, there's no room for emotion. I don't agree. This business of "No, there shouldn't be any vibrato or expression," bugs me. In the end, why not just enjoy the music. It's so beautiful, why not play it that way. If I think it expresses something, I'm going to express it.
LT: How often are your lessons with Gingold?
CC: Usually once a week. Sometimes he goes away to teach or on tour, so I won't see him for a while. Other times, I have lessons several days in a row.
LT: What influence has your relationship with Gingold had on your playing?
CC: I would say that certain things have rubbed off on me. The romantic feeling, the way he plays Kreisler. My interpretation leans that way because I've learned to love it, or even more than learned to love it, now that I've discovered it, I've fallen in love with it. That's more accurate.
LT: What influence has he had on your life?
CC: Well, apart from music, he's just such a wonderful person. He's very generous. He's a role model for me. He's considerate and kind. I admire those qualities.
LT: Musically do you feel he's brought you out of yourself? Do you feel that with his romantic interpretations he's brought things out in your playing that were perhaps latent?
CC: I suppose they must have been somewhat latent, but I don't feel uncomfortable playing that way at all. That style is definitely there inside me.
LT: Even at the age of nine, you could play slow movements wonderfully. It was definitely there.
CC: I used to feel a bit defensive about that, because sometimes people say that you're young, so you can't play with maturity. That always bugged me. I don't think it has much to do with age at all.
LT: At the end of What's the Way to Carnegie Hall, you said that the reason you hated the idea of being a prodigy is that it implies that you're good for your age, whereas you just wanted to be thought of as a good musician. Do you remember saying that?
CC: I don't remember saying it, but it's what I think.
LT: Talk a bit about your practice routine.
CC: When I'm at home, it's different than when I'm travelling. At home, I try to do about three hours a day. I don't over-practice. I think it's more important that I practice well than that I practice a lot. I usually practice for an hour before breakfast, right after I wake up. I like to start with scales. I experiment continuously. I don't like to get into a set pattern of doing my scales in perfect fifths, in cycles of fifths, then the minors, whatever. Sometimes I'll get the idea that I want to practice thirds, so I'll do that for a few days. In the morning, for no reason that I can think of, I usually concentrate on the technical, which of course ends quickly, because I'll be playing something with a technical passage and I'll forget to stop and get right into playing repertoire. Then the rest of the day, I just practice whenever I get the chance.
LT: What has been difficult for you to learn on the violin in terms of technique?
CC: I'd say it has to be bow staccato. My bow was always my main problem. One of my early teachers had me playing on a half-size violin and a full-size bow, which ended up causing me a lot of problems. My bow arm was a mess. My left hand was always all right, but I've really had to work on my right hand. It's getting better. I wouldn't say I have the greatest technique on earth, but I have enough to serve me well enough. I try to keep on improving.
LT: Are there violinists you've been compared to?
CC: Well, I was recently in a Milstein class and people thought I was studying with Heifetz. I think that's mostly because I don't move around a lot when I play. It's better showmanship, I suppose, but I can't bring myself to shake my hair around when I play, just to look good.
LT: No, but there's a remarkable intensity in you, even though you don't move around a lot. It's especially noticeable watching you from the back.
CC: I've never done that.
LT: No, I don't suppose you have. You don't get it by moving and waving around, but it's a very concentrated look. You don't look passive.
CC: I certainly don't feel passive.
LT: How long does it take you to prepare a concerto for performance?
CC: It varies. If you call a master class a performance, the fastest I ever did it was three days to learn the Glazunov. I don't remember if I didn't have anything else to do that week, or if I decided to attack it with more than my usual ferocity. It's hard to say which concerto took me the longest to learn. Sometimes I learn a concerto, then put it into a deep freeze for a while and bring it out much later for performance.
LT: What happens when you bring it out of the deep freeze?
CC: Depends. Sometimes very little changes. I'm happy with how I learned it. Other times, it's more complicated. It's hard to say, because I've never had great difficulty learning things. I get annoyed if a passage is giving me problems, but I've never had a problem I couldn't solve pretty easily. I'm lucky that things come quite easily to me. Usually, once I've got something into my memory, it stays there. I hope that never changes.
LT: Does your performance of a concerto or sonata change as you perform it at different times of your life?
CC: Yes, definitely. It has to, because I'm changing as a person. So my interpretation has to change.
LT: Do you listen to recordings of yourself?
CC: Not often. Listening to yourself is like reading your own reviews. I'd rather listen to others.
LT: Who do you listen to?
CC: Lots of people, really, and not just the most famous ones. I don't copy them, but if I hear something I like, it sticks with me.
LT: What do you listen to, other than violin?
CC: Mostly piano, because I also play the piano.
LT: What are your favorite concertos to play?
CC: Usually it's whatever concerto I'm playing.
LT: How do you feel about conductors?
CC: Some of them are okay.
LT: They can be influential, right? You've had at least one conductor who's very supportive of your career.
CC: Yes, but I just think of them as musicians, not as influential people who can help me.
LT: Have you ever worked with a conductor who really got in the way of your performance?
CC: Nobody terribly offensive. But there are certainly conductors who are more obstinate than others. As I've gotten older, I've learned to be a little more assertive about getting what I want, especially insofar as tempo. But I try not to be stubborn.
LT: What's the toughest part of touring and performing for you?
CC: Well, I'll go by elimination. It's not the actual playing. That's the best part. And it's not nervousness, although I do get excited. It used to be whether or not to eat before a performance, but now I don't worry about that. At the moment, I guess the biggest challenge is to just keep on working. A lot of time can slip through the cracks when you travel a lot. I have university exams when I get back home, and there's always practicing to do. It takes a lot of willpower.
LT: Are you conscious of time going by, even though you're still so young?
CC: Yes, very.
LT: Does it bother you?
CC: It doesn't bother me, but I know it's there. It's not something you can avoid.
LT: Are you looking forward to getting older?
CC: I don't know. I'm trying to enjoy each age for what it offers. Right now, I'm enjoying being young. I don't want to rush getting older, because once you're old, that's it. You're old.
LT: Do you expect your approach to being a concert violinist will change as you get older? Or your impact?
CC: Well, as far as my impact, there won't be any more mothers telling their kids this is what they should be doing instead of watching television. I'm looking forward to that. As far as my approach to music, that's more serious. One thing about being young and doing this is that a lot of people don't really listen to what you're playing, they just think you're young and cute. Now that I'm getting older, I feel it's important that I always play well. At some point, you have to change from being a prodigy to being a proper musician. That's when the playing itself starts to matter and I want to be ready for that.
LT: What are your concert plans for the next few years?
CC: My schedule always ends up more booked than I planned. For the moment, I want to focus on learning as much as possible from Gingold, finishing my university degree, and not rush into playing too many concerts.
LT: What about competitions?
CC: I'd like to avoid them, if possible.
LT: Why?
CC: There's a lot about competitions that I don't like. They're more about politics than about music. And competitions are sort of like playing Russian roulette. They're like a last chance. If you can't make a career, try entering a competition. Strange things happen in competitions. Maybe your string breaks, or the judges don't like you. There are a lot of unknowns, and they can affect you. Some people can launch a career from a competition, others have their reputation ruined.
LT: Are you planning to do any recordings?
CC: I'm not in a big rush for that. At this point, I'm changing musically all the time. Once I make a recording, I'm stuck with it. I don't feel ready yet to record something that says This Is Corey, This Is How He Plays. I'm still very turbulent, kind of like jello setting in the fridge. I have a lot of ideas and I'm not ready to set down my own interpretations yet. Maybe in a few years I'll have more definite ideas and be willing to commit them as a permanent record.
LT: You're also an exceptionally talented mathematician. You're finishing up your Bachelor of Science this year. What next?
CC: I want to go for my Masters, because I really enjoy studying. I know a lot of kids my age will think that sounds weird, but I love the entire college atmosphere. It's a wonderful period of life, even though I'm a lot younger than most kids in my class. I think I'm also afraid that if I finish my education, that makes me an adult, and I'm not ready for that yet.
LT: What will you study for your Masters?
CC: I'd like to do both music and mathematics. There is so much narrow mindedness in the world, and one of the biggest splits is between science and humanities. There's also a big split in what people are expected to know. If a mathematician doesn't know anything about Shakespeare, he's considered ignorant. But if you ask someone if they know the second law of thermodynamics, they think it's a weird question. Who needs to know that? But as far as the sciences are concerned, that's the equivalent of Shakespeare. I see science and the humanities as being very connected, and I'd like to keep a hand in both. On a more detailed level, there are still a lot of things I'd like to know.
LT: What's it like studying at Indiana University at an age when most kids are still in high school?
CC: I think I'm very lucky. I get along with the other students really well. I do everything they do, except for the late-night parties. But that means I'm doing my work without all the interruptions college students usually have. And it's intellectually extremely satisfying.
LT: In your opinion, do you work hard?
CC: I suppose so. I have fun when I'm working, or at least I try to find fun in it. So it often doesn't feel like work.
LT: What about the long-term future? Will you stay with music?
CC: Probably, although I don't know what aspect of music. At the moment, playing the violin seems to be what I do best. But I don't want to say I'll be a violinist for the rest of my life and that's it. If I get the chance, I'd like to try conducting and composing.
LT: Do you plan to keep up the pace of concerts and touring?
CC: Not forever. I can understand why people get tired of it. But right now, I enjoy it so much that I'm not going to worry about it. Not yet anyway.