Linda Shapiro Chemtob – founder of the New York, Harrisburg and Baltimore based chamber ensemble Concertante

by Catherine Hampton
August 10, 2011

 

About Linda Shapiro Chemtob:

Born March 20, 1951 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Ms. Chemtob studied piano for many years as a child, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Clark University, Massachusetts, in 1972, a Master’s Degree from the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, in 1975 and a Juris Doctor degree from the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University. 

Ms. Chemtob was founder of the New York, Harrisburg and Baltimore-based chamber ensemble Concertante, serving as its executive director since 1997. She was a driving force behind the success of this internationally recognized ensemble. Before running Concertante, she was program director of the Arts for the Talented Youth Program at Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute in Baltimore for five years, and served on the Institute’s Advisory Council.  Ms. Chemtob, who was one of the Peabody Institute’s most generous donors, founded the Arts for Talented Youth (ATY) program at the institute.  ATY was one of the first secondary school music programs to develop and use a structured curriculum integrating dancers, instrumentalists, and singers. She also served on the Board of Concert Artists Guild, Chamber Music America, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and the Peabody Institute.

Ms. Chemtob was a Vice-President of the Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center, as well as serving as the Chairman of the Special Music School’s Participating Board. She became a prominent advocate and supporter of the Kaufman Center’s Lucy Moses Public School for Musically Gifted Children, where she worked closely withKaufmanCenter’s Executive Director Lydia Kontos, with both serving on the Board of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts.  Prior to her involvement in the arts, Ms. Chemtob was a corporate attorney, working in her early years at the Rite-Aid Corporation.  She was the recipient of numerous awards recognizing her for public leadership in articulating the needs and goals in music and art education.

Her daughter Rachel Shapiro is a violist, New York Philharmonic Senior Teaching Artist, and member of Concertante, and her son Adam Shapiro, is a sound and lighting engineer. 

 

Interview with Rachel Shapiro

When did Linda decide to make the move to Baltimore and how did she become involved with The Peabody Institute?

Since I was six years old my Mother would drive me all the way from Harrisburg, PA down to The Peabody Institute inBaltimore.  I had my music lessons there all day.  A few years later, my brother Adam starting taking trumpet lessons atPeabody.  Eventually I starting taking classes on Tuesdays as well and so the commuting was becoming very taxing.  Some other things came together and the stars sort of aligned at a point that everybody thought it would make sense to just move down toBaltimore. 

My Mom’s involvement with Peabody started during those Saturdays while I was at class and she found herself just asking around Peabody how she could help.  She is not a person who enjoys idle time.  When we made the move to Baltimore my Mom decided she did not want to take the Maryland bar exam and so she decided to devote herself to Peabody.  She served on the board of Peabody and co-chaired the institution’s 100th anniversary .  She not only lent her incredibly generous financial support but also spearheaded a new program there, Arts for Talented Youth, which focused on the top students at Peabody.  Peabody Prep unlike Juilliard Pre-College is open to all students, no audition is required, so there was a desire to create a cross-curricular program for higher level students in music, dance, and composition.  She organized tours to Europe for us.  We traveled to The Netherlands and performed in Amsterdam, Delft, Gouda and at the Rotterdam Conservatory.   She would also take us to hear concerts in New York.   We went to performances at Carnegie Hall, BAM, etc.

When Concertante was formed and how did you and Linda first become involved?

Concertante was originally started in Harrisburgby a group of Juilliard students who had moved there after graduation.  Since Rachel already had a strong connection to Harrisburg because of her family, she was invited to participate in the group while still a student at Juilliard.  At that time, Concertante performed only two to three times a year in Harrisburg.  Because of some changes the group found itself without an administrative director and so I asked my Mom if she could step in temporarily since I knew she had a great talent for this kind of work.  After my Mom took over things snowballed and before we knew it she was running the group.  She spent a lot of time talking with X and Zvi about what direction the group should take, how do we get to the next level?  She encouraged us to take our passion and interest in Concertante to another level and brought on management.  Mom’s guidance helped us focus on creating a unique identity (flexible sextet) and market ourselves to a broader audience.

How did the Baltimore series start?

My Mom had a beautiful home in Baltimore and had developed what I would call an addiction to renovation.  Around 2001 she decided to add on a large salon to the house which was able to accommodate over 100 people for private concerts.  My Mom even had an acoustician oversee the construction of the room.  The concerts were invitation only on Sunday afternoons and Mom would hold a reception afterward.  Of course Concertante performed many times but a lot of other musicians were also invited to perform there  Each concert drew an audience of 80-110 and it became a full blown series – “Music in My Room.”

After Mom moved toNew Yorkand sold the house so we moved the concerts toPeabody.  Last year we opened the series up to the public and held the performances at the Bolton Street Synagogue where we have had great success drawing new audiences.

Moving forward, what do you want to see for the Baltimore series?

As far as the Baltimore series is concerned– since we started playing at Bolton Street Synagogue – we are drawing a wider variety of audience and what we want, what we would like is to be entrenched as a great chamber music series inBaltimore.  This is a fantastic opportunity for people of Baltimore to hear chamber music entirely free of a charge. I have a personal connection to the city and I would like to see this series continue to thrive and attract even more people to our concerts.

How did the New York Series start?

Most of the musicians lived inNew York and it had become clear that Concertante needed to start performing in New York.  My Mom had a presence in New Yorkand served on the board of Concert Artists Guild and Chamber Music America.  We looked with our manager for a place where we could present a concert series and Merkin Hall at theKaufman Centerbecame our home. 

Was there any awkwardness having your mother involved? Or conversely, for Linda, having her daughter involved?  What do you think Linda enjoyed most about working with Concertante?

Of course there were some moments of tension.  I felt sometimes I had to jostle a bit to maintain my individuality.  It was always in the subtext that I was Linda’s daughter and she was my mother.  Mom loved being around young people, she loved their energy, their humor.  Concertante became an extended family and she loved the relationships she had with the members of the group.  It was very fulfilling for her.

Any final thoughts?

My Mom put a tremendous of time, effort and financial support into Concertante and never stopped working to help us achieve our goals, but at the end of the day, I think she would just say that it was her pleasure.