So, what makes a major career in music? Talent, charisma, energy, ambition, luck, drive, temperament and tenacity, guidance, contacts and connections, advocates, mentors and not just a little bit of luck. Predicting a future superstar musician is about as easy as betting on the winner of the Kentucky Derby. On paper everything may look right but, suddenly, the sure thing is left in the dust, and the dark horse, the quiet recluse, charges across the finish line.
Hearing a succession of brilliant young string players from The Perlman Music Program’s Sarasota Winter Residency had us all making silent bets on the best of the best, until we remembered this wasn’t a musical marathon or string competition. Rather, the PMP concert of mini-recitals by mini-recitalists held at Harvest Methodist Church in Lakewood Ranch was an important opportunity for these super-talented students to gain experience and confidence.
Once we got out of the inevitable rut of competition fever and put the evening of music-making into perspective, we realized this was more for the students than for us. We were, literally, lending our ears so they could try out their party pieces and see how they could improve them for the next time.
That’s one of the reasons The Perlman Music Program is such a great gift. It gives incredibly talented kids the opportunity to study with some of today’s greatest living musicians and then to perform, giving them much needed experience and us a glimpse into what may make or break a future.
The half-dozen or so string players we heard in recital with their piano “collaborators” from the PMP staff were as different from each other as the proverbial apples and oranges we’re reminded not to compare. Some gave vibrant accounts of well-known crowd-pleasers such as the Mendelssohn violin concerto and Ravel’s “Tzigane,” while others chose more introspective works such as the gorgeous viola sonata by Rebecca Clarke and Samuel Barber’s romantic violin concerto. What they played was as illuminating as the way they played it. And it showed something about the listeners, too.
It’s a great temptation to cheer the big, the flashy and the dazzling and give less of an ovation to the thoughtful, the contemplative and the sensitive. We hope the performers don’t make the mistake the audience makes and, tempting though it may be, make comparisons that are meaningless.
The Perlmans have the right idea: Treat each child with an experience that is adapted his or her needs. That’s the way to inspire growth, confidence and progress. These recitals (and students) are more than works in progress — works in process. Where will it lead? Come back and see next year.
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