Returning home, Platt to curate inaugural Westport Arts Center Concert Series
Updated 5:22 pm, Friday, August 18, 2017
WESTPORT — Alexander Platt squirreled away his allowance each week, foregoing buying lunch at Staples High School and instead patching together two $5 weekly allowances and change to scrape together enough for three LP records, purchased at Klein’s on Saturday afternoons after his Norwalk Youth Symphony rehearsals.
Without YouTube or Spotify to discover new music, Platt would buy or borrow classical records and sheet music to play. By the time he graduated from Staples in 1983, he knew there was nothing else he wanted to do but pursue a career in music.
“Music became, and still is, kind of a religion,” said Platt, a conductor and music director raised in Westport.
The 52-year-old is now returning part-time to town as curator of the Westport Arts Center Concert Series, a combination of its previously separate jazz and chamber music programs. He sees it as an opportunity to return to the town where he moved with his family in 1970 and where his father, 85, still resides.
“Westport really was the cradle of my upbringing as an arts-loving, arts-conscious person,” Platt said. “It was an amazing time in the history of this town, and a very idealistic time when the arts were just kind of a given as part of everyone’s daily lives.”
2017-18 WAC Concert Series
Sept. 23 at 7 p.m.: Anthony de Mare, an international pianist, will make his Westport debut with his acclaimed program “LIAISONS: Re-Imagining Sondheim at the Piano.”
Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m.: Igor Pikayzen, Westport resident and prize-winning young virtuoso violinist, will perform a program dedicated to the solo violin.
Jan. 20 at 8 p.m.: Julliard String Quartet, one of America’s preeminent string quartets, will perform a program centered on Beethoven masterworks and the modern Scottish composer James MacMillan.
March 2 at 7:30 p.m.: The Calidore String Quartet will perform masterpieces of Mozart, Mendelssohn, Shostakovich and the young Pulitzer-Prize winner Caroline Shaw.
May 11 at 7:30 p.m.: London/New York pianist Simon Mulligan, with The Simon Mulligan Trio,will end the season with a program traversing the worlds of jazz and classical, ranging from Mozart, Barber and Chopin to unique interpretations of “The George Gershwin Songbook.”
All concerts will be at the Westport Arts Center, 51 Riverside Ave. Season tickets can be purchased before Sept. 23 and give holders two free companion tickets and exclusive access to special events related to the series. Seniors 65 and over can receive free companion tickets. Individually, tickets cost $40 for arts center members buying in advance, $50 for non-members in advance and $60 at the door. They are available at westportartscenter.org or 203-222-7070.
He described Westport in the 1970s and 1980s as a place where the arts thrived, with concerts each weekend at town hall or a local church or library, a dose of culture each day and a wealth of inspirational instructors teaching the arts at Staples.
Platt credits Westport with guiding him and his brother toward busy careers in classical music. His brother, composer Russell Platt, recently stepped away as curator for chamber music at the Westport Arts Center, prompting Alexander Platt to take up the torch in the hopes he can give something back to the town.
After his Westport upbringing, Alexander Platt attended Yale University and spent three years at King’s College, Cambridge on a Marshall Scholarship. Returning to the United States, Platt landed in the Midwest launching his career as a conductor and music director. He is now the music director of the Wisconsin Philharmonic and the nearby La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, but passes summers in charge of of Maverick Concerts, an over 100-year-old summer chamber music festival in Woodstock, N.Y.
Platt began with Maverick Concerts 15 years ago after his brother mentioned it and the two ventured there, finding a “charming” festival in a chapel-like building in the forest that Platt fell in love with. The program has since grown into a thriving eclectic festival with a “utopian atmosphere,” he described. It drew him back to an area reminiscent of his upbringing, a community with a rich arts history — Westport.
As the curator of Westport Arts Center’s new concert series, a September to May program of five concerts, Platt aims to bring people together and serve as a “tour guide” through the series. As the program transitioned last season, Platt co-curated alongside his brother.
“Our thought was to bring Alexander’s talents more into the fold with our entire programming area for WAC and to have him be the lead for the whole program,” WAC Executive Director Amanda Innes said.
In merging the jazz and chamber music programs into a single series with a combined budget, she said the arts center hopes to bring in higher-level performers on a more consistent basis. Platt will be available before and after each concert for conversations with the audience, and he is also working to form a consortium of local music organizations to collaborate.
The Suzuki School of Music, Westport Library and Westport Center for Senior Activities have signed on. At the Suzuki School, the arts center plans to bring its performers for workshops, and at the senior center, it plans to have Platt hold advance conversational talks about the concert series and upcoming performers.
Innes added of bringing Platt on as curator, “Westport will reap the benefit of his time and talent.”
Through 25 years in classical music, one of Platt’s high points was serving as resident conductor and music adviser of the Chicago Opera Theater from 2001-2012.
Another highlight was a recording he did with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and violinist Rachel Barton Pine. He recognizes “Scottish Fantasy” from time to time on the radio, which even gets frequent play on local public radio station WSHU.
He recounted, too, a collection of moments in Wisconsin building orchestras and working with an array of people to create something “lasting and beautiful.” When the arts succeed in America, Platt said, it’s because of great vision but equally because of a great team from a board of directors to musicians to the audience.
“My role has always been to kind of be the enabler,” he added, “to stoke the fire and bring people together around a great goal.”