Educational, entertaining, and engaging. Those are the three E words that are the ethos of clarinetist Dr. Igor Begelman’s approach to the series he began presenting at Tryon Fine Arts Center in 2020. One word he assiduously avoids — lecture. “I don’t like that term,” he says. “Lecture sounds dry and boring. I call them presentations.”
The current four-part series Dr. Begelman is presenting is The Young (and not-so-young) Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. The January topic was, as the title notes, the orchestra. “It was a general history, various types and how they evolved through time from smaller groups and simpler instruments in the 1600s to modern time,” Begelman says.
The February presentation focused on the development of stringed instruments, particularly the violin. “I showed examples of unfamiliar ones — [for example] a Bulgarian violin — and introduced different contemporary performers, such as Swedish violinist Malin Broman,” Begelman explains.
The March 9 program, “Something New,” will examine the saxophone, how it came to be, its variety of roles, its conventional place in jazz, and its unexpected role in orchestra. The finale on April 13 is “Something Strange” and will cover the instrument every human can play in varying degrees of success — the voice.
Begelman was raised in Kyiv, Ukraine. His mother, an accomplished pianist, matched her somewhat undisciplined 12-year-old son to an instructor she thought would keep him on track and provide a strong male figure (his father was not in the home). That instructor taught clarinet, and Begelman says he progressed so quickly that by the time he and his mother moved to the United States, the 16-year-old was accepted into high school and college at the same time. He traversed through The Manhattan School of Music, The Juilliard School, and the CUNY Graduate Center, winning multiple international competitions and the Avery Fisher Career Grant.
Post-school, he pursued a career as a soloist and chamber musician, traveling the country and the world for performances. While living in New York with his wife Larisa — also a musician — and first child, he took a teaching position at the North Carolina School of the Arts, commuting weekly to Raleigh. The birth of their second child curtailed the commuting, and in 2017, Larisa was offered a position at the Peace Center in Greenville, Dr. Begelman was named Artist-in-Residence there, and the family left New York for South Carolina.
When COVID shuttered the Peace Center, Larisa Begelman suggested to Tryon Fine Arts Center Executive Director Marianne Carruth that her husband do an online series. “Organizations were trying to keep contact with their audiences,” Dr. Begelman explains. “Marianne was enthusiastic, and we created a series on American culture and American music for that fall and spring of 2020-’21.”
The program caught on, and for the 2021-’22 season — an online and in-person hybrid — the clarinetist explored the connection between music compositions and visual arts.
His goal with the series, held now at the TFAC Pavilion, is to expose all who attend to something new. “I pick subjects that are within my scope of knowledge but still require me to become a researcher. I’m personally fascinated by the topics — and hope that feeling of fascination is contagious to my audience.”
The Young (and not-so-young) Person’s Guide to the Orchestra continues Thursday, March 9, 4pm, and Thursday, April 13, 4pm, at the Tryon Fine Arts Center Pavilion (34 Melrose Ave., Tryon, tryonarts.org, igorbegelman.com), $20, with an option for online attendance.