First Person

Violinist Zina Schiff embraces a very special conductor

The Brookline-based artist, who’s played with some of the biggest names in classical music, relishes being conducted by her own daughter, Avlana Eisenberg.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff

I began teaching Avlana violin when she was 3 years old, so it seems like we’ve always been working together. In fact, her debut as a soloist was when she was 7, when we played the Bach Double Violin Concerto with the Shreveport Symphony.

I thought she might become a violinist, but while at Yale she took a conducting class and then founded the school’s Silliman Symphony. She had traveled with me most of her life, watching my interactions with conductors, learning by osmosis. My senior year at UC Berkeley I was chosen as one of Glamour’s Top 10 College Women, and then Avlana was selected for the same award a generation later.

I really believe that whether it is family or friends, we need to share our passions with our children. My oldest sister, Eileen, gave me my first lessons. Here in Boston, exposure to music is easy, with great classical radio, concerts, and schools. I studied with [famous violinist Jascha] Heifetz for six years, mostly privately. My work with him involved so much more than music, even playing Ping-Pong. Mr. Heifetz never took a penny for my lessons and was like a father to me.


As a conductor, Avlana reminds me of Arthur Fiedler, with whom I soloed in San Francisco and Baltimore. I first played with him when I was a kid. That kind of respect for a soloist so young is quite rare. Like him, Avlana is very sensitive to her soloist and a true collaborator. She also shares Fiedler’s attention to exciting programming that uplifts audiences.

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At our [March 23] concert, we will perform Ravel’s Tzigane and Three Songs Without Words by Paul Ben-Haim, which we just premiered on our first CD together. Recorded in Budapest, it was a dream come true for me to see Avlana’s immediate command of the orchestra and hear the final results.  

— As told to Tina Sutton (Interview has been edited and condensed.)

TO ATTEND  On May 18 at 4 p.m., Schiff and Eisenberg will perform with the Boston Chamber Symphony at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain. Tickets are $10 at the door. 

Update: The Boston Chamber Symphony concert has been postponed until May 18.