Brahms and Healing

Justine Lamb-Budge and Kimberly Fisher

Justine Lamb-Budge and Kimberly Fisher


For young musicians, being accepted to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia is like winning a golden ticket; it’s a world-renowned school of music, and all study tuition-free. Two years ago I was thrilled to learn that one of my daughter Alysa’s nicest friends, Justine Lamb-Budge, had been accepted there at the ripe old age of seventeen.

When she was just fifteen, Justine gave a recital that would have felled many a professional performer -– I believe on that single program I heard her perform two full-length sonatas, some virtuoso showpieces, as well as a Mozart Concerto and a romantic one, all of which she played flawlessly from memory. Her teacher, Kimberly Fisher, had been working with her for countless hours a week in a manner reminiscent of the great teachers of the 19th century, who live and breathe their art every minute of the day.

Justine and Kim were rewarded for their hard work when Justine was accepted to the Curtis Institute, a major coup for any student and teacher. That same week, Justine’s older sister, just eighteen, tragically died.

After Zoe’s memorial service, I lost touch with Justine and her family. They had to move several times, and I wasn’t able to reach them. I heard through the grapevine that Justine was doing well, though, and was glad to receive a note sent out a few weeks ago by her mother Deborah, inviting friends to hear Justine perform the Brahms Violin Concerto on a student recital two weeks ago.

The Curtis Institute appears low-tech –- it is housed in a dark old Victorian mansion near Rittenhouse Square, and the concert space is quaint and charming. But there is nothing quaint about what pours from the stage. That night four student violinists were featured on the program; I heard a remarkable Bach Sonata played by Yiying Julia Li, the unusual Ysaye E Major Sonata played by Ji-Won Song, and a lovely Ravel Sonata performed by Maia Cabeza.

The entire second half of the program was carried by Justine. It was a joy for me to hear her in this historic space, surrounded by friends and loved ones and fans. She brought to her maiden performance of Brahms’ only Violin Concerto the sweetness and richness of tone she has always had, as well as the strength of will that it takes not only to play this piece but to persevere, despite the most daunting of circumstances.

I hope this will be but one triumph in a long and meaningful career.

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