The Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 23, 2002
September 23, 2002
VOL. 32, NO. 4


Updating a Sunday-night Tradition

Shriver Hall Concert Series adds three special programs to 37th season

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Sel Kardan says that when he looked out into last season's Shriver Hall Concert Series crowd, he observed a sea of familiar faces--the loyal patrons who come each year to listen to world-class musicians and the stars of tomorrow perform chamber music at the Homewood venue. He also noticed what in his assessment is too frequently missing from the picture--young, unfamiliar faces.

Kardan, who became the executive director of the prominent music series this past June, has been coming to concerts at Shriver Hall ever since his undergraduate days at Peabody. The violist and teacher says that what originally drew him to the performances were the big names, artists such as Dawn Upshaw, Murray Perahia and Nathianal Rosen, who he thought skipped over Charm City when planning their tour schedules.

Getting ready for the opening of his first season as director of the Shriver Hall Concert Series, Sel Kardan overlooks the seats where he first sat as a Peabody student.

"I've always felt that this is great, to have in Baltimore the same level of concert you would find in a New York City. The series has a tremendous international reputation; it's become a major stop on the classical tour," Kardan says. "That is why it is so frustrating not to see more Peabody and Homewood students here."

Kardan says that for the concert series and chamber music to survive, a new crop of enthusiasts needs to be cultivated. To that end, Kardan has put education, outreach and attracting even more young, future stars high on his agenda.

"I'm committed to getting Hopkins students, and simply more young people, in the hall," he says. "I know how much I enjoyed this concert series as a student, having this resource here. Now that I'm running the series, I want others to have that same opportunity."

On Sept. 29, the concert series kicks off its 37th season with the Borromeo String Quartet and wraps up with a performance by renowned pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet on April 6. Other artists who will appear at the hall include violinist Vadim Repin, cellist Pieter Wispelwey and the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin.

In addition to its traditional schedule of eight Sunday evening concerts, the series this season will have three extra premier performances: a concert by pianist Murray Perahia, an all-day symposium on Brahms' chamber works and a Gregor Piatigorsky Centennial Celebration to honor the late cello master on the 100th anniversary of his birth. The 11 events are the most ever done by the series.

Kardan says he is excited to begin what he playfully calls "the piano powerhouse season."

"It will be a fabulous year for piano enthusiasts, as we have three of the really great pianists of all time coming to the hall," says Kardan, referring to Perahia, Thibaudet and Arcadi Volodos. "The Brahms symposium, which is part of our education effort, promises to be an extraordinary event as three of the top Brahms scholars from around the world are coming here."

The Shriver Hall Concert Series traces its roots to 1965, when a dedicated band of Hopkins faculty members led by Ernst Bueding hatched the idea of bringing world-class music at affordable prices to the area. The group was allowed to use the 1,100-seat Shriver Hall for its opening concert by Jean-Pierre Rampal and Robert Veyron-Lacroix. Due to the concert's success, the group was permitted by Hopkins to continue to use the facility rent-free.

In its first few years of existence, the concert series was run by the Office of Special Events. Today, the private, nonprofit series is run by Kardan and a volunteer group of music lovers who are responsible for attracting the performers. Kardan replaced Bill Nerenberg, the series' first full-time managing director, who left in June to pursue other interests, including being an active volunteer at the Peabody Institute and president of the New Chamber Festival Baltimore, a collaborative effort by several Hopkins affiliates.

Kardan studied both violin and viola at the Peabody Conservatory and has performed as a recitalist and chamber musician throughout North America. He has been a full-time faculty member at the Peabody Preparatory for several years and has served as executive director of the Heifetz International Music Institute in Annapolis.

Kardan says he took over a prospering music series, thanks in large part to the efforts of Jephta Drachman, the president of its board of directors.

"The subscriber base has really grown since her arrival in 1992," he says. "This year we will have roughly 730 subscribers, which is fantastic for a hall of this size. We have some very loyal people who come back year after year."

In his effort to attract students, Kardan has instituted a policy that allows them to purchase any unsold tickets for $8 on the day of the event. He has also taken steps for the series to adopt a public elementary school.

"I wanted to do something that would introduce youth to chamber music who would not normally be exposed to that medium," he says. "We will focus on one school and go there repeatedly throughout the year. It will probably be a combination of local musicians and visiting artists doing presentations and outreach. We would ultimately like to bring those students who have shown extraordinary interest in our programs to a concert here at Shriver Hall."

Kardan's other plans include radio broadcasts of concerts, which are all digitally recorded, and increased canvassing of local campuses to promote the series. He says he is hopeful that through reduced ticket prices, educational outreach and marketing he can lure more students and the next generation of chamber music fans to Shriver Hall.

"We also have a lot of young performers in our upcoming series, like Hyunah Yu, a Peabody graduate whom we feel is really going to make a big career for herself. The vision of the series has always been to present established international artists alongside up-and-coming young talent," he said. "The future of chamber music in Baltimore is right here at the Shriver Hall Concert Series."

The Borromeo String Quartet
Sunday, Sept. 29
7:30 p.m., Shriver Hall
Homewood campus

Tickets are $33 for general admission; $17 for students in advance; $8 for students on the day of the concert; call 410-516-7164. For complete information on the 2002-2003 season, go to