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The weekend of November 4-5 marked another milestone in the history of Partners in Performance (PiP) – two unforgettable benefit performances by Midori and Robert McDonald in Maryland. I had the good fortune to accompany them.

After meeting in Pittsburgh (the closest major airport to our first venue), we three drove through the rolling hills of Pennsylvania and West Virginia into Maryland. It looked like autumn but felt like winter.

The first concert, at Garrett Lakes Arts Festival in McHenry, Maryland, was in an intimate and leafy college setting. Midori and Bob used the music teacher’s room as their dressing room. The Executive Director, Lucinda Williams (who herself is an accomplished musician), could not have been more gracious and welcoming.

After practicing for most of the day, Midori and Bob gave a stellar performance. The program began with their duet of Beethoven’s youthfully light Sonata in E-flat Major, Opus 12, No. 3. Midori then delivered a dazzling performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Sonata in C Major BWV 1005, a piece at the pinnacle of solo literature for the solo violin. Following a brief intermission, the musicians returned as an inspiring duo in Claude Debussy’s 1916 Sonata for Violin and Piano and the Violin and Piano Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 18 by Richard Strauss.

Midori and Bob stayed for the reception following the concert – which included the best apple cider I have ever tasted. At dinner afterwards, a number of locals stopped at our table to say what an extraordinary experience the concert had been.

Early the next morning, we continued our journey, with Bob again behind the wheel of our trusty rental car. We drove through ski territory (including a town named, one hopes not prophetically, “Accident.”) After about 2.5 hours, we arrived at our next destination: the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland. As we entered the town and noticed the beautifully maintained homes and charming local streets, Bob announced: “I like this town!”

We pulled up to the Museum, located along a stunning lake, and were immediately met by the museum’s Director, Joe Ruzicka, whom I had known when we both worked at The Museum of Modern Art in New York (he on the art history side, and I as a lawyer). Throughout the next 12 hours, Joe and his staff were extremely professional and accommodating (not to mention providing delicious banana bread in the dressing room.)

Shortly before the concert, Midori graciously agreed to meet for an informal discussion with twenty-four top students who had been nominated for a chance to meet her by local high school and college music departments. In the intimate setting of the Museum’s library, Midori went around the room and enthusiastically asked each student about his or her school and musical interests. She then fielded questions about musical technique and composition, and about her influences, motivation and drive. She encouraged them to continue developing their love for music, regardless of their future career choices.

The concert itself, set in the heart of the Museum, was splendid. A Museum trustee had donated tickets for young music students to attend. Joe explained that the concert was in honor of the Museum’s 75th anniversary and its long-time dedication to chamber music – and said that it was the most extraordinary musical event that the Museum had ever presented. All proceeds from the concert were allocated to the Museum’s endowment and dedicated to supporting the Museum’s free Sunday afternoon concerts.

Following the concert, Midori and Bob greeted the audience at a reception. Before you knew it, we were back in the rental car, heading towards Baltimore, from where Midori took the last flight back to L.A. and Bob and I took a late-night Amtrak back to New York. Since there was no time for dinner, we were grateful for the last crumbs of banana bread and the few canapes I had stolen from the reception.

In the best PiP tradition, the two benefit concerts not only raised funds for ongoing concert series at these deserving venues, but also created lasting memories for everyone involved. The weekend also showed what a diverse and wonderful place Maryland is.

At the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Midori receiving flowers from the Museum’s Director, Joseph Ruzicka

Photography by Dale, Inc.