Textile artist Jodi Kanter weaves together rising stars

Originally posted in The Plain Dealer on Febuary 06, 2009

A Mid-Winter Musical Interlude
What: Guitarist Jason Vieaux, bandoneon player Julien Labro, dancer Saundra Bohl and the Linden Quartet perform music by Boccherini, Dvorak and Piazzolla under the auspices of M.U.S.i.C. (Musical Upcoming Stars in the Classics).
When: 4 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Hanna Perkins Center for Child Development, 19910 Malvern Road, Shaker Heights.
Tickets: $15-$40. Call 216-991-4472.

Jodi Kanter is a virtuoso at putting things together. For many decades, the Orange Village textile artist has woven large-scale works for clients around the country.

But Kanter doesn’t restrict her connective activities to fabrics. In recent years, she’s also carved out a local niche as a musical matchmaker.

The effervescent, redheaded impresario unites up-and-coming instrumentalists and singers with seasoned performers for an annual concert series presented by her nonprofit organization, M.U.S.i.C., or Musical Upcoming Stars in the Classics. The next concert is Sunday at the Hanna Perkins Center for Child Development in Shaker Heights.

Kanter became hooked on classical music as a teenager, when she heard Stravinsky’s “Firebird” ballet on a recording in her father’s collection. The experience compelled her to take ballet lessons — “I was never good at it,” she admits — and explore more classical music.

It wasn’t until many years later, after studies at the Cleveland Institute of Art and in Europe, that Kanter decided to start a concert series. Among the musicians she met in the Cleveland area was pianist Peter Takacs, a faculty member at the Oberlin Conservatory, with whom she began taking students into living rooms for performances.

“We started talking about this idea of chamber music,” says Kanter. “We talked a couple of years before we pulled together our first event. The idea was to have chamber music in its original setting — people’s homes.”

The series presented its first concert in 2003 at the home of a physician and gradually expanded to public venues, including the InterContinental Hotel at the Cleveland Clinic, where Kanter’s husband, Steve Szilagyi, is senior editor.

Kanter and Szilagyi were both 17 when they met in a class at CIA drawing a nude model. They didn’t become a couple until decades later, after Kanter married, had a child and divorced, and Szilagyi worked and studied writing in New York. While there, he penned a novel, “Photographing Fairies,” that was made into a British film in 1997.

Kanter’s flourishing career as a textile artist coincided with her deepening immersion in classical music. Since founding M.U.S.i.C., she’s been on the lookout for gifted young musicians. She insists upon treating all of her artists as professionals: They are paid for performing.

Kanter derives bountiful pleasure from making a difference in these musicians’ lives.

“I love sitting down with a musician and asking, ‘What would you like to perform, who would you like to perform with?” she says. “They give me energy.”

Which certainly helps. The impresario doesn’t just set up the concerts. She raises the money, designs the invitations, does the advertising and cooks dishes served at the receptions.

“It’s a matter of putting all of your talents together,” says Kanter. “I want it to be a whole experience, from the music to the food to the environment.”