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ON THE SCENE: Dear David ...

November 3, 2011
The heading of the stationary was very simple, just three words: The White House. “Dear David” (Van Hoesen) it began. “It is a pleasure to join your family, friends, and colleagues in congratulating you on your retirement.” (Sixty-five years performing with the Lake Placid Sinfonietta) “As you celebrate this milestone, I hope you take pride in the many contributions you have made over the course of your career. I am sending my warmest wishes for a rewarding retirement and the best of luck as you set off on the next stage of your life.” It was signed, sincerely Barack Obama.

The letter was read over the phone to Van Hoesen, who was back at his home in Rochester, by Sinfonietta president David Baxter at the Sunday Wine Tasting, a benefit for the orchestra’s education program that was held at The Pines in Lake Placid. Later I called Van Hoesen to get his reaction to receiving a letter from the president of the United States.

“Isn’t that something?” he said. “That’s really great. I didn’t expect that. I bet there are not too many who get a letter from the president of the United States. I haven’t seen it yet of course, but as soon as it arrives I will frame it.”

“So what’s next? How do you feel about retiring?” I asked.

“I’m 85,” he said. “It’s about time I retire I think. I hope one of my students gets the job of replacing me. I think one is up for consideration and will come play with them for two weeks next summer. That’s the way they try them out. Agreeing to play for the next 65 years is not a requirement for the job. You know, I got a letter from the governor as well. I am going to frame that, too. I’ll hang them side by side.”

“How did this come about?” I asked Baxter.

“When we found out that David was retiring after 65 years, one of our board members, Richard Molay, jokingly said to him, ‘Oh, you should get a letter from the president.’ I said, ‘Great idea, write him.’ And so he did and to the governor, as well. We got a letter from the governor in time to present to David at his last concert. This letter from the president arrived just a few days ago.”

I am a friend of Dottie Happel,” said Jane Schneider. “She drew me to the Sinfonietta. She was the concertmaster. I have become a big fan. They have fabulous players doing incredible music that is not heard outside a small orchestra. I enjoy the whole experience of being so close – being right there. If you don’t play sometimes, you feel that you are because you are right there. They are like wings that transport you to another place.”

“I have being playing for six years,” said Colin Briggs, a young musician performing at the reception. I just play the clarinet. I sing, but I only play the clarinet. I play because I just like music. I tried the flute and trombone. My mom, who is the music teacher for the elementary school, brought me a clarinet. I tried it, liked it and have been playing it ever since. I have considered becoming a serious musician, but I have decided that I would rather keep it as a hobby.”

I have been playing since I was 9, so for seven years,” said Georgie Rickard, another student musician. “I play the piano and violin. I am going into piano in college. I have several schools that I am looking at. I just like the feel of making music and I enjoy seeing how it makes people happy. My mom (the high school art teacher) is cool with my being a musician. It’s artsy. She supports me. I do want to make a career as a musician with piano as my main thing.”

“The goal of the Sinfonietta’s education program is to bring high quality musical experiences to kids in our area,” said their education chair Kathy Briggs. “We work with Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake and have worked with Westport in the past. We hope to work with them again and Keene. We are fortunate that Ann Harrow is on the faculty of the Eastman School of Music. She connects us with the small ensembles that come here. We also work with the Crane School of Music.”

“I enjoy them, they are passionate about what they do,” said Georgie.

“They don’t just perform, they do master class and provide one on one instruction,” said Briggs.

“It is nice to talk with them, their ages are not all that different,” said Georgie.

“Because the college musician’s ages are not all that far apart from the high school students it makes it easier for the kids to imagine a career as a musician,” said Briggs.

“We have hosted this event for five years,” said Jill Cardinale, owner of The Pines. “I think what I like best about it is that the funds raised are to support the education program – because it is for the children. I also feel it is important to give them the opportunity to experience the arts.”

Once again Terry Robards and his Wine and Spirit Shop generously supported the Sinfonietta wine tasting. This year the tastings featured four different pinots, which were poured by the store’s new manager Tim Robinson and his wife Casey.

Article Photos

Tim and Casey Robinson and Terry Robards



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