Originally published in Caramoor’s Fall 2017 – Spring 2018 Program Book
After taking over the mentoring program in 2008, violinist Pamela Frank has mentored 45 emerging professional musicians and created an oasis for deep collaboration.
The Evnin Rising Stars mentoring program was founded in 1992 by former Caramoor Artistic Advisor Sir André Previn. In 2008, world-renowned violinist Pamela Frank became Artistic Director. It is fitting that Frank, who spent her formative years at the Marlboro Music Festival, should head such a program, as she herself benefitted from the same kind of mentoring, playing alongside legendary violinists such as Felix Galimir and Alexander Schneider, pianist Rudolf Serkin, and her parents – Claude Frank and Lilian Kallir – who were pianists.
Each fall, Frank selects six to eight young instrumentalists to come to Caramoor for a week-long chamber music residency. The week involves workshops, reading sessions, and ensemble rehearsals; culminating in two performances in the Music Room featuring the Rising Stars and their mentors. The program, named in honor of Judy Evnin, Caramoor’s Chairman Emerita, has identified some of the finest musicians of the next generation and helped them cross the threshold from their student years into the early stages of their professional career. Among the illustrious alumni are cellist Edward Arron, pianist Jonathan Biss, violist Max Mandel, and cellist Alisa Weilerstein.
Frank asks two additional mentors to work with her each year; violist Atar Arad and cellist Gary Hoffman join her in 2017. Previous mentors have included Leon Fleisher, Gary Graffman, Nobuko Imai, and Peter Wiley. Her choices are deeply personal. “It’s all about relationships. Each mentor has either directly mentored me, or has had a profound influence on me. I’ve been spoiled by my background and have been mentored myself by some of the greatest musicians of our time. I like to share them!”
Similarly personal is Frank’s selection of the young artists. She does not hold auditions, she doesn’t take recommendations, and she has a strict “anti-nepotism policy” (she never selects her own students). However, she does try to represent a variety of backgrounds, and has to have worked with them enough to know that they are “open, positive, flexible, curious, and passionate. As I travel and teach, I’m silently scouting for the right human beings as well as players. Do they have a unique voice and great potential for a life in chamber music? Can they benefit from and enjoy the intensity?”
Frank chooses from the repertoire that was essential to her own development: “mostly Austro-Germanic, with a little Czech and Second Viennese School thrown in,” usually for strings and sometimes with piano. “It’s a way to pay homage to all my influences. And since it’s what I know best, there’s a better chance of passing it on convincingly.” As a tribute to violinist Sasha Schneider, a member of the Budapest String Quartet, she always plays at least one Haydn Quartet (this year there will be two), and she always chooses a work that she studied either with Felix Galimir, her father, or another pivotal Marlboro figure. Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, to be performed on October 28, was a Galimir specialty.
She admits to being a bit of a perfectionist when choosing programs and matching artists. “When matching the Rising Stars with mentors, I look at what they have or have not played before (and which parts), the right mix of new challenge and familiarity, and who will learn the most with whom. What is the right repertoire for their stage of development? If a mentor is a former or current teacher of a Rising Star, it is particularly touching and educational to have them play together.”
Frank brings something very special to Caramoor, providing a link to an important musical past while connecting to the next generation. In demand as a coach and teacher, she says Caramoor’s Rising Stars program is unique. Other than Marlboro, where mentors also play alongside younger participants, Frank cannot think of another similar oasis, free of outside distraction and pressure, in such an intimate and relaxed setting. “I believe in equal amounts of work and play. I encourage experimentation, freedom of expression, loss of self-consciousness. I try to create an environment that is safe and warm enough to take risks, try new means of communication, and help foster trust and creativity. My goal is to help everyone get to know the music and each other on a much deeper level, and to have fun.”
The Evnin Rising Stars will perform in the Music Room on October 28 at 8:00pm and October 29 at 3:00pm.