The South Florida Youth Symphony’s (SFYS.net) Concert Master Yosvani Rodriguez has been awarded a scholarship to the Interlochen Center for the Arts, one of the most prestigious music academies in the world.
The 16-year-old violinist, a sophomore at the Mays Conservatory of the Arts in Goulds, is nearly speechless as he describes the opportunity to join other talented musicians — who come from around the world — at the academy located in Interlochen, MI.
“I’m very excited, of course,” said the student who first picked up the violin in the fifth grade. “Music means a lot to me. It’s basically my life, it’s how I express myself.”
Rodriguez, who will be majoring in composition and violin, isn’t wary of the daunting task of competing with other young world-class musicians. In fact, he’s confident in his abilities after years of studying violin greats such as Itzhak Perlman and Pichas Zukerman.
“I’ve spent hundreds of hours studying the greats, so I’m not really nervous,” he said with a smile. “I really don’t get nervous because I don’t think about bad things. I’m looking forward to it.”
Rodriguez will be joining fellow Youth Symphony alumni Andres Harper Rosenberg at Interlochen, an academy that costs $69,000 annually. In addition to Interlochen, the South Florida Youth Symphony — now in its 52nd year — has sent more than 20 students to a wide variety of prestigious music academies and camps worldwide. These include the Brevard, NC Summer Music Center, Swanee Summer Music Camp in Tennessee, Eastern Music Festival in South Carolina, Aspen Music Festival in Colorado and the Rome Festival Academy in Italy.
“Yosvani is definitely one of the most talented and dedicated musicians we’ve ever had,” said Marjorie Hahn, SFYS executive and creative director.
“You could see from day one the talent he possessed, but talent alone isn’t enough. Young musicians need to apply themselves and improve their technique. Yosvani did that and getting a scholarship to Interlochen is a reward for his countless hours of practice and dedication. We are extremely proud of this fine young man.”
And when school begins on Sept. 4 — Rodriguez’s 17th birthday — he will be using a new, handcrafted violin, courtesy of Allegro Music Center (AllegroMusicCenter.com). Hahn let longtime friend Manuel Berberian, owner of Allegro, know about the talented young musician who didn’t even own his own instrument (he had been playing with a school violin).
Rodriguez’s new violin — bearing the label “Emmanuel Berberian” — costs more than $1,000, including bow and case.
“I was poor and couldn’t afford my own violin,” said Berberian, 75, who was born in Athens, Greece and lived in Argentina, Canada and Puerto Rico before settling in Miami. “My first two violins were given to me, so when I hear of someone like Yosvani, I like to help. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last.”
Hahn puts it succinctly.
“Manuel is incredibly community oriented and has a great reputation for giving instruments, particularly in Colombia and Venezuela, El Salvador, Argentina and other Latin American countries” she said. “He likes to pay it forward. Without his help, Yosvani would have had to go to school without his own violin.”
Berberian, who purchased Allegro — a South Florida music industry fixture since 1961— in 2002, prides himself on his collection of more than 50 Italian, English, Bohemian and German antique violins, most 200-300 years old. His oldest was made in 1722. He relishes showing the collection to his students to instill a sense of history.
Many of Berberian’s students come from disadvantage backgrounds and the man who started playing violin himself at age five again ‘pays it forward’ with free lessons. The students must show some talent, a desire to learn and financial need.
“I wanted to be a professional violinist,” he said, showing Rodriguez a 1750 violin. “Now it gives me great personal pleasure and satisfaction to help others.”