SCAN0018Cara Nina de Veritch Smith was born in Montclair, New Jersey on August 18, 1941. She is an amazing cellist, teacher, performer, mother, SCAN0018friend…and my only sibling!

Although we are six years apart in age (with me being “the younger brother”) it is our music that has unquestionably brought us so much closer than most siblings with this sizable age spread. That…and the pressing need she and her talented colleagues had for a violist to help fill out ensembles at their frequent, impromptu and awesome chamber music soirees.

It seems like as early as age eleven or twelve I had the good fortune to have been invited to join in these amazing festivities which typically included a mixture of swimming, partying, great food and hours of sight-reading much of the chamber music literature. The chamber music readings would be accomplished through the creation of numerous groups of varying instrumentation right on the spot…..and scattering them throughout our host’s home. It was not only so much fun…but the music making was incredible. Here I was, a precocious young whipper-snapper and pre-teenager, spending many of my weekends hanging out with some of the finest and most respected young musicians in the Los Angeles area, of which most were of college age. Oh yes…then there was the multitude of cute and expressive “older women” I was forced to endure while participating in these events!! Guess it was no surprise that almost every female I ever dated seriously was substantially older than I. It was just really hard for me to relate to my own age group after being accepted as a valued and equal member of this prestigious group of “mature” and fun-loving artists.

As many of you know, Nina is truly a great musician. Her first cello teacher was Gregory Aller, the father of Eleanor Aller Slatkin (cellist of the Hollywood String Quartet) and grandfather of cellist Fred Zlotkin and world-renowned conductor, Leonard Slatkin. Following her studies with Mr. Aller, Nina spent her formative years with the great Hungarian cellist Professor Gabor Rejto. These years were followed by extensive study with such major artists as Leonard Rose, Harvey Shapiro and even Pablo Casals. As a matter of fact, I believe one can still commercially acquire a video of my sister working with the legendary Casals, while still a teenager. Casals wasn’t the teenager!!!!

During her studies with Leonard Rose my sister, Nina, had spent a couple of very productive summers at the Meadowmount School of Music in upstate New York. By early in 1965 she was convinced that the timing would be perfect for me to attend as well. She felt so strongly about the concept that she actually went ahead and arranged for me to meet with and play for the great Ivan Galamian during a trip I had previously scheduled to New York.

This meeting changed my life dramatically and as a result of Galamian’s warm reception and support, coupled with the strong encouragement from both my sister and one of my dearest friends, the amazing cellist, Stephen Kates, I made the decision to attend Meadowmount during the summer of 1965. Much to my relief (and delight) I was welcomed there enthusiastically. Without question this immediate and enthusiastic acceptance into the Meadowmount community was the product of the meaningful groundwork that had been established on my behalf by both my sister and Steve.

Anytime both Nina and Steve appear together in any of my thoughts I can’t help but be reminded of a very funny story I heard Steve re-count on numerous occasions. First, by way of background you need to understand that in addition to being a great comedian Steve was also a first-class imitator/impersonator. One of his most successful models/subjects was his former teacher, Leonard Rose. He really had his voice and style down and loved to make phone calls to colleagues as “Leonard Rose”. Nina, a longtime student of Rose, was often the recipient of such calls.

Anyway….. as this particular story goes, once when the “real” Leonard Rose was on a layover at Salt Lake City Airport he decided to call Nina who at the time was Principal Cellist of the Utah Symphony.

She picked up the phone to, “Nina, this is Leonard Rose.” Nina replied, “STEVE! Where are you?”

“No, Nina,” came the response. “This is not Steve, this is Leonard Rose. I’m at the airport and wanted to find out how you are.”

“Oh, cut it out, Steve! What’s going on?”

Finally he said, “I’m not going to say this again. This IS Mr. Rose!”

Nina gasped….”Oh my God, it really is YOU! How are you, Mr. Rose?”

Interestingly, it was actually Mr. Rose who re-told this story to Steve Kates a few years later. Reportedly Mr. Rose was NOT amused!!

Now…with regards to my blog. Given the quickly approaching delivery date of a substantial portion of my private collections to the PRIMROSE INTERNATIONAL VIOLA ARCHIVES, I have decided to put this VIOLABLOG on hold for the next couple of months. In its absence, I will do my best to keep posting fun and interesting photos on FACEBOOK for your viewing pleasure throughout this time period. I promise….they won’t be pictures of what I just ate!!!

As always I truly appreciate your on-going support of this blog and will look forward to its resumption later this summer. Thanks so much and bye for now!

Nina as soloist with our Dad on the podium conducting the Burbank Symphony Orchestra.

Nina as soloist with our Dad on the podium conducting the Burbank Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Nina...the triumphant prodigy!

Nina…the triumphant prodigy!

Nina..the precocious teenager!

Nina..the precocious teenager!

Nina...the professional artist!

Nina…the professional artist!

Alan and Nina working on the "Eyeglass" Duo of Beethoven.

Alan and Nina working on the “Eyeglass” Duo of Beethoven.


Alan de Veritch

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