Letters of Reference

Swarthmore College
Department of Music and Dance
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

To whom it may concern:
Ken Zuckerman is a marvellous musician whose numerous performances at Swarthmore College over a dozen or so years have always been occasions of beauty, poetry, refinement, excitement, and profound pleasure. As a composer, a professor whose teaching areas include Asian music, and as an educated devotee of North Indian classical music, I can affirm that Mr. Zuckerman’s native musicality and poetic spirit are of the highest order, and would undoubtedly be manifest in any musical tradition, including European early music (one of his areas of expertise).

His mastery of the sarod, and of the raga tradition in which he has been immersed for so many years, is of a very high order of instrumental technique and profound musical understanding. This is all the more extraordinary given that he is a Westerner, not “born into” Indian traditions. But once one enters into the unfolding of one of Mr. Zuckerman’s performances of a raga, one forgets to notice his nationality and becomes absorbed entirely by the music and the thoughtful personality that is projected through it. It is ultimately not surprising that he is fully accepted by the most renowned Indian musicians as an equal, and performs regularly to great acclaim in India. He is a favored disciple of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and a frequent collaborator with such tabla masters as Zakir Hussain and Swapan Chaudhuri.

Mr. Zuckerman is also a gifted teacher. His visits to classes and public lecture-demonstrations have been models of effective and enjoyable communication. With his engaging and modest manner he is able to draw students into Indian musical philosophy and technique so that they experience in a visceral and immediate way the basic principles of raga and tala and begin to have a feeling for the deeper aesthetic and cultural resonances in the music. He is also an remarkable role model for our age of global cultural inter-relations, as an American whose love for a rich and ancient musical culture from across the world has transformed his life and enriched those of many others.

Gerald Levinson
Professor of Music
April 26, 1998


Department of Music
June 21, 1998

To whom it may concern:

Ken Zuckerman has asked me to write a brief note about his visits to Haverford College during recent academic years. I am glad to oblige him. Ken’s recitals here with tablists Zakir Hussain and with Swapan Chaudhuri were performed before large and very appreciative audiences. Listeners were impressed with his command of the sarod, with the respect this artistry earns him among tablists of the very highest rank, with the evident warmth that he brings to concert hall.

Some members of the College community, of course, come well prepared for his performances. But for others this is very new territory. I am thus especially grateful for Ken’s skills as a teacher. We often arrange for our musical visitors to lead workshops or lecture demonstrations for interested students in conjunction with their visits. Ken’s visits have consistently been extremely effective in this regard. He shows us the basic elements of the tradition, teaches us to clap and to sing the fundamental structures or tala and raga, and gives us a clear explanation of how they work in combination. Students are duly impressed by the seriousness of his commitment to this music, as well as by the joy and humor he brings to the classroom. In all, his visits have been both musically rewarding and ideal opportunities for learning about South Asian music and musical life.

Please do not hesitate to be in touch if there is anything I might provide on Ken’s behalf, or if you would like to speak in greater detail about the sorts of projects we have undertaken together.

With best wishes,

Richard Freedman
Chairman, Department of Music


Michigan Technological University
School of Forestry and Wood Products
Houghton, MI 49931

Dear Ken,

I was one of the fortunate audience members at Michigan Tech in Houghton, MI who thoroughly enjoyed your Sarod performance on March 12, 2000. You are certainly a highly accomplished artist and thanks for visiting our relatively small campus and town. I would like to share an interesting experience with you and I hope you will enjoy hearing about it.

In India, we have a concept of “NadBrahma” i.e. God in the form of music. When you were playing Hemant in a Jalad fashion (the Jhala) towards the end, I strongly felt that a divine sound of AUM was resonating from your Sarod. Due to my upbringing in a musical family from India, perhaps it was not most surprising that I was experiencing that “Nadbrahma” in your music. But my 10-year daughter who is in US since she was 10-months old and has not much contact with Indian music turned to me at that second and asked me “Dad, can you hear the sound of AUM?” I am sure it was not a coincidence that we both felt the same thing at the same moment. Many others in the audience must have felt something similar in your music.

You have achieved that “God in the form of music” through 24-plus years of practice and please continue to share this joy with as many people as you can. With best wishes,

Sincerely yours,

Dr. C.P. Joshi
Assistant Professor of Forest Biotechnology
Plant Biotechnology Research Center
School of Forestry and Wood Products,
Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI 49931

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