With their fundraising auction on June 8, Chamber Music Madness will celebrate its 10th year of teaching young people to play chamber music. The program teaches sight-reading, repertoire, and the democratic process required of small groups of musicians (usually the string quartet, two violins, a viola and a cello), who are playing without a conductor.
But in director Karen Iglitzin’s mind, the origins of the school go back almost 25 years, to the Olympic Music Festival, when it first started its “concerts in the barn” and its adjunct summer camp, in 1984.
Although Karen is the product of extensive music education — she studied with Josef Gingold at Indiana University and with Joseph Silverstein at Yale — her studies really began as a child.
Her dad, Alan Iglitizin, is a founding member of the Philadelphia String Quartet.
“My sister and I sat at every concert from early childhood,” she recalls, and memorized every piece. “I had so much of the music in my head; it really helped me later.”
The quartet moved to Seattle in 1966 when Karen was 8, and became the quartet-in-residence at the University of Washington. That residency ended in 1982 — about a year after Karen finished graduate studies — and left an opening for first violin, which she filled.
“It was a fantastic musical experience,” she says, “but I had to learn 30 complete works” in the first year, sending her into musical “hyperdrive.” But it gave her “an incredible level of compassion for students” that came in handy when she started teaching.
In addition to touring, the quartet founded the aforementioned Olympic Music Festival at the Iglitzin farm in Quilcene. Karen directed the four-week camp, which is offered every year.
“It was kind of insane. I was performing every weekend, [and after every weekday rehearsal at 4 p.m]. I turned into camp director.”
In 1986, Karen left the quartet and began teaching at Western Washington University. There, she turned to her teaching, to outreach, and to building the school’s music program, moving markedly away from performing as a violinist. She also developed an interest in decidedly un-classical modes, exploring Klezmer and Contra dancing.
“It’s not considered a good career move if you are a professional violinist,” she observes.
A 1997 trip to China with then-husband Roger Nelson and daughter Ariana brought her back to playing. “I decided I needed to play [in China] because I had no other way to communicate…[and] I fell back in love with the violin.”
Back in the States, she quit her tenured post and decided to focus on her other interests, education and enthusiasm for kids. Starting with a two-week residential camp (dubbed Camp Nirvana by one of the students), she added the “madness” programs, an “anti-contest,” and coaching for teachers.
The Camp Nirvana concert is in July. There may, as you’re reading this, still be tickets to the auction, which features chamber music, of course, as well as Irish dancing. More information, as well as an auction catalog, is available at www.chambermusicmadness.com.
One more fun fact: Karen’s grandmother, Etta Iglitzin, was house mother for the UW Jewish sorority Phi Sigma Sigma.
Michaela Calderon did something different for mid-winter break this year. The Interlake High School (Bellevue) junior joined a group of students going to New Orleans to clean up trash in the still-devastated Lower Ninth Ward.
“Most of the houses were gone,” she told me. “There weren’t any livable homes.”
Working with the Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association, the group removed trash from people’s yards.
“We found people’s lives in the rubble,” she says.
A 2006 article posted on bestofneworleans.com says that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expected to need until the middle of 2007 to clean up all the trash, but that garbage and debris still remain.
Michaela’s group engaged in some civil disobedience, piling trash in the middle of the street, blocking traffic. They hoped this would force the city to remove it. Meanwhile, rumors abound that government or big business are preventing homeowners from returning so they can acquire the land for commercial development.
Michaela is the daughter of Debbie and Jack Calderon. She’s an active young woman who works as a lifeguard at the Bellevue Aquatic Center. (When she’s not recovering from a shoulder injury), she enjoys cheerleading, gymnastics, swimming and diving. Her family attends Temple De Hirsch Sinai and she says that Rabbi Daniel Weiner has inspired her. She hopes to make helping people a life-long activity.
Dorothy Kahn, youth director at Seattle’s Temple Beth Am, was recognized by the Union for Reform Judaism (Reform’s parent body) as youth director of the month in March. Dorothy has worked with youth in some capacity for 18 years. In an interview posted on the URJ Web site, she says: “What other job could I possibly have that pays me to combine Torah study and life-size inflatable Foosball, in one event?”