By TOM CHESEK
With his luxurious mane of silver hair, his Continental bearing, and his years of training in the most formidable academies of the former Soviet Union, Vladislav Kovalsky could be said to embody the very image of the old-school, perfectionist teacher of music.
He’s someone who wouldn’t be out of place in the drafty garrets of old Vienna, rapping his baton on the stand as he implores his earnest young charge to take it from the top again… and again…
As Executive Director and Assistant Director of Monmouth Conservatory of Music, the internationally renowned concert pianist and his wife Irina have made musical education their calling, devoting countless hours to their students at the borough-based nonprofit music academy. They’ve also established instructional programs for the kids of Red Bank’s public school system. Since joining the conservatory founded more than 40 years ago by the late Felix Molzer, the Kovalskys have remained outspoken advocates for music’s place in the grade-school curriculum, and have taught with an approach that’s as much about flawless technique as the sort of palpable passion that simply can’t be notated on a score.
After circumstances necessitated a move from its longtime Broad Street headquarters a couple of years back, the conservatory could be said to have kept something of a low profile, having relocated to the half-basement-level former offices of Red Bank Charter School, within the White Street rear-building property of Trinity Episcopal Church.
But being relatively tucked away from view hasn’t stopped the students and faculty of MCM from making a joyful noise in public on many an occasion, with a full schedule of recitals and other events at their downtown facilities.
Beginning last year, the conservatory entered into an agreement with the Middletown Township Public Library to present a slate of free Wednesday evening concerts a series that continues this week with Kovalsky himself leading the Monmouth Conservatory Trio.
For the all-Beethoven program, presented at the township’s main-branch HQ, Kovalsky takes his place at the piano that he helped to inaugurate with a special recital commemorating the library’s purchase of the instrument alongside MCM faculty members Garry Ianco on violin and Laura Casparie on cello.
If you haven’t had occasion to visit the completely refurbished facility on New Monmouth Road, this week’s event offers an excellent chance to check out the expanded, updated, completely people-friendly resource that’s played regular host to art exhibitions, lectures, and untold hours spent gloriously lost within its cool comfort zone.
According to MCM Communications Director Linda Muhlhausen, the Wednesday evening series is just one of the public-invited offerings in a season that will see concert events starring students (a May 14 performance by MCM’s Youth Orchestra in Middletown), faculty (Kovalsky guests with conductor Roy Gussman and the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra at the Count Basie on May 18) and special guest professionals (Israeli pianist Victor Goldberg makes a special stop at White Street on the afternoon of April 12).
Public events at the conservatory are presented inside a spacious room that once did duty as cafeteria, auditorium and gym back in Charter School days. It’s a performance space that’s also home to the Red Bank Chamber Music Society, the all-volunteer organization that’s presented many years’ worth of bracingly civilized entertainments at venues in and around the borough (including the showroom of Red Bank Volvo, then co-owned by retired RBCMC partner Leon Knize).
As Gina Register, spokesperson for the society and proud parent of piano prodigies (teen sons Brian and Otey Register played their own duo recital at the library this past January) puts it, “the community’s been good to us” in their quest for a regular venue.
To upgrade the all-purpose room into a suitable space for professional-quality concerts, the society purchased a new modular folding stage, new sound equipment, and new cushioned folding chairs; all of which they’ve made available for use by the conservatory at its own events. The two organizations have also invested together in a Steinway “D” concert grand piano.
Admission to the March 12 concert at the Middletown Library is, as always, free of charge; start time is 7:30p. The Monmouth Conservatory of Music 2008 performance season continues this Saturday, March 15 with a guest artist concert by the piano duo of Carolle-Ann Mochernuk and Paul Kueter, at MCM’s downtown space.