Gilman was born in Germany, Uszynski in Poland and both have lived in Switzerland for some time.
They began their careers very young and each has played major concert halls around the world; but it wasn't until they arrived in Eureka Springs to teach and play at the CICA Summer Music Festival that they played together for the first time -- and what a performance it was!
After his concert at The Aud on June 28, Uszynski invited his friend to the stage for a surprise duet of Handel's Passacaglia that almost blew the music stands off the stage and brought the crowd to their feet with applause and a roar of approval.
These young men, both in their 20s, are willing to play anywhere, anytime and proved it by performing the same stunning piece in the Simply Scrumptious Tea Room after lunch. "They said they'd play for their food," owner Charleen McCain told her lunch crowd, "and I'm going to make them pay!" They paid in full to another standing ovation.
But big ovations are not what impresses the two about Eureka Springs.
"The people here are so kind," Gilman said. "Getting hugs in the restaurant was so cute. It reminds me that this is what playing music is all about. Sometimes I forget that when I'm out in the world listening to what agents tell me. I know no one when I travel out there.
"But here I get to network with other musicians, create chamber groups, work with children and teach. Teaching will always be fifty percent of my life. Music teaches logical thinking from a different side. Parents have to give a child a chance to play even if they don't go into it professionally -- just for the development of their brain."
"Every day is better and better," agreed Uszynski. "We have been greeted with amazing hospitality not found in many places in the world. It is really heartwarming -- people come up to us with honest congratulations from the heart, where in big concert cities people just remark, 'Oh yes, nice concert.'
Obviously neither has been bothered by the fact that the audiences have been sparse with the auditorium looking pretty bare on some nights. "People just don't understand what's here," Gilman said, "it's a matter of education."
The lack of a full or even half-full house doesn't bother Uszynski either. After playing for an audience of 3,000 in China, he saw the other side of the coin in Italy where the promoter got the concert date wrong in all the advertising. He showed up to play but people didn't show up to hear him. "If the audience is small, it really doesn't change anything. Every person counts. I played my full program for five people in the concert hall and then went out and had a beer with the audience," Uszynski recalled with a laugh.
Both young men are quite impressed with local scenery. "My experience of the United States is New York City," Gilman said. "When we got off the plane I thought, 'What's going on? Where are we?' I was seeing the United States from a different view and I didn't recognize it. I love this."
They have been impressed by something locals don't even notice -- expansive fields, and even cows. At a recent barbecue hosted by Joe McClung for local bluegrass players and the CICA faculty, they were teased for taking pictures of empty fields. Now the friends even talk about buying land here. "The Tea Room will be my best memory," Gilman said.
Gilman and Uszynski developed a mock violin-viola competition for fun, each claiming to be the better player and have the better instrument. Gilman plays a 1767 Guadagnini violin made in Italy.
"It's not as well known as Stradivari, but it's just as good. I play for the sound it makes, not for the name," he said. "Its sound is powerful but beautiful -- a lyrical, singing sound."
Audiences have seen the horsehairs in his bow fray and break during his powerful playing, mainly due to the fact he doesn't have local access to the Mongolian horsehair he says makes the best bow strings.
Uszynski's viola has a remarkable history, being the last of nine existing Stradivari violas. It was made in 1734 and used by a violin professor named Gibson in the Joachin Quartet. It was first used to play for Brahms so he could hear how his newly-written quartet sounded. "When I play the Brahms Quartet, I imagine him listening," Uszynski said. "When I think of what hands have played this instrument through the centuries, it's quite an honor." The viola is on loan from a foundation and is available for him to use as long as he continues to play for them.
The next stop for Uszynski is Austria and then on to Sweden. Gilman will depart for Spain and then Germany once the music festival is over on July 7. He will be in concert with the CICA Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Thomas Chun-yu Chen on July 7 at 7:30. The winners of the International Concerto Competition will be playing with the orchestra on July 6 -- not to be missed!
And no doubt there will be some surprises before the final note fades away and CICA volunteers begin to prepare for another season in 2013. Meanwhile, both Gilman and Uszynski look forward to the possibility of returning to this place with lots of fields -- and cows.