Tag Archive | "Itzhak Perlman"

East End Thoughts: Musical Passion, Local and Free

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by Richard Gambino

There is so much good music performed here on the East End in summers. (How I wish it were also so during our winters.) Funny how the most abstract of all the arts, music, goes deepest in our souls. Pop music can nourish our need for fun, our romantic sense, our whistling-down-the-street joy in the happy, pretty experiences in living and loving, and in other highs and lows of everyday life.  At the more profound modes, music takes the soul also to heights and depths that express our profoundest spiritual essence, and brings us to new experiences of being human, each of us uniquely, as we relate to it.  At our souls’ peaks, music expresses and moves our human sprit, and sometimes grows our souls, and so makes our lives more meaningful in ways only it can.  Music’s power cannot be duplicated or grasped in language, or in any other art form.

I remember a scene from an old movie, Children Of A Lesser God (1986). In it, William Hurt plays a dedicated but unconventional teacher of deaf kids. In the scene I’ve found unforgettable, he comes upon a way of engaging those born deaf, some bewildered by life, some bitter, remote or angry toward life.  He places their hands on something that is vibrating to very loud music. I will never forget the look on the kids’ faces as their souls begin to dance with the vibrations. It is the look of those who have been born to a higher life. A life those of us with hearing can sometimes take for granted, neglect to nourish and make grow. As an example of what expresses and expands our best spirit, I say to people, only half kiddingly, about the greatest music of all, “Beethoven didn’t write Beethoven’s music. He merely held the pen while God wrote it.”

I’m very thankful for all the people who make music for us  — the Sag Harbor Band, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, Music for Montauk, and others. But I want to talk about one group in particular. (I have no relation to it except as a long-time audience member.) I’ve written about it before, two years ago. So, I’ve asked myself why again — why do I think about it so much.  It is a music school for youngsters. The Perlman Music Program on Shelter Island, whose concerts — running this year to September 4 — are free to the public, sometimes with Itzhak Perlman himself playing.  (For descriptions of concerts and other events, and dates, Google “The Perlman Music Program,” or call: 631/749-0740.)

True, the students at the PMP are exceptionally gifted, in fact talented beyond belief, chosen from around the world, by video auditions. True, the young musicians are a delight to hear. In fact, hearing them provides the kind of deeper musical experience I tried to describe in the first paragraph of this article. But why I write of them is more than all this. It has to do with the reason that in forty years of college teaching I tried each semester to teach students of all stages from freshmen (whom many professors want to avoid) to PhD students.  True, graduate students might ask challenging  questions. But the freshmen also challenge, with much more basic questions, which compel a going back to the root importances of matters.

Well, I did not teach music. For good reason. I have a passion for music, but not one bit of talent for making it. I can’t even sing on key. But if anyone asked me, why learn music, I would answer, to touch the soul, the human spirit. Your own and that of others. And great music takes the soul to heights beyond the heavens. The third movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony pierces our souls to their deepest cores, and the fourth rockets our souls with ever-accelerating power to spiritual ecstasy. Watch an audience as a performance of the Ninth Symphony ends. If the performance has been a good one, at first people seem overwhelmed, their eyes wide and lit up. Then, they begin to applaud, and in some seconds the applause rises to an increasing crescendo, the audience now on their feet. The expressions on people’s faces the opposite of everything that is dull, base and petty in us.

But people called musicians have to take us there.  Extraordinary musicians, who are far beyond just the ability to play an instrument well. They must have greatly talented souls and wed these souls to great music.  As is true of all marriages, it takes much time, love, personal growth and growth together to become one. So for years I’ve listened to the students at The Perlman Music Program in this spiritual odyssey of soul and talent. Their talent is astonishing, and their mastery of instruments amazing. They are in these senses advanced as can be.  But their souls are quite young.  (I love to hear them hoot and cheer each other after some have performed a piece, as they take turns playing and being in the audience. It’s only my square adult’s inhibitions that keep me from joining them, and not just applaud energetically, as do the rest of the people in the audience.) And these young talents are still forming as they work love’s labor to make their souls deeply kindred, as one, with the souls of the likes of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Just as one of the joys of my life was to see my students’ intellects, emotions and sometimes their spirits, develop, so it has been a great part of my joyful experience of being in the audience at the Perlman Program for many summers.

We are, of course, the products of biological evolution. But I’m partial to the idea that our individual and collective evolution continues, through culture. And the best of our culture, e.g., great music, gives each of us the means to evolve a great human spirit.  However, culture needs support — it is not, like biology, a force of itself. Running a music school with in-residence faculty and students is expensive. So, come to the free concerts and be awed, but I urge all also to contribute to the PMP, by sending a check to: The Perlman Music Program. Attention Maureen M. Nash. 19 West 69th Street.  Suite 304. New York, N.Y. 10023.



RICHARD GAMBINO thanks Toby Perlman, the faculty at The Perlman Music Program, and all the others who bring this gift to us every summer.


Perlman Program Turns Children into Musicians

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web_Perlman Benefit SI 7-25-08_5123

By Andrew Rudansky

A teenage girl walked out to center stage with a violin in her hand and took an awkward bow before placing her instrument up to her chin and began to play. The audience, classical music lovers numbering in the hundreds, sat in silent approval as she moved through the first movement and onto the second.

There were no beads of sweat, nor any sign of nervousness; just a passionate professionalism, seen in musical geniuses, as she swayed in time with the movement of her violin bow.

This young musician and others like her showcased their talents this past weekend, when The Perlman Music Program Summer Music School kicked off their summer concert series Works in Progress at their beachfront Shelter Island campus. The performers, all students between the ages of 12 and 18, played classical string arrangements on both days.

The Perlman Music Program was created in 1993 by Toby Perlman, with the help of her husband, famed violinist and composer Itzhak Perlman. They are entering their eleventh year at their current Shelter Island campus and the couple said the program and its summer music school provide exceptionally talented children with the opportunity to train with world class musicians.

“This is probably one of the most competitive music programs in the world to get into…We can have 100 violin applicants, and only two are issued spots,” said Toby in an interview last week.

When listening to the music played by these select few, you can forget they are children up there. They are not professional musicians but students at a summer school for musicians. That is something that the Perlmans know all to well.

“We try to create a nurturing environment that gives permission to each child to be their best and real self,” Toby said, “that sounds corny, but a lot of corny things sound corny because there is a lot of truth in them.” Both she and her husband stressed that, despite their musical abilities, students needed to treated like any other child and not subjected to the rigors of professional musicianship.

The concerts, which are all open to the public, provide an opportunity for the students to exhibit their musical skills in a relaxed environment, without the stress associated with a more formal concert.

“We call this ‘Works in Progress,’ which implies that not everything is going to be perfect. This is not a performance, this is just something for them to try out in front of people,” said Itzhak.

Despite this modesty, the performances are every bit as professional as one would expect coming from the Perlman Music Program.

During the Saturday, June 19, concert the six students performed classical arrangements by William Walton, Francis Poulenc, Sir Edward William Elgar, Cesar Franck and Hungarian composer Bela Bartok. Each was performed with such skill and passion that the audience was always brought to rapturous applause.

The performers all played with the authority, emotion and technique of musicians far advanced in age and study. During the performance, many members of the audience closed their eyes to more fully appreciate the quality of the music being performed.

All of the students of the Summer Music School who performed at the concert signed up to play. Itzhak said, “We see these kids and they are absolutely amazing… there is no pressure here at all, these students are playing because they wanted to.”

The concert also helps the students ease into the practice of performing live, “If you try things out in a room, you’re not going to get nervous,” said Itzhak, “but you try out something in front of three, four  hundred people and the adrenaline starts to go.”

“Preparation for a big stage is being familiar with getting nervous,” he added, expressing the need for the students to know their own nerves and how it feels to perform in front of a large audience. By the looks and sounds of the performances so far, the students have no problems with nerves.

“I think it’s a good idea to work with students on performing in front of a crowd,” said Toby.

Itzhak called the 35 students currently enrolled in the school “the future of classical music.”

It’s easy to forget that the performers on stage are just kids, some as young as 12 years old. “I know it sounds as if they are all professionals, but they are not. And little kids need a safe place to make a mistake,” said Toby.

How young the students are becomes apparent after the show, when the dignified virtuosos that once occupied the stage change back into happy, laughing teenagers. Running around and chatting like any other middle or high school student.

The transformation from child to musician and then back to child is odd to see at first; but it really speaks volumes about the Perlman Music Program, both in its musical education and, as it says in the summer music school’s mission statement, its dedication to “the development of the whole person.”

“They work very hard but there is a lot of positive reinforcement,” said Toby, “I know [the students] have only been together for a few days, but you can already sense the friendliness the warmness, how supportive they are to one another.” This group of students will spend an intensive six and a half weeks together, practicing their craft, but also socializing as a member of a new family.

Toby believes that this socialization and sense of family can help the young musicians not only grow their musical ability but there ability as humans as well.

“Once you are here you are a member of the family and they get support from everyone.”  

The next Works in Progress concert, featuring another six performances by the students will be held on Friday, June 25, 7:30 p.m., at The Perlman Music Program Campus located on 73 Shore Road, Shelter Island. A concert, featuring The Perlman Music Program faculty, will be held on the following day, June 26, 7 p.m. at the same location.

A special concert will be held at Sag Harbor’s Old Whalers Church on Friday, August 13.



Perlman Music Fest: No Strings Attached

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web The Perlman Music Program 2009

By Andrew Rudansky

15 years ago Itzhak and his wife Toby Perlman started the Perlman Music Program, they started small, with only a two-week session for a handful of young gifted musicians, who play string instruments in the now defunct Boys and Girls Harbor Summer Camp in East Hampton. Their goal, a simple one, outlined in there mission statement was to “welcome young musicians of rare and special talent into a richly supportive musical community.”

Toby Perlman, whom Maureen M. Nash, Director of Development at the Perlman Music Program calls, “the visionary and brains behind the program,”  would be the director, while Itzhak Perlman would lead the music side of the program.

15 years later the Perlman Music Program has become a world leader in music learning institutions in the world complete with a myriad of programs including chamber music workshops, mentorship programs and summer music workshops at their campus on Shelter Island.

 The campus, provided to the program through four generous sponsors, is located on a 28-acre lot next to Sunset Beach. On the Shelter Island campus students are given rigouros training  under the guidance of highly accomplished  mentors, including Itzhak Perlman himself.

 To mark their 15th Anniversary, the program will be hosting a weekend of concerts and events.

“We will be celebrating 15 years of accomplishment and achievement,” said Nash, and the program has much to congratulate themselves about. The program is one of the most selective music institutions in the country, alumni have performed in venues across the world and the program has been honored at events such as the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Tomorrow, August 14 the Perlman Music Program will come to Sag Harbor to perform at the Old Whalers Church, located on 44 Union Street, at 7 p.m. The students of he Perlman Music Program’s Chamber Music Workshop will perform with members of the faculty, including Itzhak Perlman. This is the third year that the program has returned to the Old Whalers Church. The Perlman Music Program’s decision to host their concert in the Old Whalers Church was not a hard one, “The acoustics are simply amazing there,” said Nash. Nash also credits Sag Harbor’s “rich history of supporting the arts,” as a determining factor in holding their concert here. Tickets for the Chamber Music concert at the Old Whalers Church can be purchased by visiting www.perlmanmusicprogram.org. The church seats around 320, and tickets go for $25 for general admission or $100 for VIP seating.

Following the chamber music concert the Perlman Music Program will hold its official 15th Anniversary Benefit Celebration on Saturday, August 15, at the home of Susan Dusenberry, in North Haven. The celebration, starting with cocktails at 6 p.m. will include a chamber music performance by Itzhak Perlman and returning alumni from the Perlman Music Program. After Maestro Itzhak Perlman will conduct the String Orchestra, comprised of over 80 members, as they debut “Air and Simple Gifts”, written by famed American composer John Williams.

Both concerts will be festive and casual, “It is a traditional concert but at the same time we know we are at the beach,” says Nash.