Heifetz Institute To Perfom At The Highland Center

The Highland County Arts Council’s fall and winter concert series continues December 9th with a performance by the Heifetz Institute, and I spoke with Institute President and CEO Ben Roe to learn more.

“We are bringing our Heifetz musicians up to Highland County for the very first time. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while. We run a string program, based on the campus of Mary Baldwin University – it’s for violin, viola, cello, and we’re actually adding double bass next summer as well. And we have students that come from all over the world – they come for six weeks in the summertime, and they give a concert every night. And the thing about the Heifetz Institute is it teaches people both playing at a very high level of techniques, but it’s also something unique that we have called communication training. So we require our students to introduce their pieces, we require them to learn about body movement, about drama, about doing public speaking, and we have them do things like stand up when they play, play their pieces from memory- so it’s a very different experience when you come to Heifetz.

“And, during what we call the off-season – what everybody else calls the rest of the year – we go on tours and we do some fundraising, because we’re a non-profit. And we bring some of our finest musicians back to do a holiday series of concerts, and we’re going to be coming to play at The Highland Center. We’re presenting this concert on Sunday, December 9th at 3:00 pm, and admission is just $10, and it’s all to benefit our students, who really come from all over the world. Last year, we had students that came from 19 different countries and 23 different states. So it really is kind of a melting pot, and the one thing they all have in common is fantastic talent.

“We have a guitarist, we’ve got a string quartet, we even have a guest organist coming in – it’s going to be quite a concert. It’s definitely going to be a holiday theme – we’re just going to go sort of’ holiday Bach baroque and beyond.’ We have some special custom arrangements, we’re going to have a little bit of some poetry reading, we’ll have the great winter concerto from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and we always have a few tricks up our sleeve for these concerts too.”

He spoke about the origins of the organization.

“What the Institute is all about is it was founded in 1996 by Daniel Heifetz, If you recognize the name Heifetz, that’s the same last name as one of the most famous violinist of the 20th century, Jascha Heifetz. Danial and Jascha actually were cousins, and Daniel took a few lessons with Jascha, and decided he wanted to kind of strike out on his own. Daniel had a long career, was a prize-winner at many competitions, and then he decided that there was something going on in the classical music business that he didn’t like, which is that the players were sort of becoming more and more removed from the audiences. So, he really set out to kind of break down those barriers, which is why he started this series called ‘Communication Training,’ where, as I mentioned before, they have to learn to speak, to act – we even have yoga classes for them. There’s a wonderful expression somebody says, that our performers come in like sticks and they leave like moving works of art. And, in fact, we even have blues singers and others, and we do these ‘Heifetz Hootenanny’s’ every Saturday night, to really get people to work in different genres as well, so these classical musicians aren’t playing just Beethoven, but they’re playing a little bluegrass sometimes too.

          “The Institute used to be based in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee – beautiful lake, but it’s pretty quiet up there. So they moved seven years ago, down to Staunton. And were actually in conversations with taking the Institute to – there was a chateau in France, Frederick MD, a place in Nevada – but, at the end of the day, Daniel liked what he saw about Staunton, felt it was the place that was ripe for having something like our Institute, and really, I would say that the whole ne chapter of the Institute’s happened once we came to Staunton, to Mary Baldwin.”

For more information:

“Heifetz is miss-spelled very frequently, so I’m going to spell it out here- www.heifetzinstitute.org. And also visit the Highland Center website, which will tell you something about the concert. If you just Google Heifetz Institute on you YouTube channel, you’ll find lots of videos, maybe give you a flavor of some of the musicians that are going to be coming and playing here in Highland County.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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