Music Educators Association of New Jersey

Serving teachers and students since 1927

February 2015 - Special Event


MEA Presence at Montclair Film Festival Screening of
Seymour: An Introduction

by Bertha Mandel

The night of February 9 was freezing, but the atmosphere was warm with enthusiasm inside the Bellevue Theater in Montclair. It was packed with patrons, including many MEA members and their students, who braved icy roads to see the New Jersey showing of this Ethan Hawke documentary about our beloved, legendary member, Seymour Bernstein. Applause accompanied Seymour as he was ushered to his seat. His captivating film would soon render us spellbound.

MEA President Joan Bujacich opened the program with heartwarming tributes to Seymour and to Evie Colbert (Mrs. Stephen), a vice-chairman of the board and a found- er of the Montclair Film Festival. It was Evie Colbert who responded to Joan's suggestion that the organization sponsor a screening of this documentary. Joan also presented each with a beautiful bouquet from the MEA.

The film was a photographic portrait of Seymour as constructed by Ethan Hawke. The actor/director became inspired during a conversation about stage fright with Seymour, whom he had just met. In those few minutes, Ethan Hawke knew that here was a fascinating, accomplished person who was very articulate and had much to offer. To Seymour's amazement, the outcome was their collaborating on a movie.

From beginning to end, our attention was riveted to the screen as scene followed scene: Seymour's recollections of his childhood, footage of Seymour's military service in Korea that developed into a morale boosting concert tour, conversations with former students, coaching of students at lessons or in master classes, views of everyday routines, visits to the Steinway basement treasury of grand pianos, dialogues with friends and associates, soliloquies of philosophical reflections, and more. At the film's conclusion, the professional film staff and some documentary participants present were introduced and loudly applauded.

In the question and answer session that followed the film, Seymour said, "One thing I try to impress on my pupils is that music is an expressive art. It can be transferred to life and it can help to integrate one's personality." In response to a question about the outlook for acoustic piano music and classical music in general, he stated, "The private piano teacher is saving music for the world."

Visit Seymour's website: The MEA has other biographical material in its archives.

Photographs courtesy of Neil Garbowski, MFF2015 & Joe Bilotti.