Sheltered Islander: Sweet Perlman Music on My Birthday

Happy birthday, Sally Flynn!
Happy birthday, Sally Flynn! Photo: Image Source Pink/Image Source/Thinkstock

On July 31, the Perlman Music Program will celebrate its 15th year on Shelter Island. Starting at 6 p.m., there will be a reception, followed by a concert, dinner and a silent auction. Please attend this event if you can.

Itzhak and Toby Perlman have created a music camp for talented young musicians that is the pearl in the crown of Shelter Island. Notice I didn’t say jewel in the crown, but pearl. A pearl begins as an irritant in an oyster. It takes the oyster years to add layers of nacre to the irritant to transform it into a pearl, a small orb of luminescent beauty treasured the world over.

I think learning to play the violin is like the oyster’s journey. It’s a big irritant. Think of how tired your arms would get, and neck cramps, and the horrible “fingernails on a blackboard” sounds it makes at first. But, like that oyster, the learner coats it with the nacre of perseverance and patience. And note-by-note, year-by-year, stroke-by-stroke, that violin becomes a pearl, a pearl that sings. And who would know better how to change a violin into a pearl than a Perlman? I rest my case.

But, of course, everyone knows why they chose July 31 for the benefit. Same reason Australia celebrates its independence day on the July 31. Same reason J.K. Rowling asked God to let her be born on the 31…it’s MY birthday!

It’s only proper that I thank the Perlmans for this honor. Dan’s Papers hasn’t even started their countdown to my birthday yet, so it shows that the music camp is really on the ball. I can’t get to Australia this year, but I emailed their government last month and gave my blessing for them to go on with their festivities anyway. I just couldn’t say no. They have all those parades planned, parties and such. I’ve always been a softie.

It’s truly humbling to be so loved, in spite of my humbility. Humbility is a word I created for people who have the ability to act humble as they back up into the limelight, like Al Sharpton.

On my 30th birthday, when I was still kid-free, I decided to live dangerously and sunbathe in our very private, enclosed backyard. My husband was having a gift delivered and told the UPS man to go through the back gate and leave the box at the back door so I wouldn’t see it. I heard the gate open and, assuming it was my husband, I said, “Hey, baby, I need a kiss.” There was silence, the kind of silence that makes your mind go to DEFCON 6 whenever you’re naked in your backyard and realize you just might have asked a total stranger to kiss you. He yelled, “Oh my God! Oh God…” He fumbled the package and dropped it as he turned and ran to his truck screaming, “…my eyes…oh God…my eyes!”

You can imagine how horrible I felt. This poor man was so overcome with passion and desire, he had to call upon God to help him restrain himself from ravishing me. Beauty can be a terrible burden sometimes.

Tickets to the Perlman Music Program’s July 31 fundraiser start at $350. Call 212-877-5045, or visit Alumni of the Perlman Music Program will also present an introductory concert to the Dan’s Papers Literary Prize Award Ceremony on September 3 at Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater in East Hampton. For more info and to enter the $6,000 Literary Prize for Nonfiction or the $4,000 Emerging Young Writers Prize, visit

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