Perlman Program Power

By staff December 18, 2009

Classical sounds of the season.

By Charlie Huisking

Talented music students from around the world are once again making a joyful noise in Sarasota this holiday season.

The sixth winter residency of the Perlman Music Program runs from Dec. 20-31 on the campus of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. Thirty-five students, aged 14-20 and coming from as far away as Moscow , will work closely with a distinguished faculty that includes renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman.

Much of the instruction will take place in small practice rooms. But at least once a day, the public is invited to watch orchestra and choral rehearsals and recitals of works-in-progress under a 1,000-seat, climate-controlled tent.

Free tickets have already been distributed for these sessions, but some seating is expected to be available at most sessions, and walk-up audiences are encouraged.

The Sarasota residency is an offshoot of a two-week summer program established in New York in 1993 by Perlman’s wife, Toby, a Juilliard-trained violinist and music educator. She wanted to create a nurturing environment free of the pressure-cooker intensity that characterizes many training programs.

“We create an atmosphere of trust, where the students are free to decide to be the best they can be,” she said in an interview at USF. “I don’t believe in berating a kid if he isn’t getting something. These kids are so committed, so hard-working, that if they aren’t getting a passage right, it is most likely the teacher’s fault. Something went wrong in the lesson.”

Program leader Toby Perlman.

For the first time, this year’s roster includes a Sarasota student, Pine View senior Theo Breen, a double bass player. “He is a terrific kid, and he’s very interested in music history, more so than any student we’ve had,” Perlman said. “He loves to look up facts about the pieces we’re playing, and in our summer session, he enjoyed serving as the announcer at the rehearsals, sharing information with the audiences.”

The Sarasota residency started under the umbrella of the Sarasota Orchestra, but is now administered by a stand-alone nonprofit organization, Perlman Music Program/Suncoast. Even in these challenging economic times, the organization has been remarkably successful in generating support. This year’s $500,000 budget goal has already been met.

“We couldn’t be happier with the way this residency is run,” said Perlman, a vivacious dynamo who was wearing a “Pack Leader” sweatshirt that a friend had given her. “USF has been so hospitable and generous, and the people at the Hilton Garden Inn [where the students stay] couldn’t be nicer.”

Perlman also appreciates the enthusiasm of the audiences who fill the tent night after night. “I think they have come to enjoy watching these students grow up, and grow musically. Sometimes there can be dramatic changes that occur quickly, when something will just click. I think audiences like observing that. It’s very exciting.”

The program will close at 5 p.m. Jan. 2 with a major fund-raising event, a Celebration Concert at the Sarasota Opera House. Tickets range from $35-$75. The concert will be followed by a gala dinner. Concert and gala combination tickets are $500. For more information, call 366-8450, ext. 1, or 955-4942. For online ticket orders, and for a complete list of rehearsals and other events, access
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