Friday, August 6, 2010

Housing hosts keep symphony in play

Host families key to success of summer music series

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley residents Larry and Marlene Samuels are the host family for violinist Misha Rosenker, left, who plays for the Des Moines Symphony.

This summer's Sun Valley Summer Symphony includes 112 musicians who come from various symphonies around the country to play in the orchestra. The growth of the symphony from its Elkhorn-based beginnings of only 35 musicians is remarkable. But the most impressive part of the symphony is the people behind the scenes who help make the concert series possible—and allow it to continue to be free.

The Sun Valley Summer Symphony housing hosts program not only gives musicians a place among fellow music lovers it provides dramatic savings in bringing the mid-summer event to fruition.

Housing host coordinator Marcia Mode-Stavros has been placing musicians with hosts for four years. She said there are 100 households in and around Sun Valley hosting musicians this year.

"People ask to become hosts and several housing hosts have hosted musicians for years and years," Mode-Stavros said. "Some have been hosts for more than 15 years and some are brand new."

The program started with longtime housing host Barbara Dargatz and the founders of the Elkhorn Music Festival.

"We were concerned and worried about housing the musicians because it was so expensive," Dargatz said. "The host program started as a committee with a couple of people, all volunteers, who got on the phones and started asking people to host musicians."

Dargatz said they used to have to call all over the valley, but today, hosting a musician is a status thing.

"I have been hosting for 16 years and I host new musicians because my husband and I know what to do in Sun Valley," Dargatz said. "This year we are hosting a musician and his son, who went to Sawtooth Lake on our suggestion and had a tremendous time."

Dargatz said her Hailey house becomes a musician's home away from home.

"Some people think you have to have a special home to be a host," Dargatz said. "My home is modest and the musicians are thrilled to have a place, and it adds to their pleasure of getting to know the community."

Mode-Stavros said the program is amazing because it keeps the symphony free to the public and cultivates a cultural exchange between musicians and Idaho residents—everyone learns from each other.

Many longtime friendships have developed from the housing-host program. Some housing hosts have even started visiting musicians in their hometown orchestras. Gerald and Beverly Boas have been housing symphony musicians Jim and Elizabeth Markey for nine years. Jim is a trombone player and Elizabeth plays the harp.

"When they came, they were newly married," said Beverly Boas. "Now they have two children—a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old."

The Markeys live in the Bronx in New York City. They play for the New York Philharmonic and the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony.

"Not everyone can do this with children because they don't have the room, but we are set up," Boas said. "It's fun for us and it truly is a great experience."

Boas said the Markey's 5-year old daughter practices violin for an hour every day, and when the symphony has a day off the family will go to Redfish Lake, near Stanley.

"They are part of our life," Boas said. "We visited them in New York. Both went to Juilliard (School of Music) and they teach there. We are the ones benefiting from this whole thing."

The Sun Valley Summer Symphony will have Housing Host Recognition Night on Sunday, Aug. 8, at its "Pops Night: Broadway Rocks!" performance.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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