The children of longtime arts patrons Lillian and Maurice Barbash have established a new competition for string players ages 16 to 30, it was announced this week.

Candidates will perform any piece composed by J. S. Bach for unaccompanied string instrument.

The winner will receive a cash prize of $5,000 and will be the featured soloist at the Island Symphony Bach Festival, presented by the Island Symphony Orchestra.

The festival happens Sunday, Jan. 26, at 2 p.m. at St. Peter’s By-The-Sea Episcopal Church in Bay Shore. And admission is free.

(There’s a snow date scheduled for Feb. 2.)

The Staller Center for the Performing Arts in Stony Brook will be hosting the finals from 2 – 4 p.m. on Dec. 3. Admission is also free.

But there’s a deadline looming.

The online application forms, including all requested documents and videos/links, must be submitted by Oct. 20. The chosen competitors will be announced on Nov. 4. Click here for the requirements.

A distinguished panel of jurors include Lawrence Dutton, violist; Colin Carr, cellist; Matthew Lipman, violist; Yeou-Cheng Ma, violinist/violist; and Wolfram Koessel, cellist.

A note from Cathy, Susan, and Shepard Barbash:

This competition honors our parents, Lillian and Maurice “Murray” Barbash, for their lifelong support of the arts on Long Island. No couple took more joy or was more devoted to promoting classical music. 

Born and raised in the Bronx, the Barbashes married in 1947 and moved to Brightwaters in 1954. As lovers of the arts and each other, they were inseparable. They served together on the boards of the South Shore Symphony and the Suffolk Symphony in the 1960s, and helped start the Long Island Philharmonic in 1979.

They celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary by commissioning a piece for cello and orchestra for Yo-Yo Ma (Music for Cello and Orchestra, by Leon Kirchner, premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1992), and their 45th anniversary by commissioning a piano concerto for Emanuel Ax (Seeing, by Christopher Rouse, premiered by the New York Philharmonic in 1999).

Murray, a residential developer, took up the clarinet at age 60 and said his only regret was that he lacked the talent to be a musician. 

Lillian raised three children, played piano briefly, and loved opera so much she said that when she died, she hoped it would be at the Metropolitan Opera.

As PTA president, she arranged to take several classes of young school children to the Met to see Wagner’s Flying Dutchman.

After her own children left home for college, Lillian was asked by the Town of Islip in 1976 to found the Islip Arts Council.

She led the Council for 31 years and built it into one of the region’s leading presenters of classical music. 

Tens of thousands of Long Islanders attended her free New York Philharmonic concert in Heckscher State Park every summer.

Her chamber music series featured world-renowned ensembles, including the Beaux Arts Trio, Juilliard String Quartet, and Music from Marlboro.

She also booked promising young musicians and brought artist master classes into the schools. Taking no salary, attracting broad support, she became beloved as Long Island’s First Lady of the Arts.

Murray and Lillian also loved the theater. In 1995 they took 700 students from Bay Shore High School to the Broadway play, Having Our Say. Two years later they created the Bay Shore Schools Arts Education Fund to enhance students’ direct participation in the arts.

Most of all, our parents loved each other, loved their children, and gave us what they loved. Our gratitude is hard to put into words. 

It inspired this competition in their name. 

May Bach’s glories resound, and their spirit endure.

— Cathy, Susan, and Shepard Barbash

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash