Itzhak Perlman and The Perlman Music Program return this month to USF Sarasota-Manatee.

USF Sarasota-Manatee welcomes return of The Perlman Music Program Sarasota Winter Residency

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: December 16, 2019

SARASOTA, Fla. (Dec. 09, 2019) – Connecting with talented young musicians. Rehearsing without distraction. Collaborating with renowned faculty and performing at USF Sarasota-Manatee, the Church of the Palms and the Sarasota Opera House.

Musicians from The Perlman Music Program (PMP) say they enjoy many such features of the annual PMP Sarasota Winter Residency, but their biggest thrill is collaborating with celebrated violinist, conductor and PMP faculty member Itzhak Perlman, who conducts the PMP String Orchestra.

Derek Louie

“Just to sit down with someone like Mr. Perlman is amazing, and the music, the music is really unparalleled,” cellist Derek Louie, 21, a third-year student at The Juilliard School, said.

Louie is among 34 young musicians who will attend the PMP Sarasota Winter Residency from Dec. 23 to Jan. 4 at USFSM.

Each year as the fall semester ends and students exit for the holiday break, the campus opens its doors to PMP musicians 12 and older who perform on violin, viola, cello, bass and piano.

Now in its 16th year, the residency has become not only a much-anticipated campus tradition, but a popular community event. Audiences from across Southwest Florida enjoy rehearsals, master classes and “Works-in-Progress” recitals, in which musicians are encouraged to take artistic risks.

The PMP Winter Residency arrived in Sarasota as a way expand on the success of the PMP’s popular summer program on Shelter Island, New York.

Seeking a permanent venue with rehearsal rooms, a nearby hotel, parking and space for a performance tent – similar to the one used during the summer program – the PMP approached USF Sarasota-Manatee, which had just opened its campus.

A year later, in 2007, the PMP Winter Residency found a new home – and a supportive partner – at USFSM.

Now each December, as the semester winds down and students leave for the Christmas break, USFSM takes on a decidedly different role.

Its classrooms become rehearsal spaces, the courtyard becomes home to a heated performance tent and the Campus Café becomes the PMP café, courtesy of an arrangement between the PMP Sarasota Winter Residency and USFSM’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership.

“This truly is a perfect partnership, and we could not do this each year without the deep support and collaboration from USF Sarasota-Manatee,” Perlman Music Program/Suncoast Inc. Executive Director Elizabeth Power said.

The performances – of which many are free on campus – culminate with a “Celebration Concert” downtown at the Sarasota Opera House. This year’s concert is scheduled on Jan. 4.

KJ McDonald

For the program’s talented performers, the residency offers an escape from the cold, a chance to hone their craft and an opportunity to rekindle friendships with talented young musicians. Getting a chance to collaborate and chat with Perlman is a special honor.

“For me, as a violinist, Mr. Perlman’s a legend. He’s beyond anything I can imagine,” said KJ McDonald, a violinist and graduate student at The Julliard School. “I remember as a kid listening to recordings of Mr. Perlman and I wished I could listen to him live, and now I’m studying with him.”

McDonald, who has attended the Winter Residency seven times before, says returning to the yearly event is like “coming home.”

“The biggest thing for me is that I can rehearse and practice without having to worry about the rest of the world, even if it’s for just a couple of weeks at a time,” he said. “I like waking up and knowing I have four hours of practice that day. I don’t have to worry about anything else in the world except for practicing for that four hours.”

Also thrilling is the opportunity to try new artistic challenges without the worry of having to achieve a perfect performance the first time out. PMP encourages the musicians to push their creative boundaries in a welcoming, congenial environment. Audiences get to savor the results.

Hannah Geisinger

“I can say without a doubt this is my favorite festival out of all of them. It’s like a family here,” said Hannah Geisinger, a violist who is pursuing a master’s degree in performance at The Julliard School. “Once you’re in Perlman you’re in Perlman for life, and there are so many different activities. Sarasota is a great example.”

Founded by Perlman’s wife, Toby Perlman, in 1994, The Perlman Music Program offers unparalleled musical training by world-renowned faculty. In addition to the Sarasota residency, PMP presents a seven-week summer program for students ages 12 to 18 at PMP’s headquarters on Shelter Island, New York, as well as a two-week chamber music workshop.

“The level of teaching is so high you’re really not going to get much better than that in the world,” said Geisinger, who grew up in Stuart, two hours north of Miami. “The growth that we experience, not just from the level of our colleagues, but from the level of faculty, we’re just so blessed.”

Rinat Erlichman

As a result, students compete from across the world for the chance to join the prestigious PMP.

“I feel incredibly lucky to be here. Hundreds are trying to get into the program,” said Rinat Erlichman, an Israeli violinist and third-year student at The Julliard School. “They keep it small, and they have that personal connection to each student and answer each student’s needs.”

The public is invited to attend more than 20 free orchestra and chorus rehearsals, master classes, student recitals as well as special ticketed events. Most of the events take place at the USFSM campus, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.

Visit for tickets and the PMP Sarasota Winter Residency schedule.

For more about USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit

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