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She calls her life a ‘Cinderella story.’ Now this world class cellist will perform with the Boise Phil.

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Bri Elledge
Inbal Segev

Inbal Segev was five years old when she first picked up a cello. When she was still a teenager, she performed in her native country of Israel for music legend Isaac Stern. A short time later, Stern picked up the phone to help secure her music education at Yale University.

“I call it a Cinderella story,” she said.

But the you know Cinderella didn’t graduate from Yale, Julliard and go on to perform with the great orchestras of the world – this one did. And on Jan. 21, she’ll be a guest soloist with the Boise Philharmonic.

Segev visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about her Cinderella story, her wildly popular YouTube channel and her travel companion – a 17th century cello.

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Less daylight, drab weather. The holidays long gone. Winter. Yeah, it can get us down. Well, the Boise Phil is presenting what they call a “Season of Wonder.” And this coming weekend they are “bringing on the Brahms,” centered around Brahms celebrated Symphony No.4. The performance will showcase one of the planet's great cellists in Inbal Segev. The Washington Post has called her “thrilling.” She is renowned for bringing us fresh insight into music's great masterworks. We are honored this morning to spend some time with Inbal Segev. Good morning to you.

INBAL SEGEV: Good morning, George. Thanks very much for having me.

PRENTICE: Absolutely. I am always curious about a musician's very first inspiration. So, can you remember when you first heard the cello?

SEGEV: I remember vaguely. My mother reminds me that it was on the radio when I was about four or five, and I immediately was drawn to that sound, and I wanted to play that instrument.

PRENTICE: When did you pick up a cello then?

SEGEV: I was five.

PRENTICE: Oh, my goodness. For our listeners, we should note, you were born in Israel. Do I have that right?

SEGEV: Yes.

PRENTICE: And then at the age of 16…. And you've got to tell this story.

SEGEV: Yes. I was very, very lucky. I call it a Cinderella story. We were just - my mom and I – lower… I would call it lower middle class. I think looking back, it was a generous description. Certainly not according to US standards. And when I was 15, I played in a master class in Jerusalem to Isaac Stern, a very renowned violinist, and he immediately took me to the side after I played. And he asked, “Who would you like to study with in the world?” And I said, Aldo Parisot, who was teaching at Yale University at that time. And he picked up the phone…. I mean, it sounds so easy, right? I think a lot of stuff was made….I don't know, behind the curtain. My mother did some calling and my former teacher helped. And anyway, fast forward. The next year, I flew to America by myself at the age of 16 and started studying with my very generous teacher, Aldo. And the following year I went to Yale University.

PRENTICE: Yeah. Cinderella did not graduate from Yale or go to Juilliard or go on to perform in Berlin, London, Lyon, and so many other places. Do I have this right? Your cello is from the 17th century.

SEGEV: Yeah, it was built in 1673. So, it's going to have a big birthday.

PRENTICE: Can I ask, how does something so treasured travel? I meant it has to be so well protected.

SEGEV: Oh, I bring it on the plane. I do. Oh, absolutely.

PRENTICE: So you have an extra seat?

SEGEV: Always. Always. Years ago, I didn't have the money, so I would send nice cellos that I borrowed, in luggage. And one time one of them just came back with a crack, a huge crack. And I thought, “Oh, my God, my life is over. I'll have to pay for this for the rest of my life.” It ended up not being so costly, but it was definitely traumatic. And since then, I've never sent my cellos in baggage.

PRENTICE: I'd be remiss if I did not make reference to your YouTube channel and what you call “your musings.” Talk to me about that. You're very plainspoken and you're trying to inspire other musicians, young musicians, new musicians, people who have been doing this for a while. Talk to me about leaning into those, because they are really something to watch, especially as a layperson.

SEGEV: Yeah, thank you. I remember when I studied with Bernard Greenhouse, who was a student of Pablo Casals. He said to me that he was imparting the knowledge that was handed down to him by Casals. And we are links in a long chain. And I think that since I don't have the time to teach privately, this is my way to reach as many people as I can and just pass on the knowledge that was given to me. I was so, so lucky to work with some fantastic cellists and musicians throughout my life. So, it's a labor of love. It's giving back. I really enjoy making those videos, but they're a bit too labor intensive.

PRENTICE: So how much of your year do you spend away from home.

SEGEV: In the last few years? More and more. 50 concerts a year. I don't know, maybe 20 weeks away. This past fall has been really…I haven't been at home much. And luckily my kids are now grown… almost like they're teenagers, 16 and 18. So they need us a little less in some ways. But my husband is incredible. He's very hands on and he's there for them.

PRENTICE: Do you like traveling? I know it must be a thrill to travel and perform with great philharmonic orchestras around the world. But that's a lot of traveling.

SEGEV: Yeah, I really enjoy meeting the orchestra members because you sort of immediately have a common language wherever you go. And I also made a vow this year, not just being my hotel room and practice and stress, but rather try and enjoy the cities that I'm visiting. If I have a couple of hours, I try to do something fun. So yeah, I enjoy some aspects of traveling. Sometimes it can get to be too much.

PRENTICE: Well, there are a few things that will attract you when you visit Boise. One is our spectacular greenbelt, and we are framed by gorgeous foothills. So, even on a January day, I think you'll find some beauty here. So, we look forward to your visit, and we hope that we will give you that opportunity to explore the city. She is in Inbal Segev and she will be performing with the Boise Philharmonic this Saturday, a matinee and evening performance. But for now, thank you for giving us some time this morning.

SEGEV: Thank you so much, George. This is a pleasure to talk to you.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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