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Dorothy Khadem-Missagh: Playing Classical Music for the Soul

Shadi Toloui-Wallace | Jul 12, 2019

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The entire world knows Vienna, Austria as the world’s classical music capital, home to some of the most famous composers of all time. Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, and Haydn, to name a few, all have roots in Vienna, as does the artist in this Cloud9 episode, Dorothy Khadem-Missagh. 

An internationally renowned classical pianist, Dorothy has received numerous awards, fellowships, and scholarships throughout her life. A fourth generation musician, Dorothy received her first piano lesson at the young age of three, and by the age of six she began attending the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. Today her piano virtuosity  graces the stages of prestigious festivals and concert halls across Europe, Asia and North America. 

Born into a musical family, Dorothy’s father Bijan Khadem-Missagh is a violinist and conductor, while her siblings Vahid and Martha are also professional violinists. Although surrounded by classical music her entire life, Dorothy shares how the beautiful singing voice of her mother first enkindled her love of music—and how the Baha’i teachings encouraged her parents to teach her that love:

It is incumbent upon each child to know something of music, for without knowledge of this art the melodies of instrument and voice cannot be rightly enjoyed. Likewise, it is necessary that the schools teach it in order that the souls and hearts of the pupils may become vivified and exhilarated and their lives be brightened with enjoyment. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 52.

Dorothy reflects on those spiritual teachings and the exposure to music which she received in her childhood with great fondness and gratitude. In the interview, she speaks about the importance of musical education, and how an early introduction to music exposed her to many skills and attributes beyond musical ability, which were necessary to her development as a person. Patience, discipline, endurance and most importantly, striving towards excellence, have assisted her in her career as a professional pianist, and as a Baha’i whose purpose involves working towards an ever advancing civilization: 

All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 215

Dorothy reflects on her upbringing and career as a musician, and attributes much of her success to her work ethic and pursuit for excellence. Viewing music as a means to serve humanity, Dorothy explains how these words of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, encourage her to constantly learn while striving to be a better version of herself every day: 

… Let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday. Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches ….  Guard against idleness and sloth, and cling unto that which profiteth mankind, whether young or old, whether high or low. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138.

As a classical musician and professional pianist, Dorothy reflects on the role that spirituality plays in her life, as well as the role it played in the lives of classical composers from centuries ago. Informed by their own deeply rooted spiritual beliefs, composers like Haydn and Beethoven were very conscious of the spirit that flowed through their music, and through them as they played. Dorothy sees it as her duty and responsibility to communicate these emotions through her storytelling as a performer, and to emulate the intentions of the composers through her live performances. 

Dorothy shares a beautiful analogy that draws parallels between classical music and her own beliefs as a Baha’i, offering further elaboration on Baha’u’llah’s message of unity: 

It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 167. 

Dorothy recognizes her main purpose as a musician: to touch the hearts of her audience. Her aim is to unite herself with the composition and the will of the composer, and to act as a bridge between her audience and the intentions of the music. Bringing the notes to life through the inspiration of her faith, and the faith of the composers, she reflects on how the following words of Baha’u’llah have influenced her live performances and collaborations:

We, verily, have made music as a ladder for your souls, a means whereby they may be lifted up unto the realm on high … – Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, p. 38.

In her interview with Cloud9, Dorothy shares examples of how her work as a classical artist shares goals with the work of community development in neighborhoods. Requiring universal participation, the encouraging development of each others’ talents and capacities, and accompaniment, we discuss the importance of establishing unity and how each person plays a vital role in contributing to the progress of humanity. 

We close by learning about what’s next for Dorothy, which includes an exciting festival that will take place in various historic venues across Vienna in 2020, commemorating the 250th year of Beethoven’s birth and celebrating his influential life through various artistic performances. 

To learn more about Dorothy Khadem-Missagh, and her upcoming performances please visit:

You can also learn more about her by following her on Facebook and Instagram

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