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Marta Casals Istomin: Profile

13 de agosto de 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

"I did not make the decision to play the cello," Marta Casals Istomin, world-renowned cello player, commented during a recent telephone interview. "My uncle was putting together a chamber music ensemble and needed a cello playernot many people in Puerto Rico played the celloI loved it."

This love of the cello has had a profound influence on her life. Marta Istomin married famous cellist Pablo Casals, worked as artistic director for the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. from 1980-1990 and is now the president of the Manhattan School of Music in New York City.

"I was very much involved with music in Puerto Rico," she went on to say. Many of her contributions include helping her first husband establish the Casals Festival, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, and the Conservatory of Music, where she taught cello. After Casals' death, she served as co-Chairman of the Board and Music Director for the Casals Festival Organization. The Casals Festival is the premiere annual musical event in Puerto Rico that has become internationally recognized for its excellent quality of music and display of talent.

Ms. Istomin has received many awards and recognition for her contributions to the music world and for her representation of the Puerto Rico community.

Mr. Ramon S. Velez, President of the National Puerto Rican Parade, commenting on the selection of Marta Istomin as the Grand Marshall of the parade in 1998, said, "an illustrious Puerto Rican in her own right, Ms. Istomin has represented the Puerto Rican community with dignity and excellence. Her achievements are, without doubt, a source of national pride for all Puerto Ricans and a source of inspiration for generations to come."

When asked what she is most proud of in Puerto Rico, she said, "I am most proud of the quality of the people. They are kind and warm. They have made tremendous efforts to improve their quality of life. They are hard working. This quality has helped the Island in industry, with a magnificent university, medical school and law school. Culturally Puerto Rico has a very intense interest in the intellectual value of life."

Born Marta Montanez Martinez in Humacao, Puerto Rico, she attended grammar school in Santurce. Musicians visiting the island recognized her apparent talent and at the age of 13 she moved to New York City where she had been awarded a scholarship to study at the Mannes School of Music. She attended Marymount High School at the same time and commented that she was grateful to have the energy to run from one school to the other every day. Not only was she able to adjust to the differing culture and polish her English speaking skills while studying music, but she was also recognized as an honor student at the high school.

Throughout her musical career, Ms. Istomin has received many awards. The governments of Spain, France and Germany have decorated her with their highest civilian honors and she has received honorary doctorates from several prominent universities in the United States.

As Artistic Director at the Kennedy Center, Ms. Istomin founded the Center's Terrace Concerts and developed the largest ballet series in the United States. One of her major efforts as director was to give promising young artists opportunities to display their talents by including them in the various Kennedy Center programs.

As current president of the Manhattan School of Music she has made significant changes in the curriculum and other areas of the school in order to improve the overall education of the students. She has brought in many famous conductors to lead the orchestra and artists of international stature to work directly with the students and has revitalized the school's traditional community outreach programs.

Although she no longer performs, Ms. Istomin continues her lifelong involvement with music. She says her standards are high in the field of music. In her work at the Casals Festival, as Artistic Director of the Kennedy Center, and now as President of the Manhattan School of Music, she has always sought ways to give young artists a chance to expand their horizons and develop their talents.

After all, she knows what it is like to be a young artist full of promise. She is one who has kept that promise.

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