May 31, 2007
Balancing music and yoga
With his arms outstretched above his head, his left fist clenched and his right hand delicately pinching the baton, Brad Keimach conducts Brahms Symphony No. 1 with the fervent grandeur expected of a symphonic masterpiece. |
Watching Keimach, 53, one might wonder whether it is the genius of the composer or the magic of the conductor that transforms a concert into an apotheosis.
So what is a Julliard-educated conductor doing teaching yoga in Venice Beach?
"I thought I was going to be a rabbi," Keimach said. "The rabbi at our synagogue let me lead Saturday morning services because I could sight sing the haftarah."
But studying Holocaust atrocities diminished his faith, and fate had different plans for this chorale conductor yogi.
Keimach's plans for a conducting career staggered with his move from New York to Los Angeles a decade ago, but in this digression, he found a vinyasa flow that allowed him to combine his passion for music with his penchant for healing. In a coloratura of musical and emotional possibility, he will conduct the Glendale Youth Orchestra on June 5 at the Alex Theatre.
After graduating Julliard, Keimach completed graduate school and an elite seminar series at Tanglewood, summer home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
There, he met his mentor, Leonard Bernstein, whose teaching methods inspired the burgeoning educator.
"He was the window through which [I was] able to see the interconnectedness of life," Keimach said.
Upon arrival in Los Angeles, providence intervened.
"Yoga happened most unexpectedly, and it organically grew into something that I do seven days a week," Keimach said.
When a conducting student invited him to a yoga class, Keimach accepted. "I thought I was in good shape, but this was the most difficult thing I had ever done in my life."
The physical challenges of yoga were an easy embrace, but what captivated Keimach was an aspect he describes as "a way of thinking, of choosing peace, calm and balance."
He is reluctant to suggest his professions influence one another, but he does point out that the different but complimentary mediums cohere with the yoga philosophy of balance.
"In an orchestra, everyone has to be unified in their effort, but in yoga, each practice is interpreted through the prism of an individual's life," Keimach explains. "Conducting requires 100 million megavolts of energy and is about outward expression, whereas the breath-based yoga I teach is internal."
Both music and yoga emphasize a "heart connection between participants." Indeed, Keimach's history reflects his proclivity for connecting with people. "No matter the age of my students, I think, 'These are my children, and I have to take care of them.'"
Keimach believes yoga can illuminate "the essence of who one is -- egoless, simple, peaceful," and based on his experiences, feels it is "helpful in dealing with the challenges of life."
In a gentle voice, Keimach concludes his classes with a resonant statement, "May our practice help us become kinder, more peaceful and more loving, in our thoughts, our words and our actions."
Brad Keimach conducts the Glendale Youth Orchestra on June 5, 7:30 p.m. at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. For more information, visit http://www.alextheatre.org/gyo.html or http://www.glendale-online.com/gyo/