Moved by Music
Moved by Music
“I come from a family of musicians,” Ari began to tell their story. “My mother Judith was a pianist and teacher and my father Michael, a concert cellist, born in Paris and raised in Tel Aviv. I started playing the piano at eight years old, then switched to viola. We lived in Riverdale, in the Bronx, and Westchester. I went to the Fieldston School. Did my undergrad at SUNY Purchase, did a year of grad work at Yale and finished my Masters at U Illinois Champagne-Urbana.”
“In the eighties, my father had taken over as artistic director of the Manchester Music Festival. So after grad school, I split time between New York City and Manchester, continuing to develop as a musician, beginning to conduct, and being groomed, inadvertently and by association, for the future.” The organization, MMF, was founded in ‘74 by the husband-wife duo, pianist Eugene List and violinist Caroll Glenn, who grew the organization through collaboration with colleagues and their students.
In 2000, Ari’s father passed and he assumed the role of Artistic Director. “When I first came up here from New York, I had a headful of steam and a somewhat nascent reservoir of idealism about what was possible in Vermont, and about what could be created here.”
“Everything about MMF was personal,” he smiled. “Except that fate may play a role,” he nodded toward Joana, “if one believes in such things.”
Step back two years to ’98. A bold, young violinist applies to the Festival’s Young Artists program. Joana picked up her side of the story, “I grew up in Bulgaria, my parents were musicians.” She tells us that she began playing violin at age six and made her solo debut at twelve, with the Plovdiv Chamber Orchestra. “My father died when I was 19, and my mother went to America. I moved to be near my sister in Holland, where I enrolled at the Conservatory of Amsterdam and played in the Sinfonietta.”
“At one point, I won a green card on an immigration lottery, so I had to spend time in the states. In the summers, I’d visit my mom in Chicago where I would take lessons (from Prof. Samuel Thaviu) and we would see concerts in Ravinia Festival, north of the city. A friend recommended I apply to a music festival, and MMF was one. I was accepted with a full scholarship and so was thrilled to come to Vermont and work with Michael, Ari’s father.” A long, still moment set over the room. He, she — and even we — well up. They love one another, they miss Ari’s father. In a way, this whole story is one of passion and legacy.
Joana participated with the Festival for three summers as a young artist, then became an apprentice, and summer faculty. Along the way she and Ari were married. “Before our children were born, we split time between New York and Vermont. We were all members, even Ari’s father, of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. It’s a mini-family tradition,” she laughed. “Often we’d split the week in half and Ari would conduct on the weekends. Then finally, like so many others, we put down roots, bought a house, and started a family.” Today Joana is Artistic Associate at Williams College and Co-Founder of Taconic Music, and organization she and Ari launched last year.
Taconic’s mission is to provide Southern Vermont communities with year-round concerts, lessons and educational programs built upon the rich traditions of classical music. At the same time, we offer inclusive points of entry through a variety of genres for people of all ages and walks of life who value music as part of their daily lives... “Since we don’t have a performance space of our own, we program for the available venues; ideally chamber music in intimate spaces such as Yester House and the Riley Center; orchestral, operatic or amplified music at Arkell, holiday concerts at local churches. We’ve played at the new library, where the acoustics are fabulous and the community loves to gather.
There used to be two music halls in town,” Joana adds. “One across from the Equinox, and one on Main Street across from Up for Breakfast. You can see photographs of them at the historical society. So elegant, and festive. That would be a dream,” she sighed.
Music emanating from the Main Street, posters in the windows, Concert tonight! Maybe, we think. Big plans for Manchester.
Making Time for Music
Of course, both agree on all of the very wonderful things about the town, and about Vermont. “It’s beautiful,” says Joana. “Every day I look up at Equinox mountain and it’s the same, but different. It’s a basic privilege, watching the season’s change.” And Ari says he’s struck by the contrast. “After I’ve spent a significant amount of time in New York, I can’t believe how much better I feel when I come back home. Not fighting traffic, waiting on lines, enjoying the clean air and friendly people, great restaurants and shops, hiking trails and skiing. Everything in our backyard!”
But, chronically undiscovered are opportunities to connect an arts experience with the other types of things that you’re accustomed to pursuing in the day; things like shopping, sightseeing, recreation…
“We try to make every concert unique and personal while working with the best musicians in the business. That means something. It’s worth the effort to pull the plug on screens, come out to a concert and live a little more; present in the moment.”
Ari is right. We too invite you to seek their performances out, if indeed you haven’t already. We promise you cannot find a higher caliber of performing artists (or more passionate teachers) anywhere in the world.
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