Concert Tickets Are $25 At The Door Students & Active Duty Military Attend For Free!

Educational Outreach

Jupiter String Quartet - Educational Outreach

Outreach Event with Jupiter String Quartet at Lamar Elementary School on March 4, 2024

One would be hard-pressed to come up with a more experienced ensemble than the Jupiter String Quartet. Together and with the same members for more than 20 years, they have played repertoire old and new across the world, commissioned countless unique works and taught workshops at colleges and universities around the country. They live and breathe music on every level together, so when I offered to assist them in their outreach event at Lamar Elementary, their response of “No worries, we got it!” hardly surprised me.

The morning of March 4 happened to be an especially fun day at Lamar. “Rock and Roll Day” featured students and faculty – including principal Roxanna Bazaldua – in rocker outfit and smiles, a pleasant surprise for the first morning of a school week. Nelson Lee, Meg Freivogel (violins), her sister Liz Freivogel (viola), and Meg’s husband Daniel McDonough (cello), set up quickly in the small performance space – a cozy, carpeted reading room with shelves full of colorful children’s books. As the quartet set up their stands, prepared their instruments, and chatted briefly about their plan for their 40-minute show, Principal Bazaldua brought in a large toy tiger. “Is that your school mascot?” Daniel asked. “Sure is!” Bazaldua replied. “He pops up when there’s a special event…” Daniel placed him confidently at the center of the quartet

Jupiter String Quartet - Educational Outreach

While the quartet warmed up, students from grades 3-5 began filing in, and there were looks of excitement and anticipation. This was clearly going to be a new experience for them. After a brief introduction, the quartet took over, introducing themselves both individually and as a group before diving into their instruments. Violinist Meg Freivogel explained the different timbres and ranges of the instruments, starting with the small violin (with Nelson Lee receiving several “whooaaa!”’s by playing the highest pitch on his instrument), to the deeper sound of the Liz’s viola, to the massive-by-comparison cello. “Did you know it’s so big he needs an extra seat on the plane?”

After individual demonstrations, Daniel explained that while they all play in different ranges and have their own expression, they also play as a team. “Think of us like ingredients in a recipe. By ourselves, we taste alright… but together, we can make something REALLY tasty.” Running with this analogy, they each became ingredients for a cookie recipe. With a simple accompaniment on viola, Liz was the flour for the dough. “A little boring by itself, right?….” The students agreed. “Now Meg will be… the egg!” The violin and viola parts, like flour and egg, worked well together. “Starting to taste a bit better, right? Now to add something sweet…” Daniel said as Nelson added his nimble countermelody to the ensemble. To complete the recipe, Daniel himself played the melody on cello, and the students heard the full quartet play a gorgeous excerpt.

Jupiter String Quartet - Educational Outreach

Liz took over next, presenting an excerpt by Beethoven, a master of counterpoint (melody imitation between the instruments). She had the students try to follow each entrance of the melody, whether it start from ones of the violins, the viola, or the cello. To help, each musician stood up when their version of the melody began. Listening intently, some students couldn’t help but point every time their heard and saw a new entrance.

Nelson took the students on a more emotional journey, with a movement of To Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores by Michi Wiancko: “This next piece is more of an angry conversation…” he explained, setting up a contemporary work about forest fires. “Imagine a blazing fire while we’re playing. It’s going to sound really different from the music you heard us play earlier!” he warned. The quartet broke out into a furious, energetic passage that electrified the crowd of kids. “That one was my favorite!” one shouted after they finished.

Shifting to a more subtle movement from the same work, Meg explained that their final musical excerpt features the sounds of a microbiome writhing underneath soil. Using credits cards against their strings and striking their hands against their instruments, the four created a percussive groove underneath an eerie melody. The students were fascinated by the sonic atmosphere, and when they finished they were eager to give their reactions: “The low cello sounded like a slow boulder moving!” one said. “Or a door opening really slowly like something’s going to pop out!” said another. “Or bugs crawling….”

After thanking the audience for being such great listeners, the quartet finished the event with a warm, optimistic section from the Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 14. Daniel set the tone for the excerpt: “Dvorak was in America, about to take a big ship back to his country… as you listen, imagine how excited he would be to travel back to his home country after being away for so long.” After an excited applause, some students stuck around to ask more questions, curious and eager to learn more about the performers and their instruments.

Submitted by Daniel Anastasio