"Violinist Robert McDuffie is a born advocate: a comfortable presence with a persuasive gift when it comes to the music and the beliefs he holds dear," wrote Symphony magazine recently.
Much has been made of McDuffie's leisurely trip to the top.
While Juilliard classmate Nadja Salerno-Sonnerberg soured to early success, McDuffie honed his art and his intellect far from the spotlight.
Musically, McDuffie advocates with equal fervor for Romantic war horses and American works of the last half-century.
McDuffie performs Serenade by Leonard Bernstein, one of American's titans from the past century, Jan. 19 at 8 p.m. at Powers Auditorium.
When Macon, Ga., native McDuffie performs the Serenade, (after Plato's Symposium) he will do so on his recently acquired $3.5 million Guarneni del Gesu violin. It was once owned by Paganini.
In his quest to buy his dream violin, McDuffie created a limited partnership, then persuaded investors to buy shares in the instrument and reap profits when the violin is sold a quarter-century hence.
The venture marked a marriage of high art and business notable for diluting neither.
Natural inclusion: In celebrating American composers, the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra inclusion of Bernstein is a natural.
Jack of many trades, master of them all, Leonard Bernstein -- known as Lenny -- was conductor, composer, pianist, writer, lecturer, teacher and, no doubt one of America's most artful exports. He attacked each of his multiple careers with a fierce ambition and seemingly inexhaustible energy.
A master showman, who appealed to teen-agers and highly cultured music lovers alike, Bernstein was an American phenomenon.
The orchestra opens the program with Adolphus Hailstork's Celebration, a piece written by the composer in 1974 while on the faculty at the Dana School of Music. Celebration was commissioned by the J.C. Penney Co. for the nation's bicentennial. The orchestra, directed by Isaiah Jackson, also performs Brahms Symphony No. 3 and Wagner's Prelude to Die Meistersinger.
Late in life: That Brahms delayed writing a symphony till he was 43 puzzles many historians. After all, Beethoven had composed eight of his nine by that age. Mozart had his first at barely age 10; Mendelssohn's symphonic debut began at 15, and Schubert's first dates from the composer's 16th year.
Although it took Brahms many years of planning, recurring delays and misgivings before launching into the symphonic form, the musical world accords to him the rank of Romantic Symphonist second to Beethoven.
At 8 p.m. Oct. 24, 1867, Richard Wagner might have been heard breathing a deep sigh of relief. With recurring new projects, Wagner's frequent domestic snarls, his revolutionary activities and exile, staggering efforts to get his operas produced, his affair with Mathilda Wesendonck, and his financial troubles, it is a wonder the idea of writing a comedy did not die a slow death. In writing "Die Meistersinger," his only comedy, Wagner produced his most human and lovable opera.
To get tickets: Tickets for the January concert, underwritten in part by The Winner Foundation, are available by calling the Symphony Center box office at (330) 744-0264.
Members of the New Hope Academy Chorus, The Voices of Hope, will perform under the direction of Dr. Sylvia Imler in the grand lobby before the Jan. 19 concert.
Glass Harp encore: More strings will be heard at 8 p.m. Jan. 20 at Powers in the "Strings Attached" encore concert featuring Glass Harp with the orchestra.
Since its YSO debut concert two years ago, Youngstown- based rock group Glass Harp has worked with the Orchestra to plan a reunion concert with new Glass Harp songs and an even greater orchestra accompaniment.
In the late '60s and early '70s, the power rock trio reached for the stars. It was a bare-bones group in the tradition of Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Experience, and fellow Ohio band, The James Gang.
The seeds of the group were planted in the fall of 1965 when Phil Keaggy (guitarist) and John Sferra (drummer) met and became fast friends as eighth-graders. By their junior year in high school, the duo teamed with bassist Steve Markulin to form Glass Harp. Shortly after the band recorded its first demo project, John Carazino took over the bass seat, which would be yielded one more time to Daniel Pecchio. In 1972, Keaggy left Glass Harp to pursue other interests. Glass Harp's efforts to fill Keaggy's slot were unsuccessful and eventually the group disbanded.
The trio was reunited on several occasions in the '80s, and in impromptu settings with Sferra and Pecchio joining Keaggy on stage when the latter's tours brought him to the region. The group performed with the orchestra in October for the first time. The occasion was extraordinary, resulting in its latest CD "Strings Attached."
Tickets to see Glass Harp with the YSO are available through the Symphony Center box office.
XPatricia C. Syak is executive director of the Youngstown Symphony Society.