Imagine spending four hours a day practicing an instrument: studying the score of a piece while paying careful attention to pitch, tone, rhythm, dynamics and phrasing. For students at the Perlman Music Program, it’s just another day at camp.
It all started with a dream of Toby and Itzhak Perlman. Now, 19 years later, this dream has not only become a reality, but an opportunity for young musicians to reach their full potential. Since 1993, the Perlman Music Program has provided budding musicians with a unique chance to hone their talent through an intensive study of music.
Though they now offer programs in New York City, Florida, Israel and Vermont, the program found its roots on Long Island, first in East Hampton and then moving to Shelter Island in 2000. Each summer, 40 talented students from all over the globe come to Shelter Island to study and perform. For the next seven weeks, they will eat, sleep and breathe music.
A typical day at camp starts off with a four-hour practice session. “After breakfast, the students go to their practice rooms, where they spend time independently working on repertoire,” said Emma Leinhaas, Production Coordinator at PMP. From solo pieces to chamber works, this practice time is sacred, while also promoting a key element of musicianship: discipline.
Afternoons are spent attending master classes, one-on-one lessons with a world-renowned faculty and working in small groups until each evening’s camp-wide orchestra rehearsal, under the direction of Mr. Perlman himself. In addition, the students are mentored by faculty on everything from practice techniques to artistic expression and performance anxiety.
All over campus, there is a cacophony of sounds — missed notes in tricky passages, a viola being tuned, a violinist milking a note for all it’s worth — meshed with the sounds of Crescent Beach across the street.
Yet this cacophony turns to harmony every Friday and Saturday night, when the Perlman Music Program hosts concerts each weekend throughout the summer. The concerts allow the students to showcase what they have been working on at the “Works in Progress” concerts, but frequently feature alumni and faculty as well.
The performances are held in the Geffenberg performance space, a stunning white tent perched atop an old tennis court, from when the 27-acre property was still the Peconic Lodge. Ms. Leinhaas said the space has surprisingly fantastic acoustics “as long as it isn’t downpouring,”
Despite the rigorous nature of the program, it still has a laid-back feel. “It isn’t Carnegie Hall,” Ms. Leinhaas joked. “We want people to be open-minded about classical music, since we all believe in its importance. That’s why we’ve made these concerts so accessible.”
Music lovers on the East End need not look far for entertainment this summer, when the Perlman opens ears and minds to great composers: Beethoven, Dvořák, Rachmaninoff and others.
Two perennial favorite concerts are the Faculty Concert on Friday, July 5 at 7:30 p.m. and the Family Concert on Sunday, July 14 at 11:30 a.m. The faculty concert presents master teachers, including Mr. Perlman, Merry Peckham, Sean Lee, Rom Leonard and others. The family concert “aims to inspire children and families … with a fun introduction to the world of classical music and the joy of learning and playing instruments. The production is presented by Summer Music School students and faculty and features performance, a musical skit and an instrument ‘Petting Zoo,’ during which children are invited to try out youth-sized instruments with hands-on supervision from PMP students.” Both concerts are free and open to the public.
The concerts primarily take place on the Perlman campus on Shelter Island, but concerts are played on both forks as well.
“What you see at performances is the result of everyone here putting 112 percent into everything they do,” Ms. Leinhaas said.