What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
With rendition switcher


Question: How did you first get interested in classical music? 

Leon Botstein: Classical music was, as is always the case in middle-class European Jewish homes, a requirement. Everybody sort of played an instrument. My mother was an amateur pianist. And the interesting part was that she was a physician. A very distinguished physician and she lost her hearing through a very strange disease where she lost hearing on both sides. The disease that Jonathan Swift had called Meniere’s. And it destroys the inner ear, so you lose not only volume but pitch. And when I was a little boy, I have no real memory of my mother ever hearing, so she lost her hearing gradually in fits and starts. 

And the thing that was most tragic, it seemed to me as a child, was that she was no longer able to play. So I think that was a kind of psychological motivator for me to study music. So they were very encouraging and I started out on the piano then switched to the violin. 

Question: What was your musical training like? 

Leon Botstein: Well, we started out in sort of varies of ignorant context. That is to say my parents knowing nobody, through some recommendation through other immigrants we ended up with an immigrant piano teacher and then I ended up with a violin teacher, again through recommendations and finally I was lucky. When I was an adolescent, my grandparents live in Mexico City, and so I spent the summers there and there was an immigrate German Austrian violin teacher who actually set me straight and through him I was then recommended to my major teacher, Roman Totenberg, a very distinguished violinist who is alive today at 99. 

Fantastic violinist and fantastic teacher. So I studied with him for seven years. But then during my late adolescent I already thought I wanted to be either a composer or a conductor. So I tried my hand at composing and I didn’t write music that I found memorable myself. I was more interesting in other people’s music, so I then got interested in doing conducting. Then when I was in college, I began to study and do conducting. 

Recorded on May 10, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman

Leon Botstein’s Musical Edu...

Newsletter: Share: