Perlman's Proteges: The Perlman Music Program
Zaustinsky, Julia, Welp, Steven, Strings
Itzhak and Toby Perlman have created a unique summer program for young string players
Although soloist Itzhak Perlman is known to millions of listeners and viewers around the world as a virtuoso violinist, a conductor, and an eloquent spokesman for cultural and humane causes, few are aware of the scope of his work as a teacher and mentor for a new generation of young musicians.
Perlman, who has given master classes for nearly three decades, joined the faculty of the Juilliard School in 1999. But despite the growing demands on his time-including his recent appointment as principal guest conductor of the Detroit Symphony-Perlman also finds time to coach and mentor 35 young musicians, ages 11-18, enrolled in the Perlman Music Program.
Cofounded in 1994 by Toby Perlman, a former violinist, and Suki Sandler, a friend, the program offers a unique musical opportunity to young string players and pianists with exceptional talent. I recently met with the Perlmans to discuss the program. "It is the realization of a dream-a dream that came from my own life experience, and my experience as a parent with children who are serious musicians," Toby revealed. "It wasn't that there weren't good programs-there are some very fine programs-but I wanted to do something different." The Perlman program is unusual in that it emphasizes solo playing and is intimate, with a very high faculty-to-student ratio. But it is the luminous presence of Itzhak Perlman that makes this program unique.
Another interesting aspect of the current program is its continuity. It has grown from a summer program to one that goes on throughout the year. As Itzhak Perlman explained, "What we are really doing is giving the kids a chance to perform and have new and varied experiences. It is so important at this early age not to perform in pressure-filled `professional' venues, but just to perform, which is pressure enough."
The Perlman program sponsors events at least once a month with participating students in the New York metropolitan area, and occasionally with some from out of town and abroad. Not only do these events take place all year, but students are in constant communication with each other and with their coaches from the summer. This spring, program participants provided an evening of music for the Goddard-Riverside Association. For this occasion, Itzhak coached a Beethoven trio and the Schumann Piano Quintet. Other recent events will take place at the Sutton Place Synagogue and in public schools. "We don't receive any money and they don't charge anything," Toby explained. "It's a protected environment in which our kids can play, but it's also a real performance situation."
Participants in the program also travel. In October, a group of students went to Ottawa to perform. In December, the Perlmans took 20 students, faculty, and fellows to Israel, where they combined with 20 students and five faculty members from the Tel Aviv Conservatory for two weeks of concentrated study that included workshops, master classes, and concerts, as well as tours of historic sites and social events. Many new friendships were formed, and the e-mail continues to fly. A trip to the Republic of Korea and Japan is now being explored.
But the program's most intensive work still takes place during the summer. From July 1 through August 13, Perlman will be joined by a faculty that will include Robert Abramson (eurythmics), Andre Emelianoff (cello), Patinka Kopec (violin/ viola), Miyoko Lotto (piano), Stefan Milenkovich (violin), Patrick Romano (chorus), Barbara Stein-Mallow (cello), and nine fellows-junior faculty who double as camp counselors.
For cellist Andre Emelianoff, who is also a member of the Juilliard faculty, the special appeal of the Perlman program is not simply its quality orientation and broad aesthetic vision but "the education of highly gifted young musicians with a whole humanistic side of who they are as people. …