Heifetz violin symposium opens Sunday at Connecticut College

Jascha Heifetz
Jascha Heifetz Heifetz.com

Statistics are fun - and not just if you're a baseball nut.

Consider these long odds: what if 35 of the finest violinists in the world all showed up at the same time in New London - a tiny community of approximately 27,000? That's rather like walking into a neighborhood Friendly's and, just by chance, Cal Ripken, Jr., Robin Yount, Andre Dawson and Greg Maddux have arrived unbeknownst to each other and are sitting at separate tables - and all are eating identical strawberry sundaes!

Improbable.

And yet, 35 of the finest violinists in the world ARE in New London. The 21st Symposium of Individual Style, taking place Sunday through July 1 at Connecticut College, includes a permanent and guest faculty and 28 virtuosic students - all assembled to further their respective violin mastery.

That a violin symposium should be named after Heifetz - inarguably one of the finest violinists of all time - isn't particularly surprising. But it's also important to note that, after an injury to his bowing arm cut short his performance career, Heifetz turned his attention to teaching. And his educational theories, which focused on nurturing the individual musical personalities of each student, are the theoretical bedrock of a symposium whose curriculum integrates seminars, roundtables, classes, individual instruction and concerts.

Though most of the symposium is private, select classes are open to the public - as are the concerts.

In fact, the symposium kicks off with a gala opening night concert/silent auction in the college's Harkness Chapel. Violin faculty Sherry Kloss, Elaine Skorodin and Jeanne Skrocki will be joined by guest faculty members Arturo Delmoni (violin) and pianists Li-Pi Hsieh and Liz Seidel in the presentation of a program boasting works by Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Kodaly-Heifetz, Suk, Szymanowski and Ysaye.

Faculty and student concerts take place on June 30 and July 1.

"Heifetz's idea was that you can play great and that's excellent," says Mark McCormick, program coordinator for the symposium. "But each musician needs his or her own style and thought process and concept. Students need to develop their own on-stage persona; it's critical to develop that as a musician focused on a professional career. That's the crux of what we're doing."

Part of that development comes through repertoire.

McCormick explains, "Whatever music the students are focusing on - whether it's classical, romantic or even 20th-century - instructors take those pieces and analyze them in the context of personal style: how you start the piece and draw the audience in and project your instrument and style to the crowd. They learn to develop an on-stage persona so that audiences recognize and look for that individuality. That's a critical thing in a classical music career."

The average class size at a Hiefetz symposium is about 30, and competition to gain admission to the program is rigorous. McCormick says the participants range in age from 12 to 65, and they're all exceptionally accomplished players.

"We have kids shooting for a stellar career, and musicians on the other end of the spectrum who have had a career but are still learning," he says. "With the older folks, they're now working as teachers and they're still developing skills that help in that fashion."

"This is an extraordinary faculty," says McCormick, adding that, in addition to Delmoni, this year's guest instructors include Pablo de Leon, Robert Sherman and Joseph Silverstein.

"These musicians have soloed with many of the major orchestras in the world. And we have a waiting list of artists who want to be part of it," McCormick says. "What's happened is, the music world is so small that there's constant communication across the globe. People have heard about what we're doing, and a pipeline has developed. We've found ourselves with an international symposium on our hands. It's pretty exciting."

IF YOU GO

What: Jascha Heifetz Symposium Gala
Opening Concert

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Connecticut College, 270 Mohegan Ave., New London

How much: $15

Good to know: Select classes are open to the public, as are the final participants’ concerts on June 30 and July 1.

For more information: klossclassics.com.

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