Every summer for the last 17 years, young musicians from around the world have come to the East End to receive training from world-class professional violinists, violists, and cellists at the Perlman Music Program (PMP). Thanks to the prestige of its namesake, violinist Itzhak Perlman, the PMP early on became an elite summer camp for young musicians, where they come for seven weeks to practice and learn. In 2002 the PMP moved to Shelter Island after David Geffen, Jo Carole and Ronald Lauder, Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg, and Alberto Vilar donated a 28-acre seaside campus on Shore Road. As a fringe benefit of all of these activities, residents of the East End have been able to enjoy wonderful chamber music, performed by students and professionals, right in their own backyards.
Now, after 17 summers, the Perlman Music Program is ready to cut the ribbon on the new $3 million Kristy and James H. Clark Arts Center. The new building augments the already fairly well equipped campus in several important ways. Designed by Eric Woodward to nicely blend into the traditional “summer camp” architecture that surrounds it, the Clark Arts Center features sound-insulated practice rooms, a teaching studio, and a state-of-the-art rehearsal/performance hall. It has heat and air conditioning, so PMP’s activities will no longer be relegated to the summer only. Also located in the Center is the girls’ dormitory for program participants. Previously, girls had been housed in an ancient and woefully deficient building with a whole host of plumbing issues—a building that was demolished to make way for the Arts Center.
I arranged to get a sneak preview of the new facility with Emma Leinhaas, an administrator at PMP, on the day before the young campers were due to arrive. It was a beautiful day. The windows in the pristine teaching studio of the new Arts Center look out over Peconic Bay, where sailboats were plying the peaceful blue waters. (PMP has its own beach and dock right across Shore Road from the camp, but the young musicians are limited to paddle boats. Actually, according to Leinhaas, these campers are so focused on their music making that they have to be coaxed into even taking the few steps across Shore Road to dip a toe in.)
The brand new rehearsal/performance hall, which has a double-high ceiling to allow music to resonate pleasantly, sports a brand new Steinway D concert grand piano—it still had its brochure attached. I sat down and played a little Chopin to get it off to a good start. Leinhaas pretended to be impressed. The rest of the ground floor is given over to sound proofed practice rooms, where the young campers will spend an enforced four hours every day before lunch on individual practice. There are no grand views from the practice rooms—that would be distracting.
Lest you think this sounds like a punishment, be assured that these young campers want nothing more than to be here. In fact, once they are admitted to the PMP, it is understood that they have an invitation to come back every year—until they age out, of course. Most campers return year after year. The PMP spends $35,000 per year for each camper, but charges only $6,500 to the students, and has a policy of giving adequate scholarships to anyone who qualifies.
The ceremonial ribbon cutting and grand opening will take place on Saturday, June 23 at 7 p.m. While this will be an invitation-only private event, the general public will soon be able to enjoy some aspects of what the Clark Arts Center has to offer, and we can all rest easy knowing that the young female musicians now have a stable roof over their heads!