Who: Edward W. Hardy
Stopped: Outside the Cort Theatre on West 48th Street
What instrument are you carrying with you today?
EH: It’s a new violin. It’s very expensive—maybe worth around $20,000—and I’m lucky to be borrowing it for an upcoming show, then I have to return it after. I’m a composer and musician, and the violin luthier and I are really close so he lets me try out his instruments all the time.
What kind of things do you notice when you’re playing a special violin like this one?
EH: Balance. Dynamics. All violins are different and there are some that connect with me, that feel like an extension of my body, and there are some that don’t—they feel more like I’m playing a box. It makes a huge difference.
What kind of music do you like to compose?
EW: The last show I worked on was The Woodsman (New World Stages), which I wrote the music for. I was also the music director and violinist during performances.
Music is so important in that show, as there is almost no dialogue. You must have relished that opportunity?
EH: To be able to tell a story through one instrument and to convey all these emotions, and love scenes, suspense, and drama—it’s really fun. I take pleasure in writing music that is parallel to what the play is telling you; almost so that if you close your eyes, you can still tell what is happening. That’s what I love to do.
Do you only compose music for the violin?
EH: Mainly, yes. Sometimes I write for other instruments and singers, and eventually I will start writing my own musicals—which will have a violin primary but will also be for an orchestra and singers onstage. [The music I compose is] drawn from my own background in classical music, and my Latino and Black heritage. I’m influenced by Afro-Cuban jazz, blues, and Latin music.
How long has classical music been a part of your life?
EH: Since I was seven years old. I don’t remember not playing violin. When I was younger, public schools in New York City didn’t have much of a budget for music education; the violin was the only instrument available to me so I gravitated towards that.
The classic arts tend to be domain of the more privileged. Having gone to a public school, did you feel like you had to work harder to maintain this hobby and passion?
EH: People who are more privileged might have a history of violinists in their heritage. I’m the only musician in my family, which makes it a little difficult with questions like: “What College should I go to?” or “Where should I be playing?” It is difficult, and there are a lot people telling you not to [pursue it] because it’s so hard. Sometimes it can feel discouraging, but I’m someone who’s very driven all the time, especially in the face of negativity. It’s rare, in theatre, to see someone who looks like me and writes music, so that also drives me.
What are some moments in your career that you are particularly proud of?
EH:: The Woodsman. Also, the next piece I’m working on: it’s a play-within-a-play about Edgar Allan Poe called 4 Days With Edgar Allan Poe by Edward Medina. He asked me to be his partner-in-crime after seeing my work in The Woodsman. I’m so happy and excited!
What else are you working on at the moment?
EH: I have a few works that I’m composing music for. One is called The Pearl Diver by E. Thomalen; it’s a musical tale about a young Japanese pearl diver and a fearful sea dragon. I wrote Japanese music for it and I am the music director and violinist in the play.