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Perlman Music Program/Suncoast raises its tent for annual Winter Residency program

Open rehearsals allow public to sit in on the creative process

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  • | 5:00 a.m. December 18, 2019
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Classical music aficionados fearing for the future of high culture may lament, “where are the next great string instrument players coming from?

There’s nothing to fret about, and if you want to see for yourself, you’re in luck, because this time of year, a few dozen or so of them come here.

On Monday, Dec. 23, the Perlman Music Program/ Suncoast will open its doors — technically its tent flap — on its Winter Residency Program, giving the concert-going public the opportunity to sit in on the creative process as some of the country’s most promising young musicians hone their skills.

The audience can see and hear the rehearsal process  as Itzhak Perlman leads a start-and-stop rehearsal.
The audience can see and hear the rehearsal process as Itzhak Perlman leads a start-and-stop rehearsal.

The residency is an augmentation to The Perlman Music Program on Shelter Island, New York, created by Toby Perlman, the wife of renowned violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman.

Toby Perlman created the program, for students of the violin, viola, cello, base and piano, ages 12 and up, Power says, to provide a nurturing training environment where gifted students can reach their potential, her motivation being in reaction to her own experience as a young violin student at Juilliard.

“It was competitive, it was cutthroat,” Power says. not feel like everyone was encouraged to advance at their own pace.”

The most stressful part about PMP is getting in. Students are admitted based on an audition process. The program sets a high bar, but once they’re in, they’re in and can keep coming back every year until they graduate. The training is rigorous, but not competitive; there’s no jockeying to be first chair or that sort of thing.

The PMP Summer Program began in 1994. “About 10 years in, the idea came up, why should there be a winter residency,” Power says, “and this is the perfect venue. Who doesn’t want to come to Sarasota, South Florida in the winter?”

The residency is no day at the beach, however. It’s a concentrated 17-days of rehearsal and recitals, leading up to a concert finale.  “It's such an intensive professional training program that students can get as much as six months of work done in that time period,” Power says. PMP/Suncoast became a standalone nonprofit organization in 2008, but,“our reason for being is the winter residency,” Power says, “no question about that.”

Every year, PMP/Suncoast essentially takes over the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus over its winter break, setting up a large performance tent where most of the activities take place.

This year’s program will offer more than 20 viewing opportunities, including start-and-stop orchestra rehearsals works-in-progress recitals, and cello and viola masterclasses.  There will be open events every day— except Christmas and New Year’s Day — through Jan. 3. Admission is free to all these events.

About 8,000 people come to these open-tent events. Many come back day after day, Power said. There’s a fascination in watching and listening to Itzhak Perlman work with the students.

About 8,000 people attend the free open rehearsals and recitals during the PMP Winter Residency.
About 8,000 people attend the free open rehearsals and recitals during the PMP Winter Residency.

“And he is leading them, directing them, giving them feedback, asking them to try something again,” Power says.”In the audience, you can actually hear the students improve, so it’s really kind of like an insight into a very very high level training process

  A highlight of this year’s schedule will take place at At 7 p.m. Dec. 28, when the PMP string orchestra will be joined by Super Strings, a PMP Suncoast program for Florida musicians ages 8-18 who play violin, viola, cello or bass. Under the direction of Itzhak Perlman, they will perform Felix Mendelssohn’s String Sinfonia No. 2 in D major, 1st movement.

Tickets for that performance are $10

There will also be a Chamber Music Work-in-Progress recital at 7p.m. Jan. 2. That performance will be at Church of the Palms, 3224 Bee Ridge Road. Tickets are $10.

Then, at 5 p.m. January 4, comes the finale, when Itzhak Perlman will conduct the PMP Orchestra, with Romano leading the PMP Chorus, in a Celebration Concert at the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave.

Tickets for the Celebration Concert are $40-$80. Or, for an annual gift of $625, can get a package that includes premium seats for the concert, immediately followed by cocktails and dinner at Michael’s On East.

For $625, premium seats for the Celebration Concert. Afterward, it’s straight off to cocktails and dinner at Michael’s On East, with Toby and Itzhak Perlman as well as members of the  PMP faculty and students.

For tickets or more information about the Winter Residency, visit


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