IC Concerts Showcase the Stars

Since its inception in 1965 the concert season now known as Ithaca College Concerts has tallied an impressive 138 performances by an array of world-class performers. The series' mainstays have been the "basics": 18 pianists, 10 violinists, 12 singers, 10 string quartets, 11 brass or woodwind quintets, 8 vocal ensembles, and 7 jazz ensembles or solo artists. There have also been numerous more-difficult-to-classify concerts, including ensembles specializing in early, contemporary, ethnic, and "crossover" music.

Andre Watts, piano
Jacqueline DuPre, violoncello
Daniel Barenboim, piano

Misha Dichter, piano
Guarneri String Quartet
Jean-Pierre Rampal, flute
Musicians from Marlboro
John Browning, piano
Leonard Rose, violoncello
Cleveland Quartet
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Gary Karr, double bass
Eugene Fodor, violin
Garrick Ohlsson, piano
Barry Tuckwell, French horn
Ruth Laredo, piano

Beaux Arts Trio
Jan De Gaetani, mezzo-soprano
Eliot Fisk, guitar
Henryk Szeryng, violin
Philip Glass Ensemble
Free Flight
Paul Badura-Skoda, piano
Nadja Salerno-
Sonnenberg, violin
Katia and Mariella Labeque, duo pianists
Cleveland Quartet
Vienna Choir Boys
Waverly Consort

Joshua Bell, violin
Peter Schickele (a.k.a. P.D.Q. Bach),
Empire Brass
King's Singers
Marian McPartland trio
Gregg Smith Singers
Mr. Jack Daniel's Original Silver Cornet Band
Paul Winter Consort
Summit Brass
Bolcom and Morris
Bach Aria Group
Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz
Ani and Ida Kavafian, violin and viola
Ying Quartet
Nexus percussion ensemble

Edgar Meyer, double bass
Bang on a Can All-Stars
Janos Starker, violoncello
Quintet for New Tango
Midori, violin
Emanuel Ax, piano

Five concerts were presented in the 1965-66 season in conjunction with the Egbert Union Board, celebrating the move to South Hill and the new Ford Hall (now Whalen Center). Admission was $2.00 to $2.50. Thereafter the series was put together from the School of Music, guided by Vivian Laube, publicity coordinator from 1966 to 1977. Laube remembers having $3,000 to run the entire series --- a shoestring budget for a guest artist series, even in 1966.

Certain early seasons had themes. For example, the 1967-68 season celebrated the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Ithaca Conservatory of Music, and the 1978-79 series was entitled "The Young Sensations." During the 1975-76 and 1976-77 seasons the series took a hiatus, but otherwise there have been between three and seven concerts annually. Themes have again been regular features of late, including "Salon Sounds," "It's All Relative" (featuring siblings), and "Rhythms of the Dance."

Since 1977 an important component of most guest artists' visits has been giving a master class, in which selected music students perform for the guest's critique and comments. Other students in the same discipline --- and often others seeking the more general musical wisdom of the guest --- observe. The public is invited to see and hear the performer pass along his or her art to the collegiate generation. The master class is such a crucial part of bringing artists here that those under consideration who do not wish to hold one may not be engaged at all.

Concert manager Debra Vialet '73, MS '78, who has been responsible for Ithaca College Concerts since 1977, recently reminisced about some of the memorable circumstances surrounding these renowned guests' visits.

"Getting the artists to Ithaca has occasionally been a challenge," she says, "but only one concert was ever snowed out: in February 1982 the Chicago Woodwind Quintet [including French hornist Gail Williams '73] simply couldn't make it. In February 1989 members of the group Gershwin by Request shuttled back and forth between two New York airports in a snowstorm several times before finally catching a flight to Ithaca, just in time for their performance. And the Smithsonian Chamber Players, performing on September 15, 2001, had to make alternative travel arrangements because of the nationwide ban on flight; they adjusted their program because vocal soloist Amanda Balestrieri couldn't get here."

Other memorable moments include the Halloween week when one of the world's greatest French horn players, Barry Tuckwell, had his photo taken with a pumpkin fitted neatly into the bell of his instrument. The leather outfit pianist Ruth Laredo wore to the reception caused some comment, as did Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg's concert attire, a tight purple jumpsuit and spike heels. The Israeli National Youth Chorus came with an unusual level of backstage security. Vialet shudders when remembering the staffing nightmare she had in 1978 using student crews to unload an 18-wheeler and set up an operatic production at Ithaca's Strand Theater: "That was the first and last off-campus event!" she laughs.

What's most memorable about the series is how accessible the guests have been. Administrative assistant Linda Spencer's story of bassist Edgar Meyer is typical of the performers who come to IC: Spencer was somewhat shy about asking Meyer to autograph a CD for her husband, a big Meyer fan. But, she relates, "At the end of his rehearsal I plucked up courage and asked him for his autograph from the empty front row of Ford Hall. He plopped down full-length on the stage to sign, and we had a very pleasant chat."


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A. Ozolins, Ithaca College Office of Publications, 28 October, 2003