Sherry Kloss: Pupil of Jascha Heifetz
With the 24th annual Jascha Heifetz Symposium approaching this June, we thought it would be a good thing to introduce you to the Symposium's Founder/Director, Sherry Kloss, author of the book "Jascha Heifetz Through My Eyes."
My interest in the violin began when our local public school music teacher came to our classroom and asked : "Who would like to play an instrument?". For me it was the violin! This was in 5th grade. Soon I began private lessons and at the age of 12 I was the soloist with the Pittsburgh Symphony, performing the Bach A minor Violin Concerto.
One weekend my parents came home with a 78 recording and they put it on the phonograph. I listened in awe to sounds the likes of which I had never heard, entirely captivated by a throbbing personal beauty which spoke to me. I ran to my little violin and played along..again and again. The only name I could pronounce on the record was "Romance": This was the moment that Jascha Heifetz and Henryk Wieniawski "welcomed" me into their world.
I attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, continued my studies at Juilliard, and then went on to Boston where I studied with Joseph Silverstein, beloved concertmaster of the Boston Symphony. He was the first teacher who discussed a vocabulary for violinistic artistry: choice of glissandi, rainbow of colors and different styles of vibrato. This experience is what I had been searching for.
From Boston I went to Europe where I met the great Hungarian violinist Tibor Varga (pupil of Hubay and Flesch, first recording of the Nielsen Concerto among his vast discography), in Siena, Italy. Upon hearing me play the Bruch d minor Concerto he twinkled and asked "Tell me..how many performances do you play a year? You do everything upside down and backwards: your right hand is a sword and your left hand is a beehive, but you play like an angel. We MUST prepare you for your concert career". Needless to say, I was speechless.
Following the summer session, he said, "There is a violin competition in Sion, Switzerland, I think you would do well". I replied, "but I don't have a fine violin" "Do not worry, think about the required repertoire...the competition is NEXT WEEK"! I had NEVER played a Mozart Concerto or been groomed for the rigors involved, yet I received the 3rd prize, with no 1st prize awarded. Mr. Varga was a powerhouse of a musician and teacher. There was no way I was going to use my return airline ticket, I HAD to follow him to Detmold, Germany where he taught at the Northwest Deutsche Musik Akademie.
When I returned to Boston, aflame with the European experience which also included master classes with Nathan Milstein, I knew it was time to take further steps in my evolution. As a member of Mu Phi Epsilon, a professional music fraternity, I learned about a competition, finals to be held in Palm Springs, CA. I said to myself, "If I can't win this maybe I should go back to school and become a lawyer"
I was chosen as one of the winners whose prize was to present concerts throughout the US. This was fabulous, but the real prize was delivered when one of the judges, Dean Grant Beglarian of USC approached me and asked, "How would you like to meet Jascha Heifetz"? (Ironies of ironies: knowing that I was going to CA, a friend had suggested that I write a letter to Mr. Heifetz. After several attempts at expressing my desire to meet him....I ripped the letter to pieces...all words were inane and presumptuous .....it was never sent!)
I went off to L.A. for an audition with Mr. Jascha Heifetz at his Malibu Beach home. After an intensive in depth interview and detailed assessment of my playing, he walked over to me, gently tapped my shoulder and said, "I'd like to have you in the class very much." I was silent. He continued, "you don't have to be in my class if you don't want to." Then he said "You ARE old, you know. I don't know if I can help you." I was about 26 at the time. Then he asked "Do you play ping-pong?" I packed up the violin and followed him outdoors for a game.
Being a member of the Master class of Jascha Heifetz was the greatest joy of my life. Meeting 2 times a week, we never knew what to expect. He would ask, "who's ready?" I looked around and others would be raising their hands. WHO COULD EVER BE READY FOR JASCHA HEIFETZ?
It was a small class. Our teacher looked at each one of us as an individual. He carefully cultivated each student's unique essence. "Oh, you've been listening to a certain recording," he'd say. "But can you do it another way. Can you say something?" Perhaps a fingering would be suggested, but after hearing the outcome of the advice, Mr. Heifetz might say "Oh, never mind....do it your way." He was extremely astute, extremely honest, and completely devoted to his students.
After 5 years as a pupil, I was invited to Australia as Artist in Residence at the University in Adelaide and for concerts sponsored by the ABC. A telephone call was received at the school with a message, "Sherry, come back, I want you to be my assistant". I realized that I had to return and assure that others could continue to learn from the master. My responsibilities were to prepare the students for class and for "survival" in this high powered intense environment of learning.
My mission now, the book, the Jascha Heifetz Symposium, the concerts and master classes throughout the world, is to assure that the legacy is carried on to the next generations. "If not I then who, and if not now, when." Words of the great teacher/scholar Hillel.
In today's world, we must strive to keep the artistry of the great violinists alive. Each one re-defined the art of violin. As we celebrated the Feb 2nd birthday of Jascha Heifetz, our lives were enriched and our art re-kindled.
Jascha Heifetz : A legend, a miracle, and a gift to the world.
Gamut Music, Inc., is an active supporter of this year's Jascha Heifetz Symposium of Individual Style. Participants in the Symposium will receive a discount coupon for an order with us.