Friday, October 17, 2008

Renaissance Man

I saw this article last weekend, and particularly liked it:
For pianist, scientist and windsurfer Davide Verotta, the feeling of being at one with himself happens on San Francisco Bay as his board skips over the waves at 40 mph.

It is here, in this windy realm, in the shadow of the Golden Gate, that Verotta ceases to be a man split among three pursuits.

"Sometimes, when I'm on the water, it's a feeling of absolute harmony," said Verotta, 49, who has been windsurfing for almost three decades.

"When you're skipping over waves, that's a transcendent moment. It takes me outside of time, and I feel like I can go on forever."

But transcendence is fleeting, and all windsurfers must return to shore.

And it is ashore where Verotta plays out his other roles, as classical pianist-composer and as professor of biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.

...Verotta, who is pursuing a doctorate in music composition at the University of California, Davis, dwells simultaneously in the right- and left-brain worlds. When he's not attending to his duties as professor at UCSF, Verotta is likely found in his basement studio in San Francisco's Outer Richmond district, composing new works or practicing the piano sonatas of Beethoven and Mozart.

To see him bent over his Yamaha grand piano is to be tempted to think that music and windsurfing have nothing to do with each other.

But Verotta tells you otherwise.

"There are connections," he said. Verotta believes the two activities share issues of physical control, repetition and muscle memory.

"Windsurfing enhances my performance skills by developing my body awareness and my facility to stay in control in hair-raising situations."

Windsurfing has taught Verotta how to keep cool under stress, whether it be steering his board out of the path of an oil tanker or staying focused at the piano when performing a daunting Beethoven sonata.

The crossover of science and music is a trickier matter.

Verotta says he believes that science and art are almost mutually exclusive. For him, science has less to do with capturing the transcendent or building focus as it does with pursuing the truth.

"With music, you don't have any way of measuring the truth like you do with science," he said.

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