Thursday, September 20, 2018
Stage

'Fiddler to the world' Itzhak Perlman talks awards, teaching before Straz Center show

TAMPA — In November at the White House, President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, to 17 people. Itzhak Perlman was among the recipients. He wasn't there for his reputation as one of the world's finest violinists — the "fiddler to the world," as he has been called — with 16 Grammys and countless other distinctions, including playing the solo in Schindler's List (an Academy Award winner for best original score), although none of that hurt.

Perlman, who will perform Saturday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, stands out even more for his work as a teacher. He leads the faculty for the Perlman Music Program, which nurtures 38 musicians, ages 12 to 18, from around the world. The program, founded in 1994 by his wife, Toby, includes a winter residency in Sarasota and underwrites the best young players of the violin, viola, cello, bass and piano regardless of their ability to pay.

The virtuoso deflected his honor with disarming modesty.

"When you get older they start giving you medals," Perlman, 70, said in a recent phone interview. "The highlight was sitting next to Willie Mays."

The awards kept coming. In December, the Genesis Prize Foundation, colloquially called "the Jewish Nobel," made Perlman its 2016 Genesis Prize Laureate, for dedication to the Jewish community and the state of Israel. The $1 million grant is his to administer. Perlman said he will divide the funds between young musicians and people with disabilities, causes both close to his heart.

Born in 1945 in Tel Aviv, Perlman latched onto his first violin at age 3. A year later he was stricken with polio, which has left him walking on crutches or getting around in a motorized scooter ever since. He gave his first public concert at age 10 and debuted at Carnegie Hall at 18.

He is also an enthusiastic singer, and once sang the part of the jailer in the opera Tosca.

"The length of the part was 19 seconds," Perlman said. "It was my farewell debut."

Students at his school sing in a chorus every day, which helps the musicians learn that "you should breathe before every phrase," Perlman said. The hardest part of helping to run the school is winnowing down the applicants. This year there are more than 100 applicants for the violin section alone. Of those, 50 are the best of the best.

"The level is extremely high," Perlman said. "Whom do you choose (for) four openings?"

Some of the lessons for those young musicians could be applied to everyday life. For example, breathing helps people cope with nerves.

"There is no such thing as getting rid of nervousness," he said. "The nice thing is I can say, 'I'm nervous, that's the way I feel.' That way I feel familiarity with the nervousness and deal with it."

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

 
Comments
Despite the razzle-dazzle, ‘Chicago’ is starting to feel dated

Despite the razzle-dazzle, ‘Chicago’ is starting to feel dated

TAMPA — There’s a reason Chicago has been delighting audiences since 1975, and is one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history. Jaded and funny, fast-paced and flamboyant, this sentimental journey to the tabloid culture still seems ahead o...
Published: 09/19/18
Find A Friend: Brooklyn the Terrier Mix

Find A Friend: Brooklyn the Terrier Mix

She’s going to make it by any means — got a pocket full of dreams — let’s hear it for Brooklyn. This 36-pound, soulful snuggler is a well-mannered maiden, past the puppy stage at age 5, and happily housebroken. She enjoys ...
Published: 09/19/18
On stage this weekend: Game of Thrones, Rocky Bleier, Florida Orchestra pops up

On stage this weekend: Game of Thrones, Rocky Bleier, Florida Orchestra pops up

PAGEANTRY AND PASSION: GAME OF THRONESThis ought to be fun for hard-core fans of Game of Thrones, which won its third best drama Emmy this week. HBO and Live Nation concert producers combined to create Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, a big b...
Published: 09/19/18
On stage this week: ‘Chicago,’ ‘The Guys,’ Ginger Minj of RuPaul fame

On stage this week: ‘Chicago,’ ‘The Guys,’ Ginger Minj of RuPaul fame

RAZZLE DAZZLE: CHICAGO Broadway returns to Tampa in Chicago, the jazzy Bob Fosse cynical celebration of corruption and longest-running American musical revival of all time. Style is substance as Velma and Roxie compete for the limelight of a jaded p...
Published: 09/12/18
Review: ‘Heisenberg’ at Tampa Rep a hopeful expression for our times

Review: ‘Heisenberg’ at Tampa Rep a hopeful expression for our times

TAMPA — With the current state of things, the unlikely union in Heisenberg provides a refreshingly tender contrast to the divisiveness trolling our lives these days.Playwright Simon Stephens even went so far to say in Oakland’s East Bay Times that "t...
Published: 09/10/18
Updated: 09/12/18
Fall Arts Preview: Your guide to museums, plays, opera and classical music in Tampa Bay

Fall Arts Preview: Your guide to museums, plays, opera and classical music in Tampa Bay

Welcome the sweet approach of fall. Despite our current heat index, we’ll soon experience milder air, shorter days and too many things flavored like pumpkin.But in Tampa Bay, the true indicator of fall is the rebirth of local art. Our professional th...
Published: 09/07/18
Fall Arts Preview: Opera Tampa will premiere new opera by Anton Coppola, 101, and more

Fall Arts Preview: Opera Tampa will premiere new opera by Anton Coppola, 101, and more

Have you decided yet which operas you’re going to compose after age 100? If the prospect seems daunting (it does), consider that there is only one Anton Coppola, and only he expects this kind of productivity. Opera Tampa’s founding maest...
Published: 09/06/18
Fall Arts Preview: In a new season, Florida Orchestra expands reach, new top soloists

Fall Arts Preview: In a new season, Florida Orchestra expands reach, new top soloists

The Florida Orchestra has prepared a 51st season with a wide range of grand masters and newer work, an increased visibility for minorities and women and more collaborations with museums and other artistic institutions. Masterworks highlights include...
Published: 09/05/18
Updated: 09/06/18
Fall Arts Preview: Light and dark, classic and groundbreaking round out Tampa Bay theater

Fall Arts Preview: Light and dark, classic and groundbreaking round out Tampa Bay theater

Theater mirrors our world and enlarges it, responds to current events, and allows us to glimpse the present by retelling the classics. Just touch this lineup of shows. In the palm of your hand you can almost feel tremors of anxiety about racial tensi...
Updated one month ago
On stage this week: Tampa Bay Theatre Festival and more 'Hedwig'

On stage this week: Tampa Bay Theatre Festival and more 'Hedwig'

BETTER THAN EVER: TAMPA BAY THEATRE FESTIVAL If you haven’t been to a Tampa Bay Theatre Festival yet, you really don’t know what you’re missing. The festival, now in its fifth year, offers a ton of original entertainment, learning ...
Updated one month ago