Violinist Thomas Yee, pianist Aileen Chanco & cellist Michelle Kwon
The Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), a graduate school of Middlebury College, is an important asset in our community. Just how distinguished this institution is became obvious during Michelle Obama’s recent visit to China when a MIIS faculty member, Associate Professor Laura D. Burian, was selected as the official simultaneous translator. MIIS may be a long way from Washington, DC, but its importance looms large in the international community of institutions providing training in area studies and simultaneous translation.
Most of us on the Monterey Peninsula have little contact with the faculty, staff and students of MIIS. Well, perhaps that is about to change. On Thursday evening, May 1, we witnessed the beginning of an historic collaboration between the Monterey County Symphony and the “eMIISsaries of the Monterey Institute of International Studies.” This beginning event was a chamber music concert featuring some of the principal players of the Monterey Symphony coming together to play an intimate concert called “An Evening of the French Masters.” On the program were some significant works by Debussy, Ravel, Fauré and Albert Roussel. The Monterey Symphony musicians gathered together for the occasion by violinist and concertmaster Christina Mok were cellist Michelle Kwon, harpist Karen Thielen, violist Alexander Volonts, flutist Dawn Walker and violinist Thomas Yee, with special guest distinguished pianist Aileen Chanco.
The performances we enjoyed on this occasion were on the very high artistic level we have come to expect from Monterey Symphony principal players, and it was all the more enhanced by the warm ambiance of Irvine Auditorium on the MIIS campus. This venue, seating approximately 300, is acoustically well suited for music making and has excellent sight lines for its audience members.
One of the most significant aspects of this concert was the audience itself. For most concerts regularly presented on the Monterey Peninsula, we are accustomed to very mature audiences of senior citizens, sometimes in jest referred to as “grey-haired and no-haired.” But what we witnessed last night was a new audience, and it was a very young audience of students, faculty and guests. In the audience was MIIS President Sunder Ramaswamy and his wife Varna, Monterey Symphony Conductor Max Bragado-Darman and his wife Mary, and Anne & Peter Thorp, representing the Carmel Music Society. Honored before the concert were some patrons whose financial support made this evening’s concert possible – Mr. & Mrs. E. S. Dewey, Mr. & Mrs. William G Doolittle, Mr. & Mrs. Lyman Hamilton, and Mr. & Mrs. Lee Rosen.
Hopefully we are witnessing the birth of a new series of entertaining and cultural events presented in an intimate and warm environment on the MIIS campus. This was a classy event, with a pre-concert talk by Dr. Todd Samra and an elegant post-concert reception where we mingled with the musicians and made new friends with audience members.
In the immortal words of Humphrey Bogart in the closing moments of the film Casablanca – “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”