Navah Perlman is building an important career as a solo pianist and chamber player. Like her father, the illustrious violinist Itzhak Perlman, she has had to surmount a physical disability to do so. With violinists Toby and Itzhak Perlman as parents, it was natural that Navah was drawn to music and performing. She began asking for piano lessons at the age of five, but they waited a year for her hands to grow before granting thatRead more wish.
From the age of 11, Navah began playing in public. By the time she was ready to begin college, she had already been signed by her father's management agency. She recognizes that being her father's daughter opened the door for her but, as she told Providence, RI, Journal Bulletin reporter Channing Gray in 1997, her mother warned her that people would do her a favor once, but thereafter she would have to earn her own way. "That was something I had to make peace with when I was about 14, otherwise I would have tortured myself."
Navah's bookings were usually in smaller towns, but they were consistent. By the time she enrolled in Brown University, as a freshman at the age of 18, she was gone about every two weeks to play a concert or recital.
She had elected to go to Brown rather than Juilliard because music had been at the center of her studies all her life, and this was, she realized, her last opportunity to get a liberal arts education. But then, she started having trouble moving her shoulders outward to reach notes at either end of the keyboard. At first, she thought this problem was minor and cancelled her next performance. But by the time summer came around and she was playing at Aspen, the pain and swelling in her joints had affected her knees, neck and, most worrisomely, her wrist, which affected her playing. The family suspected Lyme disease, but Itzhak's friend Dr. Allen Steere (one of the discoverers of the cause of the disease) ruled that out. Instead, the culprit was a rare form of rheumatoid arthritis. She was given a regimen of drugs to control it and told to keep away from the piano. Now her choice of a liberal arts college became a lifeline. She threw herself into her arts history curriculum. By the time she had graduated, she had recovered enough to begin cautiously practicing, ten minutes a day to start. Ultimately, she regained her technique. Fortunately, the disease had not reached her fingers. Although she had avoided performing with her famous father before, now, she worked back into concert life with his help. Being scheduled to perform with Itzhak Perlman overcame a confidence problem: She was worried that, performing on her own, she might cause disappointment if she had to cancel. But, sharing the billing with her father meant that if she did cancel, all that would happen would be that the audience would have a longer Itzhak Perlman concert to enjoy. After two years, she realized that her health was reliable enough that she could perform on her own, and the two Perlmans have mainly dropped their double appearances, though they do appear together for benefit concerts. Navah has co-founded a piano trio with violinist Kurt Nikkanen and cellist Zuill Bailey, and they play chamber concerts regularly, frequently performing the Beethoven Triple Concerto with orchestra. She lives in New York with her husband, Robert Frost. Read less
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