Dock of the Bay

Volume VII Number 30
July 29-August 4, 1999

  • Heifetz Institute Stirs Annapolis with High-Class Music
  • Classical Music 101
  • In Anne Arundel, 25 More Acres for Play
  • Way Downstream ...

  • Heifetz Institute Stirs Annapolis with High-Class Music

    photo by Mark Burns Pausing his play, Daniel Heifetz guides the audience through a piece of violin music at 49 West.

    With a dramatic fade from a high note, violinist Daniel Heifetz parts bow from strings in a theatrical flourish of arms. A crescendo of applause rises from the small audience packed into the back room of 49 West.

    One man, sitting at a small café table in the center of the room, lets loose in a fit of over-the-head clapping and hoots like a refined counterpart to an ecstatic European soccer fan. His wife, looking a little embarrassed even from behind, taps him on the shoulder to no avail.

    His passion seems to have been stirred.

    "My advice is to throw all that formality out the window," says Heifetz, who approves of such vigorous displays. "You come to a concert and you just do what you feel moved to do. If you want to applaud someplace, if you want to stand up, if you want to scream, whatever you want to do is okay," he assures.

    "Just turn your cell phones off and your pagers off. That's the only etiquette rule," he quickly amends. That plus maybe the ones against candy wrappers and crying children. But that's it. Hooting is fine.

    Such is the casual atmosphere of the Heifetz International Music Institute, a six-year-old summer program for molding young musicians into performers while introducing the community to classical music. Heifetz moved the institute to Annapolis from Howard County last summer. In his train from around the world came 35 students of various instrumental influences, who trained in private classes at the St. John's College campus and performed at venues such as Manresa.

    This year's production is smaller. There is less available classroom space, what with St. John's closing for renovation. Heifetz has a busier tour schedule, which keeps him away more. But the institute still manages 12 violin students, mostly teens, taught by Heifetz with the help of Marc Ramirez and Olivia Hajioff - all three violinists in Heifetz's nation-touring Classical Band. They've also added a new music festival this year, featuring the Classical Band in four Friday concerts at St. Anne's Church and Banneker-Douglass Museum.

    photo by Mark Burns Heifetz Institute student Ko Yo Fen picks up a compliment after play.

    The institute, having evolved beyond Heifetz's living room four years ago, still has no building of its own and lasts only six weeks of the year during the height of summer, starting in late June and ending in early August. Several local arts groups have helped out; First Night Annapolis stepped forward this year as the institute's sponsor. Students pay tuition of $2,000 and arrive from all over - this year's class hails from Taiwan, California, Virginia and Maryland. Once here they study intensively, supplementing private lessons at the Maryland State Teachers Association building with forays into the community. Mondays find them in recitals at 49 West and Wednesdays have them at Charles Carroll House in open masters classes.

    For now, the studying musicians live out exchange students' lives, staying in the homes of host families. Dan and Caroline Krebs, of Arnold, are hosting two students from Virginia's Shenandoah region after having enjoyed opening their home to musicians last year. "It's wonderful," says Caroline Krebs. "There's music all day. Last summer they called it the Krebs Conservatory," she says of her home, which echoed the sounds of not only two visiting students but her own musically inclined kids as well.

    Among the current students making a conservatory out of 49 West's back room this evening is Ko Yo Fen, 18, of Taiwan, who opened the evening with an emotional solo and encore. Following was Will Haapanieni, 14, of Los Angeles, returning after last season's somewhat dramatic session. "Last year I fell off a loft and broke my arm one week before the institute," says Haapanieni, who then learned to play with one hand and became something of a hero in the Institute's circle. This time his arm is intact and earns him an encore.

    But the show-stealer, Heifetz's tough act to follow, is five-year-old Daniel Razva, student of Heifetz student Howard van der Sluis. After playing a couple pieces on a one tenth-size violin he tuned himself, young Razva bowed to a happy crowd and got an invitation from a delighted Heifetz to next year's institute.

    Heifetz's own start came nearly as early.

    "All I know is that when I was a kid, I would hear somebody playing the violin and I would just start crying, because it's so beautiful," remembers Heifetz. "It's a passion. I was five and a half when I saw somebody playing on TV and I screamed until my parents got me a violin."

    His passion mushroomed. "My parents were always told by people to 'take Danny out of school, put him on TV, get him private tutors, he's a prodigy,'" recalls Heifetz, "and my parents told everyone to go to hell. They wanted a normal kid. They didn't want one of these weird musicians. And I thank them for that."

    At age 16, he auditioned for the Curtis Institute and only got in through the lobbying of Efrim Zimbalist, famed violinist and headmaster of the Curtis Institute. "That changed my life. If he had not smelled the talent, I would not be a violinist," says Heifetz, who would have become a doctor.

    Now Heifetz is the one sniffing students, so to speak.

    photo by Mark Burns Heifetz and the Classical Band fill the halls at St. Anne's Church in Annapolis.

    Believing charisma and passion can be brought out in anyone, Heifetz set up the institute to do just that. Public sessions are a large part of what Heifetz says sets the institute apart - a unique approach of teaching movement, drama, voice and public speaking to create passionate performers who know how to bare their souls and connect with their audience. There's also the issue of activism. "Young artists need to be taught what it means to be an artist in society. That we are not above politics. That we must make an impact and use whatever talents we have for the benefit of society," explains Heifetz.

    Ultimately, Heifetz wants the program to be a one-of-a-kind, year-round educational institute with a world-class summer arts festival. Though there may be a few major venues and facilities, the idea of performing in small venues throughout town stays. "I've performed for 15,000 at the Hollywood Bowl and 100 people at the Banneker-Douglass Museum," says Heifetz. "One aspect of the Heifetz Institute that's so special is the intimacy."

    In the shorter term, the institute is debating whether to do dorms versus host families, and Heifetz speaks of starting a separate day camp for kids and adults who aren't serious performers. And then there's money. "Music students are notoriously impoverished," says Heifetz, underscoring the need for more scholarship money so the institute doesn't have to turn away so many students.

    As this season nears its close, Heifetz has high hopes. "Next year will be much bigger."

    -Mark Burns

    Classical Music 101

    Classical music can be intimidating. As a neophyte wandering amongst shelves upon shelves of classical music with only vague recollections of music scores to guide you, the aisles easily become a quagmire of European composers with multisyllabic names boasting discographies thick with titles like "Symphony No. 6, movement 3 in G for piano and flute, allegro" that have track times of 15 to 45 minutes apiece.

    Grasping for something to hold onto, you lunge at Mozart only to discover 50 versions of each piece played by orchestras and directors you've never heard of which sends you plunging back into the familiar folds of the security blanket that is Billboard's Top 40.

    What are non-music majors seeking to expand their horizons to do?

    "You don't need any education," says master violin soloist Daniel Heifetz, founder of the Heifetz International Music Institute. "You don't need to be sophisticated, you don't need to be exposed."

    Just listen.

    As one might suspect, Heifetz suggests starting with a concert trip. For the uninitiated he suggests scanning the program and listening to the pieces beforehand "so that they feel more like friends than new acquaintances."

    The technical terms and mechanics of music, Heifetz insists, aren't necessary to know. "You should know that a violin is the same as a fiddle," he says. Name-music association comes with time, though several beginners' CDs featuring assorted composers are on the market, as well as multi-composer albums centered on musical themes.

    Still feeling lost? Tower Records in Annapolis has a classical section stocked with reference guides to help make the connection between pieces and their composers.

    The most important thing is to give classical music a chance to woo you. "People should open their minds to anything and everything," proclaims Heifetz.

    After all, if Vegas lounge singer Pat Boone can hang with Marilyn Manson, why can't you give a listen to Rachmaninoff?

    -Mark Burns

    In Anne Arundel, 25 More Acres for Play

    "There's not a surplus of outdoor recreational facilities in Anne Arundel County," says Jack Keene of the county's Department of Recreation and Parks.

    You might say that recreational facilities are as scarce as sailboats on a winter's day. Anne Arundel County parks are high in acreage but low in number.

    One hundred fifteen parks are sparsely spread across the 266,140 acres in Anne Arundel County. With 475,464 residents in the county, that's an average density of about two people per acre. In fact, open space is not so equitably distributed. To give us all green spaces to reflect and play, Rec and Parks hopes someday to amass 30 acres of parkland for every 1,000 county residents. To date, we fall about 8,000 acres short of that 14,263 open-acre goal.

    So the county has been taking a new tack, aggressively buying up open space in chunks both large and small whenever opportunity knocks.

    Rose Haven has its tiny waterfront park; Shady Side has 488-acre Franklin Point; Annapolis-Crownsville has Reservoir Park. Upcoming projects are 340-acre Beverly-Triton Beach and 200-acre South River Farm Park.

    The newest addition to the Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks 6,000-acre system is a 25-acre parcel, named the Van Meter property for its original owners. The land, zoned for residential use, is located on Business Rt. 3, by Wal-Mart and next to a water tower southeast of Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

    "These acres provide us with a very accessible piece of open space in a highly developed area of the county," said Keene.

    Had the 25 acres not been recruited into the county's park system, it would have added 90 new homes to an already congested area. Instead, when the Van Meter property was sold to Horizon Investment and Development Company, Wes Frank of the Glen Burnie Civic Association found an alternative. Frank asked Anne Arundel County Del. James Rzepkowski to help make it a park.

    At Rzepkowski's request, Frank and other Glen Burnie residents signed a petition that was forwarded to then County Executive John Gary. In January of this year, Sen. Paul Sarbanes asked the Maryland and Federal Aviation administrations for help.

    "The FAA has a program where they will provide local jurisdictions with money to purchase land in the airport noise zone so houses will not be built," Rzepkowski said.

    To purchase the Van Meter property, the Federal Aviation Administration is spending $900,000. Anne Arundel County will contribute $570,000 to complete the $1.47 million purchase.

    With lots of other projects competing for scarce dollars, Anne Arundel County is practicing creative financing. Most of their promised $570,000 will come from state Project Open Space funding that the county receives at year's end. The remaining $70,000 will come from state bond sales.

    (The $3 million Anne Arundel County owes the state of Maryland for Franklin Point in Shady Side will come from state Project Open Space funding as well.)

    "This is a terrific win-win situation," said Sarbanes. "We can prevent construction of additional homes within the BWI Airport Noise Zone and citizen opposition to added development in the area."

    Ideas for the property include a park, community pool or athletic field. Nothing will be decided until the sale is final; then the community will have a voice.

    "The important thing is that it won't be used for commercial or housing development to further clutter up the Crain Highway corridor," Rzepkowski said. "We can have a nice recreational space for North County residents."

    -Mary Catherine Ball

    Way Downstream ...

    In Virginia, the news about crabs coming our way isn't good. The number of breeding age females in the Virginia part of the Chesapeake was 70 percent lower than a survey taken in July 10 years ago, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science reports ...

    In British Columbia, police have a plan to catch people stealing trees: DNA tests. By matching genetic material from tree stumps from timber seized from suspected thieves, authorities hope to discourage treejacking from government lands ...

    Florida officials are catching heat for a genetic engineering plan of their own. Anti-drug officials want to unleash a bioengineered fungus that attacks and kills marijuana and other plants. It's the killing of "other plants" by an untested, invasive species that is worrying conservationists ...

    From Washington, the news is grim when it comes to recycling old computers. Just 11 percent of obsolete electronic goods - computer terminals, printers and telephones - wind up recycled rather than pitched in the garbage, the National Safety Council reports ...

    Our Creature Feature comes from Irvine, Calif., where an unusual game at the Sumo Sushi restaurant has ended.

    In Lobster Zone, customers used a plastic claw to snare live lobsters from a tank amid the theme from "Jaws." Once caught, the lobsters were dropped down a chute on their way to boiling water and a plate.

    The restaurant owners argued that the game gave lobsters better odds at survival. Finally, the Los Angeles Times reports, they stopped the game amid charges of animal cruelty.

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    Volume VII Number 30
    July 29 - August 4, 1999
    New Bay Times

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