Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Perlman Music Program celebrates its 20th anniversary

Itzhak Perlman conducts students in the Perlman Music Program's winter residency in Sarasota/Bradenton.
Itzhak Perlman conducts students in the Perlman Music Program's winter residency in Sarasota/Bradenton.
Image courtesy of Annie Watt
  • Arts + Culture
  • Share

I’m a little biased when it comes to Itzhak Perlman. For many years I lived a few doors down from the famous violinist/conductor and his wife Toby on New York’s Upper West Side. The residents of West 70th Street held our heads a little higher because we had “cultcha,” as they say in the Big Apple, in our midst.

In New York, I was aware that the Perlmans helped cultivate young musicians with a summer program on Shelter Island. But when I moved to Sarasota in 2023, I was surprised to learn about The Perlman Music Program Suncoast, celebrating its 20th year in 2024.

For those who worry that I’m violating the Perlmans’ privacy, please note that it was not unusual to see celebrities like Jerry Seinfeld, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Simon and the late JFK Jr. walking down Central Park West on any given day. Also rushing around was an army of ballerinas, musicians and opera singers. With Lincoln Center and the Juilliard School nearby, the Upper West Side is an artsy neighborhood.

What’s amazing to me is how Itzhak and Toby Perlman open up their lives to young gifted musicians and nurture them at free master classes and works-in-progress recitals. These students, known as “Littles,” grow up and become fellows in The Perlman Music Program and mentor the next generation. 

“The Perlmans consider every one of them family members and mentor them throughout their career,” says Lisa Berger, who has been executive director of PMP Suncoast for three years.

The Perlman Music Program, in New York, Florida and other places around the world, is the brainchild of Toby Perlman. As a violin student at Juilliard School, Toby dreamed of a setting where young musicians could escape the competitive and often lonely environment where they pursue their studies.

Her dream materialized in the summer of 1994, when Toby and Itzhak founded The Perlman Music Program for aspiring young violinists, violists, cellists, bassists and pianists. The program’s goal is to allow the most promising musicians to take advantage of this unique study experience, regardless of their economic circumstances.

Over the years. classical music buffs watch the progress of a budding PMP artist the way sports fans might follow a baseball player’s career from a farm team to Major League Baseball. “Audiences watch them grow up,” Berger says. 

In some cases, a PMP Suncoast participant literally becomes part of a local family as they stay in a private home in the Sarasota/Bradenton area.

Unlike some famous people who live and play in Florida’s Cultural Coast, the Perlmans interact with members of the community in PMP programs under a tent at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus and elsewhere. 

The PMP’s winter residency for 28 students began Dec. 29 and wraps up Jan. 5. Then it’s time to hear the fruits of the students’ labors.

On Jan. 6, students and faculty in the winter residency present a Celebration Concert featuring the PMP String Orchestra under the direction of Itzhak Perlman and the PMP Chorus, led by Patrick Romano, at the Sarasota Opera House. A 20th anniversary celebration dinner follows the concert at Michael’s On East. 

The music continues Jan. 8, with PMP student chamber quartet recitals under the direction of violist Caitlin Lynch. Seven quartets that were formed during the Suncoast winter residency will perform at this event, showcasing the students’ talents. 

This year marks the first time PMP students have held a recital of chamber works-in-progress, Berger notes.

On Jan. 20, PMP alumni from different generations will pay tribute to Roger Tapping, the former violist of the Juilliard Quartet who died in January 2022.

Conceived by Michelle Ross and Max Tan, the program, “Remembering Roger,” salutes the longtime PMP faculty member with an original work by Ross.

Ross’s string quartet “For Roger,” which is making its Sarasota premiere, is influenced by a Haydn string quartet that was a favorite of Tapping’s and the last one that Ross played with him. 

“For Roger” will feature Ross and Tan on violin, David Kaplan on piano, William Frampton on viola and Lev Mamuya on cello.



Monica Roman Gagnier

Monica Roman Gagnier is the arts and entertainment editor of the Observer. Previously, she covered A&E in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the Albuquerque Journal and film for industry trade publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

Latest News