Bradenton Herald — Today is a beginning of journey that will shape the future of 35 young musicians from across the globe who have descended on the University of Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus for the fifth annual Perlman Music Program Winter Residency.
The world-class program gathers the crème de la crème of student musicians ages 12-20 to study under international concert violinist Itzhak Perlman and others for two weeks. They will be guided in private lessons, master classes, chamber music coaching, several free public performances, a special gala performance at the Sarasota Opera House and many other events during their stay.
It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for them. Just ask accomplished violist Giora Schmidt, a Perlman Music Program alumnus who has been likened to “Perlman in his prime” by The Miami Herald.
Being compared to his mentor “is what I aspire to,” said Schmidt, 25. “That standard of playing, personality, generosity.”
Since leaving Perlman’s wing as a 13-year-old student in the music program and later as his student at Juilliard School, Schmidt has gone on to play with world-class symphony orchestras throughout the country and exquisite venues internationally, including the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Musahino Cultural Hall in Tokyo. He’s won an assortment of awards in the past eight years, including first prize at the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Greenfield Competition, an Avery Fisher Career Grant and the Classical Recording Foundation’s Samuel Sanders Award.
He’s also recorded an album called “Vocalise.”
Now, Schmidt is back in Sarasota for the Winter Residency program where he has assisted Perlman and Perlman’s wife Toby in teaching for the past four years, continuing their legacy.
“This is kind of a long-standing affair,” said Schmidt, who has been playing the violin since age 4. “Kind of like a family affair.”
Still, being in his mid-20s, Schmidt sees himself not as a teacher per se but as someone who can offer good tips — like having a good work ethic and valuing music in general — to the students participating in the program. Tips that he learned from the Perlmans when he was in their shoes not so long ago.
“It’s a value system within the Perlman philosophy,” he said. “Mr. and Mrs. Perlman’s philosophy on music and life.”
It’s a paradigm that includes being a well-rounded individual and having a good value system. Believe it or not, those elements effect how a person performs as a musician, Schmidt said, pointing out Perlman’s abilities.
“What makes Mr. Perlman so successful — some sum it up to his harmonious stance — but it’s not in how well he plays the violin on stage, it’s everything else.
“Mr. Perlman is warm on stage like he is in his living room. It’s the atmosphere of the Perlman program. When I saw it, it affected me. You get affected — even subconsciously, when you don’t realized it.”
The Perlman Music Program, which also has a six-week summer residency on Shelter Island, N.Y., was founded by Toby Perlman in 1993. It was created as a mentoring program for young gifted musicians to interact with the Perlmans and a highly-talented support staff. The Perlmans decided to set up the winter portion of the program in Sarasota because of the area’s strong support of the arts.
Toby Perlman said it feels wonderful to be back in Sarasota for another year. But more importantly, she’s grateful that the students will get to experience what the area has to offer through the program.
“It’s very important,” she said of the Winter Residency. “Our goals have to do with the students. This program provides continuity. The work they did over the summer — this is a continuation of that support.”
Seeing the success of former students such as Schmidt makes Toby Perlman proud to be a part of their development.
And it’s very exciting for the Perlmans to see Schmidt and others come back to teach.
Perhaps the greatest tip Schmidt will pass along to students may be the most simple, yet auspicious experience he had as a youth in the program: “I listen thoroughly to what (Perlman) said and apply it as best as I can.”