Unexpected Conversation

Last Thursday my Sweetie took me to a sold-out Evening with Itzhak Perlman. We expected a concert, but instead were treated to a warm, funny conversation with a world class musician. A moderator sat on Mr. Perlman’s left and two high school students managed the microphones from the audience.

The John T. Vucurevich Foundation supports an annual Speaker Series, bringing cultural notables to Rapid City, South Dakota. The Speaker Series began in 1993 with Carl Sagan and has since “…hosted 23 national and international speakers who all have a vision for the future, promote understanding and awareness in the world, and who may be an inspiration to the people of Rapid City and the surrounding area.”

I grew up attending the Great Falls Symphony in which my mom played the French Horn. I loved everything about attending the Symphony: dressing up in my sophisticated black velvet pants (remember, this would be winter in Montana); finding my seat number down the long row of claret colored, plush, loose seats; reading the program while waiting for the lights to dim and the curtain to rise; locating my mom halfway back and over to the left with the other horn players.

Truth be told, I started going to the Symphony in the 7th grade. I say “grew up” because I would go with my mom and sit up in the balcony by myself feeling quite grown up while she played on stage. I luxuriated in the formality of the whole affair. Women musicians wore stunning black, floor length dresses. Men wore tuxedos. The Conductor wore white tie with tails. For one program in particular they brought in a concert grand piano – nearly nine feet long – the finish so glossy I could see individual stage lights reflected on it.

Only the Conductor spoke at the Symphony and then only after performing the first piece. You can imagine my surprise when Itzhak Perlman zipped on stage with his scooter, ready to chat. Yes, he wore all black. Yes, he played two staggering violin pieces. Best of all, this world-renowned, house-hold name, joke-telling, demigod of a musician, scootered on to stage and humored us with his stories. He sincerely answered questions that I know he’s been asked in every interview for decades:

  • Who is your favorite composer?
    • Brahms
  • Do you get nervous before performing?
    • Yes
  • How important is it to practice?
    • Very
  • How does one make a living as a classical musician?
    • He has no idea
  • Do you need talent to be successful?
    • Not always
  • Should we continue to support music programs in schools?
    • Of course

“How important is passion,” he repeated? “Why passion is the most important thing.”

And I believe him. This man — who started playing violin at the age of 4, endured an inept Russian-looking Puccini for his first instructor, was crippled from polio at a young age and still travelled the world — loves his music.

Dressed in one of my favorite black pieces, I sat in my plush, loose seat in an auditorium on Thursday evening partaking in a rare extravagance: I listened to the musician on stage speak.

For your listening pleasure



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