A Place to Thrive: Cleveland Institute of Music

A Place to Thrive
Cleveland Institute of Music


By Claudia Taller

Serious young musicians realize their full potential at the Cleveland Institute of Music. The stage productions and concerts are anything but amateurish. The talent of the students is astounding and inspiring, and your faith in institutions will be restored. CIM is world class, but at its heart it molds and encourages young musicians to embrace their gifts and become who they were meant to be.

All that was evident to me when I left the Mixon concert hall on a starry, starry night in November. I’d just witnessed Daniil Trifonov, considered “one of the brightest new names of the next generations of pianists” (according to the evening program) perform Schumann, Paganini, Schubert, Chopin and Liszt. My buried youthful love of classical music, particularly Chopin, made my fingers tingle, and I vowed to pull out my piano music and start playing regularly again.

The concert was part of the Mixon Hall Masters Series. The next concert takes place on Tue 2/14, with Emanuel Ax on the piano at 7:30PM. The Mixon Hall Masters Series is only one of several opportunities the public has to show off. Most of the concerts are performed by CIM students, like Trifonov. The Concert Series program asks “Music… Where Will It Take You?”

You can go many places by attending one of the concerts. “As one of the premier conservatories in the country, CIM’s mission is to cultivate new generations of young musicians through an immersive and creative educational process.” Part of the process is to become comfortable on the stage. The students are trained by a faculty that believes in collaboration with their students and includes 41 members of the Cleveland Orchestra. CIM is dedicated to sharing what they do at the Institute with the Cleveland community, and globally through high-speed videoconferencing.

Mixon Hall is serene. Floor-to-ceiling windows behind the stage reveal a garden, so performances are against a garden backdrop. When I was there, a light snow was falling behind young Trifonov at the Steinway, and he was flanked by faculty and students dressed in black and amazingly attentive and still. The audience was a mixed crowd of classical music aficionados, some clad in jeans with backpacks on the floor and others silver-haired and wearing neckties.

Trifonov became one with that piano. He engaged his entire being into playing a story of the heart. He felt the pain, joy, and excitement of the music. The music trilled and swooned behind a steady melody played by gliding fingers whose motions were as smooth as a swan on Wade Oval. I could hardly tell the musician was playing separate keys, like a painter or sculptor whose role is to blend all the elements into a beautiful piece of art. While much of the playing was explosive, the pianist was at times sweet or playful. It was as if he was grasping and letting go, feeling remembrance and regret.

The audience experienced a genius. Daniil Trifonov is 20-years-old and hails from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. During the 2010/11 season he won medals at the prestigious Chopin Competition in Warsaw, the Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv, and the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Since then, he has performed worldwide. He began his musical studies at five, and at the age of 17 won many awards around the world. In 2009, he received a Guzik Foundation Career Grant and toured the United States and Italy. He has studied piano at CIM since 2009 in the class of Sergei Babayan. His first CD was released on Decca in 2011.

It is remarkable that a musician of Trifonov’s stature has chosen to study in Cleveland. And though the students at CIM are the world’s most talented, I couldn’t help but wonder how an inner city youth’s life could be changed by being part of what CIM has to offer.

Upcoming CIM stage performances, in addition to the piano concert by Emanuel Ax on Tue 2/14, include opera and orchestra concerts. Visit http://CIM.edu/calendar for events, and order tickets through the box office at 11021 East Boulevard or by calling 216.791.5000, extension 411.

Claudia Taller is the author of Ohio’s Lake Erie Wineries and has been a Cool Cleveland contributor for many years. She helps writers and other creative people discover possibilities for their lives through Igniting Possibilities events, including Word Lovers retreats. She has written articles for numerous publications over the last decade and blogs at http://ClaudiaTallerMusings.blogspot.com. Her book can be purchased at http://OhioLakeErieWineries.blogspot.com and makes a perfect gift for history buffs and wine lovers.

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