New nonprofit hopes recitals will spark a cultural revolution

Baroque composer George Handel is quoted as saying of the impact of his music on listeners, “I should be sorry if I only entertained them. I wished to make them better.”

That goal is the same reason pianist Ines Irawati became involved with a new La Jolla non-profit group and will be accompanying vocalist Nora Ryan in an upcoming performance.

The new group is called promm - or promote the music of the masters - and is dedicated to celebrating young artists and cultivating young audiences, said promm President Patti Alksne.

“I think human beings, as contrasted to a rat, are able to appreciate notes that move up and down a scale,” Alksne said. “It’s a shame to only have one type of musical experience. It is important to open oneself to musical experience in a very wide way.”

With schools downsizing or eliminating music programs and a decreasing number of young people being exposed to classical music, two La Jollans decided to create an organization that would create opportunities to bring this music to young people.

Prompted by their own love of music, La Jolla residents Jack Schaps and Minnie Lane started promm two years ago. Board members Patti Alksne, Minnie Lane, Chris Lena, Brian Owen and Florence Schaps work to generate funding and identify venues to enrich young listeners.

Their goal is to make classical music accessible and familiar to young people. They keep concert costs low to encourage attendance by families and students. With exposure and some education about this art form, Promm hopes young listeners will learn to appreciate the music.

Through the efforts of the founders and board members, more than 20 members have joined the group. They have hosted a dual piano recital and celebrated the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth with a performance by Gustavo Romero and members of the San Diego Chamber Orchestra.

Their next event will be a concert by Nora Ryan, a lyric soprano.

“She wanted the opportunity to perform in front of some audiences, and we are giving her that chance,” Alksne said.

Ryan, 25, obtained her bachelor’s of arts in music from the University of Oregon. For the past two years she has been studying voice and acting with a private teacher in Portland, Ore. Her parents, Don and Linda Ryan, are La Jolla residents. Her older sister, Gail Ryan, is studying for a master’s degree in ethnomusicology, and her brother, David Ryan, produces independent documentaries.

“I think my soul is geared to classic music and classic art forms,” Nora Ryan said.

At an early age, she was pulled toward music. She obtained her rudimentary music training through violin lessons and theatrics and acting skills from ballet. In high school, she joined the choir and fell in love with singing, she said.

At college, she initially considered becoming a high school choir director. She soon changed her focus to solo performing.

The last year has provided Ryan with varied and interesting performance experiences. She had the lead female role in an independent feature film/musical called “Yellow” and won first place in a regional competition of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

“It came at the end of these two years of intensive training,” Ryan said. “It was kind of a nice cap. I felt like my teacher and I came to a nice finish for the work we had done. Studying voice, to me, is a lifelong endeavor. The thing I’m constantly struggling for is to get my voice to do what I hear in my head and feel in my heart musically.”

“Songs of Desire, Belief and Reality” is a show Ryan compiled herself. The selections will include pieces from the 1800s through contemporary pieces.

“This recital focuses mainly on art song from the German, American and French repertoires,” she said. “It’s a type of vocal music specifically for voice and piano.”

The singer said she was appreciative of the opportunity to perform and aid in the achievement of promm’s mission.

“It’s important because without exposure to classical music and an understanding of that music, kids can’t appreciate it,” she said. “Therefore, they won’t want to listen to it. Then there will be no audience.”

Ryan will be accompanied by Ines Irawati, a San Diego resident and acclaimed pianist. Irawati began her musical studies at the age of six at the Yamaha Music School in Indonesia. She came to the United States at age 14 and attended the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she received a bachelor’s degree.

She went on to complete her master’s of music degree from Yale University, where she was tutored by Claude Frank, Peter Frankl and Kikuei Ikeda. The pianist and composer has won numerous awards and performed around the world.

“People get turned off by classic music because you have to have an intellectual ear for it. People don’t know how to sit down and listen to an art form,” Irawati said. “It is very sad. As a performer, it makes me nervous. Who will come to our concerts?”

Through promm, Irawati said she has a chance to share her enthusiasm with young audiences and hopefully inspire them.

“It’s not just entertainment,” she said. “It makes people better.”

“Songs of Desire, Belief and Reality” will be performed at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 21, at St. James by the Sea Episcopal Church at 743 Prospect St. Call (858) 454-6096 or e-mail to purchase tickets.

The cost is $5.

For information about becoming a member of promm, making a donation or arranging a performance, call Patti Alksne at (858) 454-6096.