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5 Questions with Chamber Trio pianist putting Dalí works to music

Marjorie Grudzinski, who is a member of the Pinellas Chamber Trio, practices at her home in Gulfport’s Town Shores.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Marjorie Grudzinski, who is a member of the Pinellas Chamber Trio, practices at her home in Gulfport’s Town Shores.

"Do, Re, Mi, Dalí: from Molten Cellos to Pornographic Pianos.''

That's the name of the program the Pinellas Chamber Trio will be performing Oct. 10 at the Dalí Museum. It's part of the museum's fall series, "Music, Math & More," which explores various Dalí themes and ideas from a particular perspective, in this case: music. It features two instruments that appear repeatedly in Dalí's paintings: the piano and cello.

Marjorie Grudzinski, 77 and originally from Astoria, in Queens, N.Y., plays the piano in the trio. (Ruth Kern plays the cello and Kathy Terry plays the flute.) She has been playing the piano since she started taking lessons when she was 4.

By the time she was 6, she was the conductor and pianist for the Wurlitzer Baby Orchestra.

As a teenager, she played at Carnegie Recital Hall.

When she was in graduate school at University of California, Berkeley, she was the accompanist and assistant conductor for the San Francisco Opera Boys Chorus, and accompanied Leontyne Price, the famous Metropolitan Opera soprano and winner of 15 Grammy awards.

She taught high school music in New York for 28 years before moving to Gulfport in 1991. After retirement, she wanted to perform again and joined the Pinellas Chamber Trio.

Grudzinski has two grown children, a son in New York and a daughter in New Jersey, and four grandchildren.

We got her to stop tickling the ivories long enough to answer a few questions for us:

1 The Pinellas Chamber Trio is playing at the Dalí on Oct. 10. Can you tell us a little about what you'll be playing and how you chose the pieces that you did?

We selected eight short, audience-friendly pieces that trace Dalí's biography, interests and artistic influences. Dalí's passion for tango, for example, will be represented by Astor Piazzolla's smoldering Oblivion tango. The cinematic Mistral, by Canadian composer Julia Bowkun, depicts the same mercurial wind that shaped the Mediterranean landscape that surrounded Dalí's home and was the subject of so many of his paintings.

2 If Dalí was sitting in the audience, what do you think he would say?

Dalí once said, "A true artist is not one who is inspired, but one who inspires others," so we hope he would be pleased. In the 1970s at the Polski Dom in New York City, he attempted to kiss my hand. Maybe this time he'd come up on stage and complete the deed.

3 How long has the trio been in existence and how did you get your start?

We've been together approximately 2 1/2 years. It all started about three years ago in the gardening department of Home Depot, where Ruth struck up a conversation with someone who turned out to be an aspiring cellist. He gave her the phone number of a musician friend who, in turn, gave her my number. Shortly after, Ruth and I started playing duets. Kathy, who like Ruth is a member of the Tampa Bay Symphony, joined in and we immediately knew that we were on to something.

4 Tell us a touching or funny story about one of the trio performances.

After one performance a woman told us how relieved she was when Gabriel Fauré's Berceuse from the Dolly Suite (which we will be playing on Oct. 10) changed character, because the opening melody was so tender it was making her weep.

5 When did you start playing the piano and how did you get interested?

I began at age 4. My brothers played violin in the Wurlitzer Baby Orchestra, which was in need of a pianist. One look at my long fingers and that was it — that, plus the fact that both my brothers and I had perfect pitch.

Patti Ewald can be reached at pewald@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8746. Have a nomination for a 5 Questions subject? Send it to pewald@tampabay.com.

5 Questions with Chamber Trio pianist putting Dalí works to music 09/24/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 11:41am]
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