2014-11-20 / News

Heifetz musicians have lasting impact on children

By Margo Sullivan


Violinist Katharina Kang plays for Lawn School students during the Heifetz Music Institute’s residency in February. 
Jamestown Arts Center Violinist Katharina Kang plays for Lawn School students during the Heifetz Music Institute’s residency in February. Jamestown Arts Center Jemma Craig is going to allow her 7-year-old son to stay up late Saturday night.

The reason? To hear classical music played by young musicians with the Heifetz Institute’s residency program. They will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and Craig says no one should miss the show.

“I can’t say enough about them,” she said. According to Craig, when you mix youth, talent, passion and discipline, the result is “magnificent.”

This is the third year Heifetz on Tour has stopped in Jamestown, according to Pebbles Wadsworth, president of the Jamestown Arts Center’s board of directors. Highlights of the tour will include musicales at private homes, visits to the local schools and a public concert inside the arts center at 18 Valley St.


Along with a public concert at the arts center Saturday, Heifetz musicians spend time with students at the local schools. 
Jamestown Arts Center Along with a public concert at the arts center Saturday, Heifetz musicians spend time with students at the local schools. Jamestown Arts Center Earlier this week, the musicians visited 400 students at the Pell Elementary School in Newport. But on Saturday night, the scene shifts to Jamestown, where violinist Katharina Kang, violist Michael Casimir and cellist Allegra Whiting will present a concert. Pianist Carlos Avila will accompany their performance. Tickets for the Nov. 22 show are $25 for the general public, $15 for students and seniors.

“Each time, it’s a new experience,” Wadsworth said.

Although the concerts are a fan favorite for kids and parents alike, the youngsters get the most of the musicians during their stay. The prodigies visit both island schools during their November residency. The musicians are treated like rock stars, said Wadsworth.

Except for the cellist, Heifetz artists are not allowed to sit during a performance. They’re required to stand so they can move with the music and make their interpretation expressive. At the Pell School, according to Wadsworth, hundreds of students sat on the floor and listened.

“You could hear a pin drop,” she said.

At the Heifetz Institute, the musicians learn to communicate about music through a special method developed by violinist David Heifetz.

“His technique of teaching is to- tally different than any of the conservatories,” said Wadsworth.

Heifetz invites only the best classical string students to the summer institute and then teaches them “how to feel the music.” In addition to benefitting from instruction by teachers like acclaimed Grammy winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the musicians also work with actors, dancers and artists.

“They come in like a stick,” she said. “They go out like a moving piece of art.”

Craig was immediately intrigued when she heard about the first residency two years ago. “I heard rave reviews,” she said.

When she decided to attend a concert, she agreed the performance lived up to the promise.

Craig said the musicians are taught to go at the composition in a comprehensive way over a five-week program. Given a composition, they have to speak about it and sing it. Most of the musicians can’t sing, she quipped, but that’s part of the learning experience. They may also be required to perform the composition through dance or even create a sculpture about it.

The result is a performance “at a whole different level,” according to Craig. On occasion, she said, the musicians have played for students during art class, so the children were responding to the music through their own art.

Her own son is “a pretty active child,” but he responds to these concerts. “Kids can really take it and appreciate it,” she said.

Wadsworth said the Jamestown connection started because she was on the board of the Heifetz International Music Institute and was also on the board at the arts center. Most of the concert audiences are parents bringing the children, and after only the first year, people buttonholed her to say she’s changed their family’s lives. No more fighting with the youngsters about practicing, Wadsworth said.

“All they want to do is play violin or cello,” these parents told her. Also, she said, the parents claimed the children want to have dinner together and talk – first about music and then about family.

Jamestown resident Steve Frary agreed that the concerts have been a life-changing experience, especially for the family’s children.

“It’s amazing to us to be able to go to a small theater and see a world-class performance in an intimate setting,” he said. “We are big fans and try to see them every time they are here. We absolutely are captivated by the talent and energy.”

Because the musicians are “so expressive and energetic,” Frary said, he has witnessed the impact on his daughter, 8, and son, 7.

“They’re definitely on a mission,” he said.

According to Frary, both children have been inspired by seeing the Heifetz concerts. His son, who is studying guitar, saw the cello for the first time at the concert. During the performance, he sat on the floor in the front row. Frary could see his boy moving his fingers and “playing along” with the cellist.

Frary, who plays piano, said he has no difficulty persuading the children to practice after taking in a concert. When they return home, they head straight for their instruments and practice.

Return to top