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Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts

Erwin Staller. Photo from Stony Brook University

The Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University is preparing to celebrate the life of Long Island real estate developer and philanthropist, Erwin Staller. A memorial service has been set for April 27 at the venue to remember the SBU benefactor who died Feb. 11, at age 97, at his Lloyd Harbor home.

“Over the years, Erwin Staller’s commitment to the center and to the university was steadfast,” said Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center. “He, along with his wife Pearl [affectionately called Freddie], his son Cary and the extended family, has been a true supporter of the arts and has been the foundation of the center’s success.”

After his father’s death in 1987, Staller and his family donated the first seven-figure gift to SBU of $1.8 million. The donation resulted in the establishment of The Staller Center for the Arts in memory of his parents, Max and Mary Staller. The developer received the Stony Brook Medal for Extraordinary Service in 1989 and an honorary doctorate of humane letters at SBU in 2001. He also served on the Stony Brook Foundation board of trustees for more than 30 years and was founding chair of Stony Brook Foundation Realty.

“It was always a pleasure to have him and Freddie in the audience knowing how much he enjoyed all kinds of performances,” Inkles said. “As a philanthropist, adviser and friend to the arts, the university and to the region, he will be greatly missed.”

In a letter sent to SBU faculty after Staller’s passing, SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said the initial donation of $1.8 million helped “create a foundation for the Staller’s legacy of philanthropy at Stony Brook University spanning 35 years.” Staller and his wife also funded Staller Scholars, which provides scholarships for graduate music students pursuing doctorates in the Department of Music.

The university credits Staller for championing a project to have a campus hotel for more than 23 years until its fruition in 2013. As a result, the roadway between Hilton Garden Inn and the Administration building will be dedicated as Erwin P. Staller Way.

Stanley said Staller, his wife, family and friends joined together in supporting the Staller Center’s mission, and to date they have contributed more than $16 million to fund various programs.

“As we reflect on Erwin’s myriad contributions in time and treasure to benefit our students, faculty, staff and our community, though I will miss him dearly, I am inspired by Erwin Staller’s vision and focus, and in the knowledge that his powerful legacy will live on at Stony Brook for generations to come,” Stanley said.

Staller was raised in Hempstead where he graduated from Hempstead High School. He attended Allegheny College in Pennsylvania before enlisting in the U.S. Army and served in the Signal Corps during World War II. In 1946, Staller married Pearl Friedman, whom he had dated in high school, and the couple had five children.

In the late 1950s, Staller and his father co-founded Hauppauge-based Staller Associates, and became among the first entrepreneurs to develop retail shopping centers on Long Island. A supermarket, drugstore and a U.S. Post Office anchored each of their early shopping centers. Together, the father-son duo developed numerous shopping centers, office and industrial buildings on Long Island and in Connecticut.

Staller is survived by his wife, four children and their spouses, and nine grandchildren.

The memorial service will be held April 27 at 1 p.m. The Staller Center is located at 100 Nicolls Road in Stony Brook.

 

Principal dancer Diana Atoian

The Ballet Education and Scholarship Fund, Inc. (BESFI) has announced that its 38th annual benefit performances will be held Friday, May 26, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 27 at 2 p.m. at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook.

The program will feature three noted guest artists: Boyko Dossev formerly with Boston Ballet, Darren McIntyre formerly with Milwaukee Ballet and Alan Alberto with the Festival Ballet. They will be paired with Seiskaya Ballet principal dancers Jenna Lee, Diana Atoian and Brianna Jimenez and join 1st soloists Amber Donnelly, Jamie Bergold, Graciela Carrero-Sagona and Ava Aubé in a series of exciting pas de deux. Among the pas are Paquita, Talisman, Le Corsaire, Harlequinade and Diana & Acteon, plus, the Swan Lake Pas de Trois.

The Benefit Program’s centerpiece will be the one-act ballet, Walpurgis Night featuring Seiskaya Ballet’s Diana Atoian and 1st soloist Max Lippman. Set to the vibrant music of Charles Gounod and drawn from the opera Faust, Walpurgis Night loosely depicts the celebration of Bacchus (the god of wine and revelry), the Bacchantes (his priestesses), and Satyrs (his demigod attendants), on the eve of May Day. Three rousing character ballets are intertwined in the program. Featuring the tantalizing Gypsy Dance led by Jenna Lee, the jaunty Gypsy Pas pairing Max Lippman and Seiskaya 1st soloist Lara Caraiani, and the robust ethnic dance Siberian round out the program.

Noted for the consistent high quality of its presentations, the BESFI Benefit is always a highlight of the dance season. Brilliant sets and costumes, noted professional guest artists and riveting choreography make for exciting performances. Tickets are on sale now through the BESFI Box Office at 631-584-0192 or at the door with adults, $30, children and seniors, $24 and groups of 20 or more, $20.

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Thank you, Itzhak Perlman. It was a fabulous concert by the superstar violinist last Saturday night at Gala 2017 held at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts. And besides the music, of Vivaldi, Beethoven, Schumann and Stravinsky, there was pleasure in just being in Perlman’s company. He produces extraordinary music in a most relaxed, unaffected and joyful fashion. His face, known for its elasticity, changes expression as he plays the notes, encouraging the listener not just to hear but also to feel the elegant sounds.

Perlman was 3 years old and living in the newly created state of Israel when he heard classical music on the radio. He asked for a violin but was turned away from the Shulamit Conservatory, which his father had brought him to, because he was pronounced too small to hold a violin. Instead he was given a toy fiddle and taught himself to play until he was finally accepted.

When he was 4, he contracted polio and in time was able to walk with crutches, but he plays seated on an electric scooter that he uses to get around the stage. He gave his first recital at 10 and not too long afterward came to the United States and to Juilliard. By 1958, when he was just 13, he appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and then went on tour with “The Ed Sullivan Caravan of Stars” across the country. In 1963 he debuted at Carnegie Hall and a year later won the prestigious Leventritt Competition before embarking on an extensive performing and recording career.

Perlman is known as a violinist, conductor, teacher and speaker, the last sometimes on behalf on those with disabilities. He usually performs as a soloist, accompanied by the gifted pianist, Rohan De Silva from Sri Lanka. But Perlman has shared the stage with many of the world’s greatest musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma, Jessye Norman, Isaac Stern and his friend and fellow violinist, Pinchas Zukerman. He has collaborated often with screen composer John Williams and plays the score for “Schindler’s List” in the movie, as well as that of “Memoirs of a Geisha” and other films. He even did a stint with the Muppets on “Sesame Street.”

Perlman has played with or conducted some of the great orchestras performing classical music. He also loves klezmer, a Jewish folk music, and jazz. What is not so well known is that he can sing. He actually sang the role of the jailer in the opera “Tosca,” alongside Placido Domingo and conducted by James Levine. At another time, he sang the same part, joining Luciano Pavarotti with Zubin Mehta conducting. That’s keeping pretty good company.

Known for his charisma and humanity, Perlman and his wife Toby — also a violinist, who he met in high school — started the Perlman Music Program that is housed in Shelter Island. There gifted young string players attend summer camp and mentoring programs. The Perlmans have five children and live in New York City.

Over the years, Itzhak Perlman has won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest honor for a civilian, and the National Medal of Arts with numerous Grammy and Emmy awards. He has performed several times at the White House and all over the world, perhaps most notably in the Eastern European bloc countries with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1987 before the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union in 1990, also China and India in 1994. He won over those audiences with his elegant yet seemingly effortless technique, his affability and humor, as he so totally did with us in Stony Brook this past weekend.

Thank you Staller director, Alan Inkles, and the rest of your staff of hardworking magicians, for a memorable night.