19 March 2009
Neither Mirra Bank nor Richard Brockman is a musician, but they have nurtured young musicians on the South Fork for the last five years. Dr. Brockman, who inherited the Woodhouse Playhouse on Huntting Lane from his stepmother, Elizabeth Brockman, a pianist and patron of the arts, is a psychiatrist and playwright. Ms. Bank is a documentary filmmaker and director. Together, they founded the Playhouse Project to honor the late Mrs. Brockman and to make good use of the extraordinary landmark, which is largely an Elizabethan theater.
The project offers outstanding high school musicians an opportunity to perform in a master class, to win cash prizes, and to perform in a concert with professionals. What the couple have found is a gold mine of young talent. Although originally for public school students, the program has been expanded to include all South Fork schools.
On Sunday, in what had been Mrs. Brockman’s Fifth Avenue apartment, music lovers were gathered to hear four students, a professional cellist, and classical guitarist in a preview of the 2009 master classes led by Geoffrey Simon. Mr. Simon is the dynamic artistic director of the Swiss Global Artistic Foundation and himself a cellist and conductor. As he has done in the past, he will be on hand at the master classes again this year.
Two of the young players were Leo Pannish, an 11-year-old student at the East Hampton Middle School, and his brother, Maxfield Pannish, who is 14 and attends East Hampton High. Both play the violin. The others were Luis Murillo, a 16-year-old baritone who goes to Pierson High School, and Ariel Carter, a junior at Southampton High School and a violinist.
Luis won the award for promise last year, and Ariel won the Elizabeth Brockman award two years ago. The four chose music by Bach, Mozart, Verdi, and Franck. And the pleasure of hearing them play was all ours.
David Douglas, the director of vocal music at East Hampton High School, spoke about collaboration with the project, and I couldn’t help but notice once again how advanced music education has become at the high school as the community itself has grown. I also couldn’t help but tell him that, along with Wilson Stone, who was a member of the school board at the time, I sparked the beginning of a string instrument program in the district.
If you are inclined toward knowing more about this, you can check out the Web site, www.playhouseproject.org. The master classes will be on May 21 and 22 this year and the concert on June 13. Needless to say, the project requires private support.