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Taking Young Musicians to the Next Stage

Founders of International Laureates Chamber Music Festival hope to nurture talented youths who just need an opportunity for success.

July 26, 1998|Josef Woodard | Josef Woodard is an occasional contributor to Calendar

Starting a music festival can be arduous, intimidating business, but it can also be tinged with the excitement of a new beginning. Just ask Laura Schmieder, who, with her husband, Eduard, is launching the inaugural International Laureates Chamber Music Festival, with five concerts in different venues around Los Angeles starting this Thursday, and running through Aug. 6.

As festival names go, this one may not be the most romantic, or the most informative. Then again, this model is a work-in-progress, flung into being by the force of a good idea and given the support of such stellar names on the advisory board as Yehudi Menuhin, Gidon Kremer and Ida Haendel. The central notion of the festival, and the hosting organization, Young Artists International, is to celebrate young--but not green--talent, and give a public platform to carefully picked musicians at a tender stage in their careers.

"What we are doing is quite unique," said Laura Schmieder, the artistic/executive director of the festival, who has an infectious zeal about the project, and no false modesty. "There are many festivals and organizations geared toward helping young musicians, but none with such ideals and high goals.

"Little did I know what I put myself into when I started. I had a very successful teaching career here in Los Angeles. I was privileged to teach very advanced students. That's where the idea came from, because my students were winning these competitions everywhere and then they were stuck. What else? Nothing else would happen for them."

The Russian-born Schmieders, who moved to Los Angeles in 1986, are noted violinists and teachers: Eduard commutes to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and Laura has taught at Colburn School of Music, the Idyllwild Summer Program, and Interlochen, among other institutions. Her life as a concert impresario and now festival founder began more recently, when she organized the Sundays at Two series of chamber concerts at the Beverly Hills Library, beginning four years ago. The ongoing recital series has developed a unique emphasis on young musicians. Out of that experience, a larger vision grew.

"We are new," said Schmieder of the nonprofit Young Artists International, which seeks to help novice artists with management, competitions, financial assistance and other administrative functions, in addition to presenting the annual festival. "We received our nonprofit status in November of '97, [and] all of our board members tell us that we are moving with huge steps. My husband says, 'Well, what's to wait for?' We have a sense of urgency. We have to do this."

A movable feast, the festival will include concerts at the Clark Library in Los Angeles, Raitt Hall at Pepperdine, the L.A. County Museum of Art--for broadcast on KUSC-FM--the Beverly Hills Public Library, and finally, at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State Los Angeles. The six musicians will mix and match on all the programs, designed by the Schmieders, and they will be coached by Eduard Schmieder and Zvi Zeitlin, and Menachem Pressler.

'I always felt that young artists," Laura Schmieder explained, "don't have enough exposure. They get bits and pieces, here and there, when they go to competitions. We're not talking about the musicians who go to international competitions, who win first prize for the fourth consecutive time--they have engagements. But we're talking about artists who might get second, fourth or sixth prize, but are no less talented. They can deliver to the audience and sometimes give them something even more special than those in the spotlight."

The festival, she hopes, will nurture that kind of talent. "The communication that there used to be between the artist and the audience is largely lost," Schmieder says. "People listen to the recordings a lot. Even those who go to the Dorothy Chandler, they go maybe once a month. They hear one and then the next one, and they really don't remember the difference. So they don't know what it means.

"We believe that this art of communication with the audience has to be protected. This is why we're looking for young artists who, we believe, are able to communicate to the audience--or will be able to do so."

This is where another aspect of the Y.A.I. operation comes into play: management. The festival has an ulterior purpose for the Schmieders. "We don't want to use the words audition or testing, but in a way, it is," Schmieder commented. "We will see how our artists are able to react to the audience. Shall we further promote them? Shall we break our heads trying to convince the people we know in the industry, to give them a green light?"

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