Leah Rankin | Staff Writer
Debbie Grohman is a fifth-generation Chautauquan who comes to the Institution every year for artistic and spiritual fulfillment. But it wasn’t until last year, when she had a bicycle accident, that she realized that Chautauqua also can be a place of healing.
Grohman, her husband, Willie LaFavor, and their son Andrew will perform a recital at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall in part to show their appreciation to the Chautauqua community for its support as Grohman spent months in physical therapy trying to regain the strength to play her clarinet.
Grohman grew up in Tennessee and earned her bachelor’s degree in music from DePauw University. She pursued a master’s degree of music in clarinet performance at the New England Conservatory, where she met her husband, who was studying piano.
The two now teach and perform at the Hochstein School of Music and Dance in Rochester, N.Y.
“Hochstein jump-started me back into more serious performing,” Grohman said.
The clarinetist had been musically involved at Chautauqua for years, performing in the Music School Festival Orchestra for two summers as a student and then singing in the Motet Choir and playing in various chamber ensembles. Last year, she decided with her husband to express her appreciation for a community that had made so many artistic opportunities possible.
“It was an opportunity for us to give back to a community that’s given so much to us,” she said.
They scheduled a recital last summer but had to cancel, because one day while Grohman was riding her bike, she hit a pothole and flipped over the handlebars. Her right wrist was badly broken.
Grohman was in and out of different casts all summer long and spent months in therapy practicing hand exercises and stretches. Lucky for her, she said, playing the clarinet was part of her therapy. It was Chautauqua, however, where she felt she healed the most.
“This was the healing place,” she said. “I needed the strength of the community to heal well. People were praying for me.”
The clarinetist also is a Presbyterian minister, and her entire congregation prayed for her health as she continued the long, slow healing process. When the doctors took her cast off for good, they told her that her recovery was miraculous and that she healed remarkably well.
As Grohman commuted between Chautauqua, her place of healing, and Rochester for X-rays, she reflected on the importance of music in her life. Before she moved to Rochester, she had a difficult time making a living as a musician, so she worked full time in the Presbyterian Church. Now, she said, she considers herself bivocational.
“It showed me that playing the clarinet was really important,” she said.
Today’s concert is titled “All That Classical Jazz” and will feature contemporary 20th-century classical music that has strong roots in the jazz tradition. She said playing for her friends at Chautauqua just feels right to her. Like a breath of fresh air, she said, everything is “in sync.”
There is one thing Grohman promises to her audience before the concert:
“I won’t get on a bike until after,” she said.
Donations for “All That Classical Jazz” benefit the Chautauqua Women’s Club Scholarship Fund.