This article appeared in The Town Courier.
Like many immigrants to the United States, Simeone Tartaglione cherishes his adopted country for its freedoms and opportunities; he considers it a place where dreams can come true. Still, the maestro misses more than the outstanding cuisine of his native Italy. He also longs for the beautiful music that is performed live in the Italian piazzas, while informally-attired people relax, seated or sprawled, eating, drinking and relishing the sounds floating through the great outdoors.
Along with the Kentlands Community Foundation (KCF), Tartaglione is arranging to bring that spirit to Kentlands. Their joint endeavor, Musica Viva Kentlands, will perform its first free classical music concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 23 on the manicured lawn of the Kentlands Mansion.
Planning for the concert is well underway. Tartaglione expects to bring 15 to 20 professional string musicians from Virginia’s Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, one of the groups he conducts, as well as his violinist wife Alessandra Cuffaro, to present an hourlong program of signature pieces by Bach, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Copland and Leroy Anderson. Tartaglione said he believes in directly communicating with both his musicians and the audience; as is his wont, between pieces he will talking—explaining something about the composer or the piece, telling a story, definitely not like the stiff formality typically associated with a classical music performance in a concert hall.
Tartaglione left home―Agrigento, Sicily―in 2005 because his impeccable credentials, which include a Laurea as Doctor in Philology (Italian literature and musicology), magna cum laude, were not adequate to find a job as a conductor; only political connections or bribes would make employment possible. The United States, in contrast, he said, “is the best place for a conductor.” In Denver, his first U.S. home, Tartaglione taught conducting at the University of Denver, and worked as a guest conductor, vocal coach, pianist and harpsichord player. The following year, he furthered his education at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, where he worked for the conservatory’s opera department as well as the Be Orchestra and the Chesapeake Chamber Orchestra.
Tartaglione and Cuffaro―known, said Tartaglione proudly, for being the only Italian woman who has performed all the 24 Paganini’s Capricci in one concert―and their two daughters moved to Kentlands in 2015. The neighborhood charmed them with its walkability and sense of community, not unlike a European town.
These days, he wears many hats; among them, conducting faculty member and conductor of Catholic University’s orchestra; conductor of the Symphony at the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras of Strathmore; and a myriad of positions in Delaware, including music director of the Delaware Youth and the Newark symphony orchestras, and core orchestral department head and piano instructor at the Music School of Delaware.
KCF committee chairman Pompiliu Verzariu is working with Tartaglione on the initiative that seeks to “promote Kentlands as an emerging center of classical music concerts; provide the community’s residents with opportunities to enjoy classical music on a regular basis, as well as showcase the talent of youth orchestras and chamber music performers that Maestro Tartaglione can make available, and increase exposure for community businesses by bringing more visitor foot traffic to the downtown area.”
Verzariu views the Gaithersburg Book Festival as an example to follow. “I believe that one of the cornerstones of a successful public endeavor is the ability to engage an entire community in a project, as many successful cultural activities and festivals―like Gaithersburg’s own Book Fair―started out as events supported and promoted by community residents.”
Other KCF committee members are looking for volunteers and sponsors to help with the cost of bringing this addition to our community to life. Asbury Village has already committed to be a cosponsor, said Verzariu.
In addition, a fundraising hors d’oeuvres and wine reception is planned for 6 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, May 6 at the Kentlands Clubhouse for individuals who donate $30 or more by Monday, April 30. (Visit www.kentlandsfoundation.org and click on DONATE NOW, enter donation amount, click on “add special instructions to the seller” and type “Musica Viva” and indicate whether you will attend the reception.) At the event, Tartaglione and Cuffaro will speak about the initiative and its benefits to the community and perform a sampling of the music planned for the June concert.
In addition to sharing the immigrant experience, Taraglione and Verzariu, who came to the U.S. from Romania many years ago, have a similar dream―that within the next few years, Kentlands, and by extension, Gaithersburg, will be home to an annual summer music festival.