The world greatest violinist is sitting in the rotunda at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, You’re probably accustomed to seeing him in formal wear, but on this day he’s wearing a plaid short-sleeved short, blue jeans and suspenders.
He’s talking about what makes Thursday night’s concert something worth attending.
“You get to see me,” Itzhak Perlman said. “And you get to see me, and you get to see me.”
He counts off the three great reasons to go to the concert on his fingers. He’s laughing as he does so, and he lets you know that he’s joking, not being boastful.
But he’s also being accurate. The Perlman Music Program/Suncoast Celebration Concert Thursday at the Sarasota Opera House features dozens of the world’s finest young violinists, violists, cellists and bassists. But for a lot of people who buy tickets, maybe even most of them, the main attraction will be Itzhak Perlman himself.
The Perlman Music Program is based in Shelter Island, N.Y., but every winter it moves down to Sarasota for a six-week residency. Toby Perlman, Itzhak’s wife and the founder of the program, said she hadn’t been looking for a winter home until someone approached her about coming here.
One person in particular, a winter resident who had spent time with us in Shelter island, told us, “You should come to Sarasota. It’s an arts town, and everyone’s so nice.
“Sarasota chose us,” she said. “One person in particular, a winter resident who had spent time with us in Shelter Island, told us, ‘You should come to Sarasota. It’s an arts town, and everyone’s so nice.’”
“It’s been great,” Itzhak Perlman said.
The Sarasota portion of PMP features 17 days of rehearsals, master classes, recitals and concerts, many of them free and all open to the public. Itzhak Perlman leads a faculty made up up of some of the best music educators in the country.
Toby Perlman, a violinist herself, started the program because she was dissatisfied with the competitive nature of some music education programs. She thinks music should focus on cooperation, rather than competition. The musicians are seated randomly in symphonic concerts, and violinists take turns playing first and second violin. Many of the young musicians (ages 12-30) attend ever year, so they know each other and become a cohesive unit.
Our choral director works with us as if we are singers, which we are not. But he makes us sound as if we were.
The Celebration Concert is the culmination of the winter residency. It features faculty members and students performing together. Besides playing their instruments, the musicians, including Perlman himself will sing as a chorus.
The choral work is an essential part of the program, Itzhak Perlman said, because it focuses the musician’s attention on breathing. Breathing is a vital part of performing on a high level, Perlman said, so even for a musician of his level, choral training informs instrumental musicianship.
The vocal training is so effective that the string players sound as good as professional singer.
“Our choral director works with us as if we are singers, which we are not,” Perlman said. “But he makes us sound as if we were.”
Details: 5:30 p.m. Jan. 4, Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. $40, $60, $80. 941-328-1300, perlmanmusicprogramsuncoast.org/celebrationconcert.