The great American violinist Pamela Frank was 18 when she played the Sinfonia Concertante, Mozart’s concerto for violin, viola and orchestra, for the first time. It was in a concerto competition at the Music Academy of the West, and the violist was her best friend at the time. And they won. “I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” Frank says. “That was the highlight of my then-short life. I thought then that one could only play this piece with people that one feels very close to. And I’ve only played it for people I’ve had very close relationships with — because you are really divulging your soul.” Frank will be doing just that when she performs the work six times in Vermont, Sept. 20 to 26, as part of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s annual “Made in Vermont” statewide tour. Performing as viola soloist will be Frank’s childhood inspiration, later teacher, mentor and friend, Jaime Laredo. “So the idea of playing that with somebody who is not my peer, but who is somebody I love and respect and admire — I’m going to finally be able to tell Jaime how much I love him through the Sinfonia Concertante — thanking him for everything he has done for me, and who he is actually,” Frank says. On the tour, Laredo, the VSO’s music director, will also conduct “Dance of the Furies” from Gluck’s “Orfeo”; “Simple Symphony” by Benjamin Britten; and the world premiere of “Breath” by Brattleboro composer Paul Dedell, as well as soloing and conducting Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat, K. 364. Frank grew up in New York City, but immediately came under the spell of Vermont. Her parents, concert pianists Claude Frank and Lillian Kallir, in fact, were married at Marlboro Music Festival, where her father was one of the original teachers. There she came under the influence of pianist Rudolf Serkin, violinists Alexander Schneider and, of course, Laredo, among others. Frank’s career took off. After graduating from Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, she sang solo with the world’s greatest orchestras. She performed recitals with her father and pianist Peter Serkin, and chamber music with the likes of cellist Yo Yo Ma and pianist Emmanuel Ax. But soon after winning the exclusive Avery Fisher Prize in 1999, her career came to an abrupt stop. “I sustained a traumatic injury in 2001, which dramatically changed my life overnight,” Frank said in a phone interview from her New York City home Monday. “It drew on all my resources as a person to not link it to my identity as a person. It was very difficult at first because we identify ourselves by what we do more than who we are. It took me a while to figure that out,” she said. “So I had to sort of reinvent myself.” Fortunately, Frank had already begun a teaching career. So she threw herself into all that entailed, from master classes to regular students at Curtis and Baltimore’s Peabody Institute. One beneficiary was Berlin-bred violinist Jesse Irons, now based in Boston. “Teaching absolutely changed my life, and I can say unequivocally that I learned more from teaching in those first couple of years than I had in all the years playing beforehand,” she said. “First of all, I had to communicate with words — I couldn’t demonstrate, so I had to verbally articulate what had been instinct. So to intellectualize and to verbalize was a fantastic exercise for me, and it made me realize how music is constructed, it is communicated, and how it can get translated. “And not being able to demonstrate, as frustrating as that was, was actually better for me and for the student, because it prevented any sort of imitation,” Frank said. This hiatus had other advantages as well. It allowed her to spend time with her sick and dying mother. “And the hiatus actually continued through the beginning of my father’s decline, so that gave me time to take care of him as well,” she said. “So, in a way, it was lemons turned into lemonade. I think a trauma teaches you what you’re made out of. I started to feel like a person, even if I didn’t have a violin in my hands.” After some 10 years of hard work, drive and desire, Frank finally started to recover. She is quick to credit her physical therapist Howard Nelson. “Whom I, of course, had to marry as a result,” Frank said. “It was the only way to thank him.” Laredo has been a big part of Frank’s life beginning with childhood, but it was at Curtis she really came under his spell. During Frank’s third year, her teacher, renowned violinist Goldberg Szymon, “threw her out” for performing without his permission. Luckily, Laredo intervened and took over her studies for her remaining year and a half at Curtis. “But he saved me on so many levels because he liberated my thinking and my playing,” Frank said. “The way he taught was so diametrically opposed to the strict teaching I had had before. He encouraged openheartedness and full expression, and singing out, and playing out. “He actually sort of took the shackles off my playing — he encouraged full expression at all time, and to not overthink too much, and to really express pleasure in playing,” Frank said. “He got me over the hump of playing a lot of things I had been afraid of — so I credit him with enjoying performing.” When Laredo first asked Frank to perform a concerto with the VSO, she replied, “I’m not doing it without you. I’ll only accept if you’ll play with me,” she said. “And now to play one of my favorite pieces in Earth with him, I just feel spoiled beyond measure.”   VSO ‘Made in Vermont’ — Wednesday, Sept. 20: Randolph – Chandler Music Hall, 7 p.m. — Thursday, Sept. 21: Woodstock — Town Hall Theatre, 7:30 p.m. — Friday, Sept. 22: Brattleboro — Latchis Theatre, 7:30 p.m. — Saturday, Sept. 23: Middlebury — Mahaney Center, Middlebury College, 7:30 p.m. — Sunday, Sept. 24: Derby Line — Haskell Opera House, 4 p.m. — Tuesday, Sept. 26: Castleton — Castleton University Fine Arts Center, 7 p.m. For tickets or information, call 802-864-5741, ext. 10, or go online to

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.