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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 34

June 8, 2006 at 2:10 PM

If you studied cello at Interlochen Arts Camp during any summer between 1963 and 2004, chances are you crossed paths with the great Cassel Grubb. To honor the veteran teacher, Interlochen is establishing an endowed scholarship for young cellists in Grubb’s name. Given that the minimum amount for establishing an endowed scholarship is $30,000, Interlochen is reaching out to cello alumni, stressing (of course!) that no donation is too small. If you would like to contribute but haven’t received your letter yet, contact Beth Stoner in Interlochen’s development office, 231-276-7617 or


As many violinists have learned, acquiring an instrument appropriate to one’s skills can be a profound financial challenge. It’s bad enough when considering 5- and 6-figure violins, but when you’re a major soloist, only a 7-figure fiddle will do.

Robert McDuffie couldn't afford the cost of a great violin himself, so he engineered a novel means of acquiring the $3.5 million 1735 Guarneri del Gesu known as the “Ladenburg,” reported the Toronto Star on 6/4/06. “He incorporated, setting up 1737 del Gesu Partners, L.P., and convinced 16 friends and acquaintances (including himself) to invest in the instrument. The return on equity? Two private concerts a year, a share in any profits when McDuffie sells the violin in 2024 -- and the pleasure of seeing and hearing a master play a masterpiece. These friends include National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue, bass player Mike Mills from the band R.E.M., an investment banker from Goldman Sachs, and Dietmar Machold, the ultra-high-end dealer from whom he bought the instrument."

By way of explanation, the reporter works in the fact that American artists are typically left to their own devices to secure appropriate instruments. “Here, the Canada Council has acquired a number of these valuable creations and lends them out to worthy musicians. Governments in most European countries also support their top artists in similar ways. But in the U.S., the brave and free must scrounge lending rights from private foundations and collectors — or find the money to buy their own.”

McDuffie must obtain a yearly appraisal from an independent firm. According to him, the violin is now worth $600,000 (U.S.) more than in 2001. "Everybody's happy," he says, although he does have to pay a $14,000 insurance premium every year. The artist points out that "these people invested in more than the violin. Not one person made the investment expecting to or on condition of receiving a profit at the end of this."

McDuffie is playing in Toronto this week, with his old friend and colleague Peter Oundjian and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade will be on the program; the pair has performed it together several times since the late 1980s. "’I still adore the piece; I'm not tired of it at all,’ [McDuffie] says of the music that came out of Bernstein's most dynamic years as a composer. ‘It suits my physical style of playing.’ Loosely based on the short Symposium dialogue by Ancient Greek philosopher Plato, Serenade is a thematically diverse mediation on the meaning of love and friendship.”

The article concludes with the news that McDuffie has convinced Philip Glass to write a new concerto for him. "I've always considered him to be the American Vivaldi,” he explains, referring to the still-unwritten piece by Glass as “the American Four Seasons." The violinist hopes to perform the world premiere in Toronto in 2008 or 2009.

Read the entire article here:

Musician News

6/5/06 – Three longtime string players in the Cleveland Orchestra are retiring this year, according to Violinist Alvaro deGranda was appointed by famed music director George Szell in 1966. Szell later promoted deGranda to assistant concertmaster, a position deGranda held for 31 years. “A native of Cuba who studied at the Curtis Institute, deGranda played with the Houston Symphony and the St. Louis Symphony before coming to Cleveland. He retires in July. Violist Yarden Faden's tenure dates to 1966; before he was hired by Szell, he was a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Atlanta Symphony. Faden will retire in September after the orchestra's tour of European festivals.” Cellist Catharina Meints joined the Cleveland Orchestra in 1971 after playing in the National Symphony. “With her husband, oboist James Caldwell, who died in February, she founded the Baroque Performance Institute at Oberlin Conservatory.”

6/5/06 – Conductor Ton Koopman, a renowned Bach specialist, was awarded the 2006 Bach Medal by the city of Leipzig on the final day of this year's annual Leipzig Bach Festival. He founded the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir, which he founded in 1979.

6/2/06 – According to the Baltimore Sun, Jeffrey Sharkey, “the No. 2 administrator at the Cleveland Institute of Music, has been named to the No. 1 post at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. The Delaware-born Sharkey will start work as Peabody's director Oct. 1, succeeding Robert Sirota ... Frank Caputo, assistant to the president at the Cleveland Institute, called Sharkey's hiring at Peabody 'a big win for Baltimore.' Sharkey, 41, is a composer and pianist who holds "graduate degrees from Yale University and Cambridge University in composition and philosophy, respectively."

6/1/06 - The Montreal International Music Festival, which focused on violin this year, has announced its winners, reports MIMF alternates between voice, violin, and piano over a four-year cycle, with voice presented every other year. It was admitted to the World Federation of International Music Competitions in 2004.

The winners are:

Jinjoo Cho, first prize
Ye-Eun Choi, second prize
Marcus Tanneberger, third prize
Corinne Chapelle, fourth prize
Moyuko Kamio, fifth prize
Dan Zhu, sixth prize

“Cho, a 17-year-old native of South Korea, currently studies in Cleveland. She performed Shostakovich's Violin Concerto in the finals. The winners share $70,000 CDN.” Cho, Choi and Tanneberger performed the next day with the Montreal Symphony, conducted by Maestro Muhai Tang.

5/6/06 – Fans of Nigel Kennedy in Dusseldorf, Germany, were disappointed when the violinist’s performance with the Polish Chamber Orchestra was cut short due to a false alarm in the concert hall. Kennedy later posted this message on Another String, a fan site: “I want the audience to know that I waited backstage for one hour, and was ready to go back on stage and finish the concert, but there seemed to be a great lack of communication coming from the people that operate the venue. This is a great shame that the venue decided not to inform the musicians and the audience about what was going on. I do hope that I get the opportunity to perform for you all again some time soon. Be kool, Nigel.”

Orchestra News

6/5/06 - The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra performed its first floating concert aboard an Erie Canal barge, reports the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. The event was almost cancelled due to inclement weather. "Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik cruised to the concert in style on the Sam Patch packet boat. Clad in black slacks and a sport shirt, he led a rousing program of patriotic, movie and pop music that had audience members clapping ... The concert was probably unique in RPO history. On both sides of the canal, spectators crammed into every available patch of grass and watched from private boats lined stem to stern.”

6/3/06 - An Associated Press article printed in the Los Angeles Times profiles the Marshall Philharmonic Orchestra in Marshall, Missouri, a town of “about 12,000 people." The orchestra "just completed its 43rd year. Historians have traced the roots of organized bands in the town to 1871. Since 1934, residents have paid a 1/10 of a cent 'band tax' to support the orchestra and a municipal band ...”

6/2/06 - The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has named soprano Dawn Upshaw as “its newest artistic partner, beginning a three-year tenure at the start of the 2007-08 season,” reports the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. The first woman and the first singer to become an artistic partner at the SPCO, Upshaw "will be one of five artistic partners during the 2007-08 season, joining pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard and conductors Roberto Abbado, Douglas Boyd and Nicholas McGegan. Violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Stephen Prutsman will complete their three-year terms as partners next season, leaving Upshaw as the lone American on the leadership team."

5/31/06 – The Mesa Symphony Orchestra is forming the Mesa Youth Symphony Orchestra this year, targeting young musicians from 10th grade to age 20, reports the Arizona Republic. “The group plans to select about 60 players from Southeast Valley community, including Mesa, Gilbert, Apache Junction and Queen Creek, during auditions in August." Overseeing the new group will be violin teacher Patricia Cosand. "Cosand said one other youth symphony group in Mesa, the Metropolitan Youth Symphony that has been in existence more than 20 years, excludes students after 14 years or ninth grade. 'Our attitude was that we would have a high school group that's an extension of that.' " Parents "have been asking for a continuation of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony in the area for a long time.

5/31/06 - The Memphis Symphony and its musicians have reached agreement on a new three-year contract retroactive to 2005 and running through 2008, the orchestra has announced. According to, “The contract includes salary increases of 5 percent, 7 percent, and 8 percent. The salary for principal musicians, which was $24,781 in 2004-05, will increase to $30,069 in 2008. The contract also calls for the addition to two full-time musicians to the MSO. The orchestra currently has 34 full-time players and 45 part-time players.”

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on June 8, 2006 at 6:33 PM
I didn't know that governments in Canada and Europe buy great instruments for violinists to use. What a great idea! My country's government (U.S.) doesn't support the arts and artists that way. Ben Clapton, how about creating a foundation to finance your purchase of a new bow and more?
From Nicholas Tavani
Posted on June 8, 2006 at 7:27 PM
there's already been discussion on this in the Montreal competition thread, but...

congrats to Jinjoo!
she's a great violinist and a cool person.

From Charlie Caldwell
Posted on June 9, 2006 at 4:39 PM
I'll see Mr. McDuffie one day this summer.

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