When Frederick Slutsky was 11 years old, he broke the rules.   And in doing so he broke the most important rule of all—he got caught. Banished to his bedroom for the entire weekend, his various collections—stamps, coins, baseball cards—could hold his attention for only so long. The parents had said no radio. “But nobody said anything about a record player,” he says.

So Slutsky went to his closet, where a gift from his cousin lay half unwrapped. It had arrived a year earlier, a big mysterious box soon full of a young boy’s expectations. “It was too big to be a book,” Slutsky recalls, and he hoped for a baseball glove. He opened it only halfway before realizing what it was—a box set called the Leonard Bernstein Young People’s Concert. “I put that right in my closet,” he says.

But, locked in his own personal pokey for the weekend, it came out of the closet and onto the record player and young Frederick Slutsky’s life was about to change. He still remembers the first piece he played—the last movement of the fourth of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. “I kind of liked it,” he says. “And I played it again, and I liked it a little bit more. I listened to that thing about 100 times that day.” For weeks and months afterward, young Slutsky’s $1-a-week allowance went to the record store. A few years later, he discovered Chopin and his life changed forever. “It moved me in a way that no other music moved me,” he says.

Today, all growed up and founder of The Chopin Project, Slutsky makes it his mission to bring that same rapturous feeling of joy and discovery to as many students and young adults as he can. Through concerts and student workshops and opportunities to meet acclaimed artists who have dedicated their time and talents to artists like Chopin, Slutsky hopes to give a grand introduction to the music he had the good fortune (read: cousin) to discover so young. They can handle the rule-breaking on their own. Now in its tenth year, the Chopin Project is bigger than ever, bringing professional musicians to the region for performances and events from Sarasota to St. Pete and from Tampa to Bradenton and Hudson—all free and open to students. The 2018–19 season even kicked off at Braden River High School, where pianist Matthew Graybil and violinist Rhiannon Banerdt took the stage for 300 students, and one teacher even joined Graybil for a group performance. They play more than just Chopin, but the Polish composer always gets his due.

Taking a break for the holidays, the season resumes this February, with the return of Graybil for another round, this time of solo performances, and the arrival of celebrated pianist Svetlana Smolina, who will also play a slate of shows across town. The season ends in April with the Sarasota debut of rising star pianist Igor Lovchinsky, who will be performing in Tampa and Hudson before coming to Sarasota for two performances with Artist Series Concerts and then a final concert in St. Petersburg’s Palladium Theatre.  “If there are five kids who hear something so hauntingly beautiful or so moving that it changes their lives,” Slutsky says, “it will have been a success.”