Susan Crawford’s advice to the aspiring lawyer-musician: ‘Whatever you do, don’t stop playing every day’

On Sept. 15, Harvard Law School will host HLS in the Arts, a Bicentennial celebration of the creative contributions of members of the HLS community.  John A. Reilly Clinical Professor of Law Susan Crawford will be among the artists showcasing their talents during an evening of performances. Her research explores the intersection of communications, technology, and the law, with a special focus on city governments. Crawford describes herself as a “technological humanist.” She recently completed a book manuscript, entitled Reaching for Light: Fiber Optic Networks and the Electrification of Connections, which she says is “about the economic growth and social justice deficits created by the appalling state of Internet access in America.” Crawford has played the violin and viola for decades.

What drew you to your instrument?

I don’t think I had any choice, really. Both my parents were musicians who performed a lot around Cambridge, actually, in the mid-1950s and early 1960s. I played the violin until I was a junior in college, then switched to the viola. I started but didn’t finish a master’s degree in viola.

What are some of your most memorable performances? 

As a violinist, I was proud of a Brandenburg [Concerto] No. 4 performance in the 1980s in Santa Barbara, on the stage of the old Lobero Theater there. As a senior in college, now a violist, I was pretty thrilled to perform Mozart’s Sinfonie Concertante with a professional violinist. Since then, it’s been mostly weddings and funerals. I want to lower your expectations, if you had any.

Susan Crawford playing

Credit: Provided by Susan Crawford Crawford (left) performing with a group in 2015.

What role does music play in your life as a law professor? Has your performance background informed your teaching in any way?

Oh, I’m not sure it does intersect, actually. All the time I spent playing has convinced me that I can figure things out if I take them apart and am patient. That’s probably the biggest contribution music has made to my teaching life.

Has your training as a lawyer influenced your music in any way?

Again, not sure there’s an intersection. It’s just another form of practice, like everything else we do in life.

Do you have favorite pieces, solo works, chamber music or passages from orchestral works?

Can’t really answer this one. I really love all kinds of music.

Susan Crawford playing

Credit: Provided by Susan Crawford

What piece will you be performing at the HLS in the Arts festival and why did you choose it?

I’ll be playing great American standards. These are ballads I used to play with my dad.

If you could meet or play with any musician, alive or dead, who would it be?

I’d love to have played with Rudolf Serkin [a classical pianist who was widely regarded as one of the greatest Beethoven interpreters of the twentieth century].

What’s on your playlist?

I range across a huge variety of Spotify playlists.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring lawyer-musician?

Whatever you do, don’t stop playing every day.