Mark your calendar right now.
On March 31, greatness will be coming to Jamestown, to a degree rarely experienced in such a small community.
First, at 8 p.m., the Reg Lenna Civic Center will resound to the music of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. I'll talk about the orchestra in more detail, below. In the meanwhile, suffice it to say that 79 of the finest professional musicians in our state will be demonstrating the result of many lifetimes of study and a wealth of natural gifts.
Second, conducting the orchestra will be not just some talented assistant conductor, but the orchestra's Music Director, Daniel Hege. He has been with the CSO since 1999 and is acknowledged as one of the finest young conductors in our nation.
Third, the soloist for the evening will be one of the top concert violinists in the world, a man with a long list of recordings on his resume as well as glowing reviews from critics in all the major cities of the world. His name is Corey Cerovsek and I will share with you an interview I did with him last week.
Fourth, the violist will be performing with a piece of living history. He performs upon a violin which has been named ''Milanollo.'' It was created in 1728 by Stradivarius. Its previous caretakers have included Nicolo Paganini. Even those who are unable to appreciate the instrument's magnificent tone quality and its stunning history, might at least by impressed by its monetary value, which is well into seven figures to the left of the decimal point.
If approximately 80 of the top athletes in the world were to come to town, led by a coach who was celebrated as one of the best young coaches in the world, and if they had with them a star athlete who has been interviewed on the major talk shows and had been praised by the writers of the world's most respected newspapers, and if between 700 and 1200 local folks turned out to enjoy their performance, the whole town would stop and pay attention.
Surely, the ability to recognize accomplishment, in any positive field of achievement, is a core element of maturity and wisdom. I hope the town can do something similar for these folks.
Tickets for this grand event cost $25 for the general public, and $22 for senior citizens. Students through college can gain admission for only $7.50.
For more information about the concert or about how to attend, contact the concert association, at 487-1522 or at their web site, at www.jamestownconcertassociation.org.
The program for the evening will involve the orchestra and Cerovsek, performing the Violin Concerto No. 2, by Henryk Wieniawski, and the orchestra performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, which is often called his ''Pastoral Symphony.''
The Syracuse Symphony Orchestra has performed in Jamestown frequently, in recent years. Their most recent concert in our civic center was Dec. 1, when they brought the cheer of a holiday pops concert, our way.
The orchestra is the 43rd largest orchestra in the United States, and performs two complete seasons, one classical and the other pops-oriented, each year. They were founded in 1961, as a community orchestra, and gradually grew into a full professional organization. Their current home is the Crouse-Hinds Theater, in the John H. Mulroy Civic Center.
They operate two youth orchestras in the Syracuse area, the Syracuse Symphony Youth Orchestra, and the Syracuse Symphony Youth String Orchestra.
Among their six Musical Directors have been Christopher Keene, and Kazuyoshi Akiyama.
The Jamestown Concert Assn. has presented a number of orchestras to local audiences, over the past several decades. These have included the Erie Philharmonic, the Fredonia-based Western New York Chamber Orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Rochester Philharmonic, and the Syracuse ensemble.
Each of these fine orchestras has many fine qualities, and each has a number of fans in our county who think it their favorite and it alone should perform in our community.
If orchestras could be presented in town by snapping one's fingers, I'm certain we would enjoy the New York Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, and dozens of other top ensembles, on a basis of twice per week, or so.
Instead, it is necessary for local presenters to combine how much money they have to spend, with the needs of the various orchestras. One orchestra might cost more to present, but might attract more audience members, which can more than pay for the difference, for example. Some audience members would prefer to travel to the orchestras' home theaters, so presenting those orchestras locally results in fewer ticket sales.
Some orchestras have been willing to perform pretty much whatever musical works the local presenters have desired. Most are willing to perform only programs of music which they have prepared for performance in their home sites. Sadly, some of the orchestras have refused to budge from programs which have proved unpopular with local audiences, making them unlikely to be booked locally.
Obviously, a world-class soloist such as Cerovsek costs more than an entirely orchestral performance. In the past, certain soloists have proved temperamental, going as far as to demand control over the colors of the candy which is offered in their dressing rooms. If a soloist refuses to perform, many audience members will demand their money be returned, and the presenters do not have bags of money, tucked away, from which to hand out cash.
I have seen members of one particular orchestra who were so unhappy about having to ride off on a bus into the Western New York winter, that they gave unspirited and distracted performances, when they got here. Others perform as brilliantly here as they do anywhere.
A performance as fine as this one on March 31 is almost certain to be, is the product of all these factors and many more. It is close to a miracle that it is even possible for us. I encourage you to consider these factors, and to support the people who are putting in long and demanding hours without being paid so much as a dime, because they know how important it is that a community have fine music as a part of its cultural life.
Corey Cerovsek is something of a miracle of nature, himself. He was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1972. His older sister was born in Vienna, from where his parents moved to Canada.
His father was a structural engineer, and his mother was an avid musician, and he inherited both of their gifts.
He showed an early development, graduating from the University of Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music at the age of 12, and winning the gold medal as the student with the highest marks in string playing, in the bargain.
The same year, he entered Indiana University, where he studied principally with brilliant teacher Joseph Gingold. He completed separate degrees in music and mathematics, from the university at the age of 15, then went on to earn masters degrees in both disciplines at 16, and finally doctorates, when he was only 18.
He began a career as both a violinist and a pianist, which has taken him to audiences around the world and resulted in dozens of recordings, on various labels. For a number of years, he performed and recorded often with his older sister, pianist Katja Cerovsek.
We caught up with him by telephone at his apartment, in Paris.
He was familiar with our area, having performed a number of times at Chautauqua, as well as previously with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.
''I had a piano teacher, while I was studying in Indiana,'' he told me, ''who used to talk and talk about Chautauqua. She would tell me about how it was a beautiful place where it was easy to swim, and play golf and tennis, yet there were classes of all areas of things, plus good quality concerts and performances in nearly all the arts.
''I love to learn new things,'' he continued, ''And I found that when I performed there, I got a positive experience musically, a chance to study and learn, and a whole lot of fun.''
I asked about the work of music which he will be performing. He replied that Henryk Wieniawski was a favorite composer of Josef Gingold, his principal teacher. ''I haven't had a chance to perform it often, over the years, but I first learned it when I was 16, and it is certainly an old favorite. Every time I play it, there are new elements there, which I haven't noticed before.''
Just to interrupt for a moment, the concerto is written in the key of D minor. It has three movements, and was first performed by the composer in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1862, with Anton Rubinstein conducting. It's in three movements, and it is often called one of the greatest violin concertos of the Romantic Era.
According to my research, the performance of the work requires dazzling embellishments, chromatic glissandi, double stops, arpeggios, sixths, octaves, thirds, chromatic scales, and artificial harmonics. It requires numerous bowing techniques, and the third movement is largely a solo cadenza leading to a gypsy-style rondo. For many artists, it's a challenging obstacle course. For Cerovsek, it's an old favorite.
I asked about his double studies. Most students find such intensive study of mathematics or music to be challenging, let alone both, at the same time.
He answered, ''I love both, and I'm fortunate that they both come to me fairly easily. I find that if I'm struggling with a piece of music, if I work at some math, I often return to find that the musical challenge has worked itself out, and the same thing is true in reverse.''
He said that not long ago, he was performing in California, and he met some people who had been working on a new kind of computer programming relating to medical education, which interested him, and he had formed a business relationship with them. ''Back around Christmas, we had some income from the project, so I guess I can finally claim to be both a professional musician and a professional mathematician,'' he said.
He then got sidetracked into discussion that he had been hanging out in Berlin with some musicians who were into electronic music, and he is now considering enlisting his mathematical expertise in producing electronic art, as well.
During a discussion of music education, I mentioned that our local school district had a long-established and very effective Suzuki String instruction program, which energized his conversation and started him on a discussion of the connection between learning music and developing the mind. But then, I had to tell him that due to current financial situations, the district was seriously considering canceling the program, success or not.
I could feel him recoil from the news, even over the long distance phone line.
He immediately said, ''I need to sit down, very soon, and come up with a short, pithy response to that situation, because I'm encountering that, more and more often. As a 'visiting celebrity,' I can come right out and say things which the people who are involved locally should be able to say, but probably can't.''
This led to a discussion of how more and more often, education in other countries is expanding to include study in the arts, while in our own country, people are letting dollar signs interfere with an understanding of what is involved. ''Asian parents, in particular, have become convinced that their children learn faster and better when they learn one or more of the arts with their regular subjects, and they certainly seem to believe that they see it working,'' he said.
''Some years back, you read about what was called the Mozart effect, in our own culture, when children who studied music and who listened to music, especially by Mozart, while they studied, both learned more and retained more of what they had learned, but these days, trends in our education system are being discarded before their success or failure has even been measured,'' he added.
Finally, Cerovsek said that he believed it is necessary to meet the needs of life, but it is also necessary to obtain quality of life. For the past several years, he has chosen to live in Paris, for that reason. ''The city presses culture onto you,'' he said. ''Everywhere you turn, there are museums and performing spaces. There is public art and graceful landscaping, and there are public efforts to make it more pleasant to walk and easier to get around. It's expensive to live here, but absolutely worth it.''
I have enjoyed asking interview subjects recently about the role which the audience plays in their performances, getting responses ranging from artists who completely shape their performances around the audience's reaction, to those who claim they perform exactly the same, whether in front of a packed room full of cheering fans, or an empty hall, at a rehearsal.
Corey Cerovsek answered in this way: He said he has talked with artists who plan their performances with the intention of controlling public reactions. One performer told him that at a certain point in a given song, for example, he would always focus his eyes on one woman in the audience and this would get many listeners to believe that he was singing just to her, or better yet, just to them, and resulted in more enthusiastic reactions.