ELKHART – The Ruthmere Foundation will begin its spring concert series this month.
As a strong supporter of the arts at Elkhart, the foundation has been planning to launch this series for several years.
“Classical music concerns are sort of one of our main strengths and they have grown in popularity over the past five years,” said Ruthmere Museum CEO Bill Firstenberger.
The Ruthmere Museum is one of two places that are part of the large Ruthmere campus. Ruthmere Mansion and the historic Havilah Beardsley House were the homes of some of the historical figures in Elkhart’s history – notably Havilah Beardsley, who is considered the “Founder of Elkhart” for many reasons; and his nephew Albert and his wife Elizabeth, one of Elkhart’s most prominent businessmen and politicians in the 19th century.
“Our very existence is an example of a small facet of American history and from what I understand history in schools is becoming increasingly rare,” said volunteer coordinator Mark Doddington. “If we can do our part to make people of all ages want to continue learning, I’m all for it. I will do everything I can to encourage that.
Artists from around the world will attend the Spring Concert Series to perform on a Steinway piano known as the practice piano of one of the greatest pianists of all time.
The Steinway Model D Concert grand piano was purchased by Ruthmere founding director Robert Beardsley. The piano was purchased because it was a practice piano by Arthur Rubenstein of Boston. The purchase encouraged artists to perform at the Ruthmere simply for the opportunity to play the piano.
“It’s about bringing quality programming here,” Firstenberger said.
There is also a 1938 Baldwin Model M grand piano belonging to the Deputy Elkhart family, former owners of Ruthmere Manor, housed in the same room. The Deputy family owned the house and eventually sold it to be turned into a museum in the late 1960s. When they left, they took the piano, which had been a birthday present.
“He was kind of a beloved part of the family,” Firstenberger explained.
The piano toured various family members for several years before landing in the hands of the Beardsley Foundation in 2016 for a full restoration of the instrument, which was completed in 2018.
The pianos lend their value by encouraging artists who otherwise might not be interested in playing on site, a unique opportunity.
This inaugural year concert series begins with former Beardsley Piano Prize judge Winston Choi of Chicago’s Roosevelt University on April 21. Orleans in 2002. A prolific artist, Choi’s debut CD, the Complete Piano Works of Elliott Carter (l’Empreinte Digitale in France) received five stars from BBC Music Magazine.
On May 5, another Beardsley Award judge, Dr. Youmee Kim of Ohio Wesleyan University, will perform. A specialist in contemporary American piano music, having participated in more than 130 recitals, concert series, festivals, conferences and masterclasses worldwide, Kim is also the author of a book “An Analysis and Performance Guide to Benjamin Lees ‘Odyssey I and II’.
The third performance in the series, May 19, will feature a long-standing tradition, the Fischoff National Chamber Music Evening, which will bring together the best young musicians from across the country and around the world for its 49th year. Elkhart’s performance takes place one day before the Notre Dame pageant.
This year’s performance will feature the Monterey Piano Trio from Los Angeles, California. The trio, consisting of Connie Kim-Sheng (piano), Strauss Shi (violin) and Bennie Fried (cello), met while a student at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. Together they received degrees from the New England Conservatory, the Juilliard School, the Eastman School of Music, Mannes College of Music and the Glenn Gould School.
“I personally am a strong proponent of lifelong learning and I think today it’s safe to say that not many young people are familiar with classical music, so if we can bring that segment of culture to an audience younger, so much the better,” Doddington mentioned.
The last performance of the series will be Liana Paniyeva on June 2. Paniyeva has a history of performing at Ruthmere, with her last performance in 2017. Paniyeva is the winner of the Protégé American International Romantic Music Competition; Grand Prize at the Metropolitan International Piano Competition; and winner of the international AFAF Golden Era of Romantic Music competition.
Tickets are $40 for non-members and $25 for Ruthmere members. Season passes are also available to members only for $100 and include all four concerts. Season Pass tickets come with reserved seating.
For more information or to make reservations, call Ruthmere at 574-264-0330, ext. 104. All concerts begin at 7:00 p.m. and seats are limited on a first-come, first-seated basis behind reserved seats. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.