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Zemlinsky String Quartet Outreach Event

Bright and early, on a chamber of commerce perfect November morning, we set off with the Zemlinsky Quartet members to escort them to their Outreach performances.  First we headed to Clark High School where three classes of eager high school orchestra students awaited us.  The “Zemlinsky Boys” (as they cheerfully refer to themselves) lead the students on a lively tour of quartet music.   They played examples of music from the classical, romantic, and twentieth-century eras.  The students listened in rapt attention to the beautiful slow movement from Beethoven’s Opus 18, Quartet No. 1.  I saw no cell phones out and in use.  It was a refreshing and heartwarming inward listen to one of the most beautiful works in the classical music repertoire.

In the afternoon we had a completely different kind of musical experience as the Quartet visited the Sunshine Cottage School for the Deaf.  Almost all of the students at Sunshine Cottage have cochlear implants.  And all of the students have some sort of access to sound.  The children (K-5th grade) were completely engaged and lively throughout the concert, and had many questions for the musicians.  Board member Polly Spencer sprang to her feet at one point and volunteered insight as to how the instruments made sounds in a similar fashion to the vibration of our vocal chords when we speak.  We truly enjoyed our visit to the beautiful Sunshine Cottage and look forward to sharing the gift of music with their students again in the future.

Submitted by Allyson Dawkins

More Outreach Event Pictures

Red Priest Outreach Events

Red Priest-8

SACMS was extremely fortunate to have Red Priest perform two outreach events on Monday following their performance on our series on Sunday March 4 at Temple Beth-El. The events took place at The Montessori School of San Antonio and at UTSA. The audience of 200 students at the Montessori school ranged in age from 6-14. The audience at UTSA was made up of orchestra students and faculty members.

It was fascinating to observe how well the Red Priest musicians interacted with the various ages of students. At the Montessori school violinist David Greenberg ducked behind the harpsichord where he secretly donned a red feathered mask, and then he jumped out with a yell and proceeded to prance around while playing a Vivaldi melody. Piers Adams, recorder player, and David demonstrated a baroque canon, which is like a round, by following each other while playing and winding up and down the aisles of children.

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At UTSA Red Priest set up on the recital hall stage. Students helped set up chairs for the audience to sit on stage so that the event could be intimate. I felt as though I was sitting in a music history class with the most fascinating and inspiring professor imaginable. The group began by explaining the origin of the word baroque, which means rough, as in rough like a pearl. Each musician spoke at some point, and they all told anecdotes about various baroque composers behaving in a rough and experimental manner. The explanations illuminated the character of the group’s wild and crazy performance style.

At the UTSA event I found myself wishing Red Priest would go on for hours. Both outreach concerts were of an unusually high standard. They were stimulating both in the sharing of the joy of making music, and in the motivating of learning about a specific era of “classical” music.

Submitted by: Allyson Dawkins

American String Quartet Outreach Event

The American String Quartet took joy and music to the hearts of young under-served students on a hot, autumn afternoon in San Antonio. The Youth Orchestras of San Antonio has developed a free after-school program called Music Learning Center on the City’s West Side. It is modeled after El Sistema, a legendary music education program in Venezuela. The Center is located at Good Samaritan Community Services. Over 70 students participating in the YOSA program came to hear the ASQ.

Quartet members talked about their instruments and played movements from the program that they played on the SACMS series opening concert. My favorite was a fugue by Bach arranged by violist Daniel Avshalomov.   Cellist Wolfram Koessel explained that a fugue is similar to a round like Row, row, row your boat.

After the concert violin and cello students unpacked their instruments and played for violinists Peter Winograd and Laurie Carney, and Wolfram Koessel. I observed the interaction with the cellists who sat in a circle and were taught how to hold the bow properly, how to play a scale, and how to make a full sound. Students also played the Dies Irae which is quoted in music for their upcoming Halloween Concert. They got valuable tips from on pros on how to play that theme effectively.

This event was the first we have given for the YOSA Music Learning Center. We applaud them on their endeavor and hope to interact with them more in the future.

Submitted by Allyson Dawkins

Lafayette String Quartet Outreach Events


On April 4, 2011 the SACMS was fortunate to be able to present the Lafayette String Quartet in two Outreach Events. We started off with a fortifying and traditional breakfast for the quartet at San Antonio’s legendary El Mirador. Then Allyson Dawkins and Ken Bloom drove the quartet to Churchill High School where the quartet played and talked about some of the Elliott Carter String Quartet No. 3. The Carter work represents a landmark in modern string quartet writing that boggles the mind of most professional musicians. It was fascinating to watch the high school aged string students poring over the score of this very difficult work.

Later we all headed over to the Winston School for an afternoon concert. At this event the entire student body was ushered into the school gym where the concert was performed. After the concert which included some explanation, the students were able to interact with the musicians asking questions.

Submitted by Allyson Dawkins

Lee Trio Outreach Event

The Lee Trio presented an excellent educational concert for the orchestra class at NESA.  Some of the students in the class are composers, thus the first piece played was very welcome to their ears.  It was living composer Nathaniel Stookey’s piano trio which was commissioned by the Lee Trio.  The trio has three movements each of which is a musical depiction of one of the Lee Trio members’ Chinese name.  The students were a model audience –it was so quiet one could have heard a pin drop between movements.  After the concert one student confessed to me that he almost cried during the Stookey.  I found his comment to be honestly refreshing and also interesting since I too found the piece to have some quite sad moments.

Second on the program was a scherzo movement from a Mendelssohn trio – one of the mainstays of the piano trio repertoire – which the trio played impeccably at a scorchingly fast tempo.  They closed with the Primavera movement of Astor Piazzola’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.  First violinist, Lisa Lee, played delicious and atmospheric glissandi throughout this movement.

All three sisters – Lisa, Angela, and Melinda – answered questions from the students with openness and spontaneity.  There was an intense give and take during the Q&A which was inspiring to witness.

We thank the Lees from the bottom of our hearts for their gesture of generosity in providing this very memorable live educational concert!

Submitted by Allyson Dawkins – Chair, Education Committee

Aviv String Quartet Outreach Events

Aviv at JCC

On Monday, March 16, 2009, the San Antonio Chamber Music Society was privileged to present the Aviv String Quartet in two outreach events. In the morning the quartet played at the Jewish Community Center for both young children (including 3 year-old toddlers!) and senior citizens. Aviv played a light program including movements from quartets by Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Borodin, and Shostakovich. Quartet members each told a little about themselves and their instruments, and also answered questions from audience members both young and old. The toddlers enjoyed the event immensely. When their joy and exuberance became too enthusiastic, they were escorted through the back exit by their teachers. It was heartwarming to witness the warm interchange between the quartet members and the members of the Jewish Community Center.

The morning event was attended by board members Allyson Dawkins, Ruth Jean Gurwitz, Eileen Lundin, Ray McDonald, Joe Romo, Nancy Shivers, and Jan Van den Hende.

Being on a tight schedule, we whisked the quartet to Houston Street Bistro for a wonderful lunch attended by Allyson, Eileen, Nancy, Joe, and Jan. Then it was off to the Juvenile Detention Center.

We were met at the front door by our friend Chaplain Alvin Logan who escorted us to the gymnasium. The journey through the building itself is sobering. We have to wait between two locked doors of each chamber as we make our way through the labyrinth. Chaplain Logan has to lock and unlock sets of doors to keep us all together.

During lunch Sergey and I talked about varying the program at the JDC. I agreed with him that music with more tension would be appropriate. Once in the gym the quartet members took in the austerity of the room and all it symbolizes, and then quickly unpacked and prepared themselves mentally. Sergey was walking around the gym holding the microphone and mumbling to himself as he sought to find the perfect words to reach out to the incarcerated youths.

Aviv at JDC  girls and boys

The quartet chose to start this concert with the first movement of Beethoven’s Serioso Quartet which has a startling and aggressive opening. Before they played Sergey talked to the teens about how “classical” music can express emotions including anger and fear. I am always interested in the initial response of adolescents to this type of dramatic music. Many laughed and then looked at each other with a combination of embarrassment and amazement. Then, one by one, they were taken in by the compelling power of the music and settled down to watch and listen intently. Before playing the Borodin Nocturne, Sergey noted that music can also express love and more sensitive and comforting emotions.

The audience at the JDC was silent in response to the invitation to ask questions. Sergey seemed painfully aware of the extreme reticence of the adolescents. He persisted and relaxed them by asking them questions. Gradually they began to speak up. One boy asked if the quartet played music for a living or for a hobby. Sergey answered, in a sophisticated way, that classical music performance is the occupation that each musician in the group chose. And they are all dedicated to their work. They undertake their jobs with responsibility and commitment. But he also acknowledged that musicians have a passion and love of their art; thus, they love their work.

The afternoon concert was attended by board members Paul Casperson, Allyson, Joe, Nancy and Jan. We were also fortunate to have Nathaniel Wilson, Superintendent of the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department Detention Center present. He thanked the Aviv Quartet and the SACMS for their generosity and commitment to education.

Usually after performing, musicians are invigorated and “revved up”. After this concert, the Aviv Quartet members were visibly exhausted and drained. They all poured every ounce of energy they had into making this concert meaningful. And so to reiterate, it was a privilege to present the Aviv Quartet in these events. By the end of the day we had all developed a closeness and camaraderie that elicited not handshakes, but hugs of farewell.

Thank you Sergey, Evgenia, Shuli, and Rachel for sharing a great day with us!

Submitted by Allyson Dawkins, Chair – Education Committee

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