We are excited to present an exclusive music greetings and an interview with Jakub Hlávka, who is a Research Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management at the University of Southern California. Since the age of five, he has played the violin and also serves as a concertmaster in the Santa Monica Symphony and also as a member of the artistic board of the Vicente Chamber Orchestra.
Jakub Hlávka is a Research Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management at the University of Southern California, the oldest private university in California. He works in the intersection of the economics of aging, biotechnology innovation, and public-private partnerships across different sectors. His research is currently supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Since the age of five, he has played the violin - first as a student in his native Silesia, then as a member of orchestras in Opava, Prague, Washington DC and now in Los Angeles. He serves as a concertmaster in the Santa Monica Symphony and also as a member of the artistic board of the Vicente Chamber Orchestra.
He also performs with his own quartet Westside String Quartet and in collaboration with the pianist Christine d’Arc Taylor. Although neither has pursued music professionally, they both enjoy performing regularly at recitals for friends and the local community.
I first came to the United States for a master's degree at Georgetown University, followed by a doctorate in California. During my studies, I always looked for opportunities to continue to make music which I had studied since I was a child - at the age of three, I told my parents that I would like to play the violin. It took me two years to convince them, but from the age of five, I started attending a music school - I learned to read music before I could read the alphabet. In the Czech Republic, for example, I played with the Opavian Student Orchestra under the direction of Naďa Hanousková and with the Prague Youth Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Ladislav Cigler. While still in Prague, I won an award that gave me the opportunity to perform with the Prague Philharmonia as a soloist - I played Dvořák's Mazurek. In Los Angeles, I work with several ensembles and enjoy performing with the pianist Christine d'Arc Taylor who had a very successful career at the RAND Corporation where I myself worked on my doctorate. In addition to in-home recitals, we also perform for the local community, for example in nursing homes. Music is truly a hobby for me so I have especially appreciated the opportunities to perform with soloists like cellist Robert deMaine and violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, and also to perform at the renowned Walt Disney Concert Hall. I try to play as much as possible - my fingers let me know when I take a break even for just a few days.
This year, of course, has been very different and I will not be able to visit my family in the Czech Republic. That's why I wanted to record a few carols that would remind me of Czech Christmas, and to share them with family and friends on the other side of the world. I am very grateful that we were able to make the recording at the St. Monica Catholic Community with pianist Christine d’Arc Taylor, with whom I have been performing for six years. Christine is one of the kindest people I know and I am truly grateful for her time and support! Audio and video edits were in the hands of Sam Homsieh, Martin Jaakola, Kurt Vanzo, Jeffrey Bonilla and Em Solarova, to whom I am also very thankful.
It's been a truly challenging year for musicians - unlike the Czech Republic, concerts haven't returned to California even for a while, so the whole year has essentially been written off. Nevertheless, many have tried to be creative - after all, my own chamber orchestra has prepared a series of digital concerts, I myself recently recorded a piece for a short digital recital, and my quartet now plays outdoors for neighbors. Unfortunately, all of this cannot be a full-fledged replacement of regular performances.
In addition to growing in admiration of those who keep our society afloat during the pandemic - nurses, doctors, shop assistants, and others - I myself have gained new experiences through several charity initiatives and have had the opportunity to meet people living on the fringes of society in the US and abroad. It has reminded me that I have so much to be grateful for, and that even a little help, say a meal or a visit to a lonely person, can make a huge difference.
This year has been fascinating professionally – for example, I have started working on two projects for the US government that analyze the impact of the pandemic and various pandemic interventions on our society. I wish that our leaders would listen to experts more - we see that US states and many countries that have done so are relatively better off. I also switched to work from home – this has demonstrated how much more flexible the job market may become in the coming years: companies will be able to employ the best talent even from different regions, and I think that the emphasis on quality of life, culture and a healthy lifestyle will grow.
I wish our readers and listeners an abundance of joy and health in the year ahead. It will undoubtedly bring many positive changes and I hope we will not forget to cherish the good news!