On a sunny Monday morning, August 22, 2011, I walked in Central Park. I heard someone playing the violin underneath the Winterdale Arch at West 81st Street. The urbane musician played Presto from Summer by Antonio Vivaldi. I stopped to be his audience. Two seconds later, two tourists did the same, and we three were mesmerized. I could see a sparkle in the violinist’s eyes, he was pleased and poised. After his solo concerto, I said. “Your music is beautiful. Where do you normally perform?”
“Most places,” he said, “at all types of events.”
“What’s your name?” I asked kindly.
“Adam Grannick,” he said while standing like a humble knight.
“Do you know of the Music Institute of New York (MUSICINY)?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
“But you should,” I said.
And so, I began at the beginning. Last year, I happenstance that winter evening on the Music Institute’s Christmas Violin Concert at the Second Presbyterian Church; I wrote about the experience titled: Sweet Surprises This Christmas. MUSICINY (150 West 51st Street, New York, NY 10019) was created by Ms. Ellie Kang (M.M., Julliard School of Music); a professional violinist, an entrepreneur, and an educator.
For twenty-years, she has been a private music teacher, and in 2010, she fashioned an elite institute for students of all ages to learn to play the violin; to be trained in the masterpieces of classical music, and other programs, such as: fine arts, language, media, tennis and cooking classes. She listed a cadre of artists and educators; they inspire and train students to reach their own personal goals.
This year, I was invited to attend MUSICINY First Gala Benefit Concert on May 1st at the Prince George Ballroom. (15 East 27th Street, New York, NY 10016). The ballroom had a classic elegance and I was immediately captivated by the pianist Steven Graff; the violinist Ellie Kang and the cellist Wendy Law—they performed Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D minor No.1, Op. 49.
The next terrific performances were: the violinist Machiko Ozawa, and the pianist Maki Matsumura (from Piazzolla’s Fracanapa); the pianist Steven Graff (from Chopin’s Valse Brillante in A flat Major No. 1, Op. 34), and the cellist Ana Bermudez (from Alvarez’s Sonsoneo and Mamoboendo).
Fifteen minutes later, the First Place Winners of the 2011 MUSICINY Violin Competition became the center of attention. The four virtuosos were as follows: Phoebe Blank (Beethoven’s Ode to Joy); Taylor William (J.S. Bach’s Minuet 3); Sophie Kim (Dvorak’s Humoresque), and Kelly McGarry (Bruch’s Concerto in G minor, No.1).
Time passed—there came an ensemble performance of classical and contemporary music: High Sierra, Angelic Evening, Wind Song and Water’s Edge. The artists were: the flutist Patricia Catalano; the pianist Tim Janis; the violinist Ellie Kang; the violinist Astride
Mompremier; the violinist Katie Lam; the violinist David LaJara, and the violinist Kelley McGarry. The music was universal, the talent was extraordinary, and the palette was praiseworthy.
Sometimes one sits at a performance and it becomes a magical experience. You think, “How could it be any better than this?” And then came—the soulful guitar sound of Aquiles Baez, and the soothing lyrical voice of Ryland Angel. The duo— performed Poor Wayfaring Stranger, Los bibilicos and Precious Lord.
Indeed, the event was more than music, for the evening turned to dance. The Woori Garak Dance Company performed: Samgomu (Three Drum Dance), Janggo Dance, and Hourglass Drum Dance. The dancers were: Ashley Hur, Philip Lee, Jessica Yoon, Sidney Hur, Janet Yoon, Jasmine Yoon, and Erin Pyon. The Woori Garak Dancers were majestic.
The night was electric; the next event turned to fashion. A first-rate Fashion Show displayed the multitalented students at MUSICINY. There were eight stunning fashion models: Cindy Kim, Channelle Adams, Christine Reilly, Aurore Fagnen, Linday Bjelde, Jessica Ventouraas, Nicole Chmura, and Tammy Woolfolk (as well as the director). They modeled exquisite designs by Eschel, Tess Johnson, Bibhu Mohapatra, and Anait Bian.
With excitement in the air, the audience watched and listened to geniuses at work. After
fashion, the palette changed to jazz—Dizzy Gillespie’s Con Alma. The dazzling trio was: the tenor saxophonist Janelle Reichman; the double-bassist Perry Wortman, and the drummer Mitch Perrins. They performed their own sensational free-flowing style.
The MUSICINY’s 1st Gala Benefit Concert was an undeniable success. I interviewed a few of the artists, and their family members.
Sophie Kim: Mr. and Mrs. Hyun (talked about their daughter)
Thoroughly relaxed, Sophie ate her pink frosted cake; she looked like a fairy tale princess,
taking a break from her pink castle. “Mrs. Hyun, how long has Sophie been playing the violin?” I asked.
“Sophie, started when she was two and a half years old.” she said. “At first, we wanted her to play the piano, but she said, ‘Mommy, I want to play the violin.’”
I asked, “Do you play an instrument?”
“Yes,” she replied, “I play the piano, and my husband plays the flute and drums. Ellie Kang is Sophie’s second violin teacher. Ellie has a really good spirit; she wants children to enjoy music, and her passion for music inspires us all.”
“Kelley,” I said, “your performance was outstanding.”
“Thank you,” she said while revealing a radiant smile. “I like studying with Ellie. I’ve had instructors in the past, but no one has been like Ellie. I went from practicing from one hour a day to three to four hours. Ellie gives her students more opportunities to perform.
She pushes me, she inspires me. I have learned countless techniques, and now, I am teaching. I have my own students, too. MUSICINY is a wonderful place to learn.
Perry Wortman and wife, Amali Premawardhana
“Hi Amali and Perry,” I said. “The Jazz Trio was phenomenal.”
Amali smiled at her husband. He said, “MUSICINY is wide in scope. The institute
has passion about what they do. They nurture true artist; they encourage artist to build upon their craft; and they care about their students.
“At MUSICINY, there is a good balance between art and education. Sometimes, people say performers can’t teach—but teaching and performing should not be separate. To learn properly, students need guidance, and they receive it at MUSICINY.”
“Amali said, “I love the freedom of art—the expression to bring joy to the world—to
express it—to live it. It’s a pure privilege. We talk about this a lot, what we do— is what we love.” We continued to talk about the great performances that evening. And when, I was on my way out—I saw Ellie Kang.
“Congratulations,” I said.
“Thanks for coming, Wanda.”
I waved and stood still for a moment, as I watched many children, friends and fans assembled around her.
Catch it if you can at www.musiciny.com.