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Orion String Quartet Outreach Events

Orion with MacArthur HS Student Musicians

On Monday, February 18, 2008, the Orion String Quartet presented two educational outreach concerts for the San Antonio Chamber Music Society. In the morning they played at MacArthur High School for the varsity orchestra, music theory students, band members, and theater students. In the afternoon they played at O’Connor for varsity orchestra students.

At dinner the evening before these concerts, I briefed quartet members about the format and asked them to allow time for Q&A. We all rolled our eyes and agreed the questions would inevitably fall into the category of quantification – “How much did your violin cost? How long have you played?” etc. Well, we were wrong. The quartet was impressed and amazed by the sophistication of the students and their questions. One young violist asked “How do you listen for balance when you are preoccupied with your own sound under your own ear?” A tuba player asked “How do you focus on inner pulse as a group?” Someone asked how long it takes the quartet to learn a piece. Todd answered that they don’t like to perform anything without having at least 3 or 4 three-hour rehearsals. Steve told of counting the hours they had practiced a particular Schubert Quartet before performance – 60 hours! And ultimately, their answer was “20 years and counting.” We never stop learning.

One of the teachers asked the quartet to give advice to music students considering studying music in college. Without skipping a beat, Steve spoke up saying “it’s a lot of hard work.” And then Danny chimed in advising that if one is thinking of majoring in music in college to see if he/she likes it, then do something else instead and save music for an avocation.

Orion At O'Conner HS

In a moment of levity, a budding violinist asked Danny if there was any history behind his style of socks. I had already noticed his penchant for sartorial eccentricity in the socks category at the concert on Sunday, when I saw he was wearing socks with fish on them. On Monday he wore colorfully striped socks. He told a story about how someone had once written a review of a concert where he was concertmaster. The poor reviewer was so distracted during the entire concert trying to figure out why this young man was wearing such odd socks, that the concert was ruined for him. And to this day, Todd has amazing taste in socks. Vive la Difference!!

Jan and I played Nascar drivers all day trying to keep the quartet on schedule. Joe Romo met us at Silo’s on 1604 for lunch and then attended the afternoon concert. Afterwards we managed to whisk the musicians to the airport in time for Danny’s 4 o’clock flight. It was a fabulous and inspiring day. I hope more board members will be able to attend an educational outreach concert next season.

Incidentally, the Orion Quartet specifically asked that we hold the events in orchestra rehearsal rooms rather than auditoriums. They really wanted to be up close and personal in their presentation. I am increasingly confident that reaching out to one school at a time and establishing an intimate teaching and role model situation is of great value in our community.

Submitted by Allyson Dawkins, Chair – Education Committee


Enso Quartet Outreach Events

Enso Quartet at Cindi Kroer Correctional Facility Oct07


On October 8, 2007, the Enso String Quartet performed two educational concerts for the San Antonio Chamber Music Society. In the morning they played at the Cyndi Krier Correctional Facility which is a detention center for adolescents who are serving terms. The center is a proactive facility where children take core curriculum classes and are also taught positive living styles. The average stay is 11 months. There were two pregnant girls. The children walked into the gym, hands behind backs. They wore khakis and polo shirts. The youthful vibrancy of the Enso Quartet made them effective role models for the inmates who sat on the gymnasium floor in rows right next to the quartet.

The quartet played a slow movement of a Haydn quartet that was reflective, a Ginastera quartet that was jazzy, and a movement of the Ravel quartet which had a lot of unusual pizzicato effects. I saw one girl in the front row smile in surprise and delight when the quartet began the Ginastera. Then she kept looking at her friends seeming a bit embarrassed that she couldn’t help responding to the music. I find it fascinating that music can elicit an emotional response in even the most skeptical audience.

The Enso invited questions from the children. Many asked about the body movement, seeming to be mystified that it was not a choreographed part of the performance – that it was in fact unconscious and spontaneous. All present were particularly taken by the question of one young boy who asked the group if they were ‘deep’.   Luckily second violinist John Marcus was cool enough to understand the lingo. He responded ‘do you mean tight’? ‘Yes’, the child answered. He was asking if the quartet members were close friends.

In the afternoon the Enso did a repeat performance at the Juvenile Detention Center. The children here are waiting to be sentenced. They are less comfortable with their environment, not yet used to the system. You can see from the photos that they are wearing prison garb.

We have received positive feedback from Chaplain Alvin Logan at JDC and Roy Washington at Cyndi Krier Correctional Facility that these events are effective and make an impression on these incarcerated young people. The San Antonio Chamber Music Society is committed to repeating events at these facilities when possible.

Our next two outreach events will be performed by the Orion Quartet on February 18 at MacArthur High School and Churchill High School.

Submitted by Allyson Dawkins, Chair – Education Committee

Jupiter String Quartet Outreach Events

jupiter quartet

On October 9, 2006, SACMS had its first educational events of the season. The Jupiter Quartet performed two classroom concerts at Trinity University for non-music major students. These students who are studying music history with Dr. Carl Leafstedt represent future audiences for live classical music performances. The impact of the performance/lecture could be discerned when a question was asked about the “goose bump” factor of music. Why does music sometimes give us goose bumps, and how do performers deal with the stress of both committing and surrendering emotionally in order to evoke a response from the audience? When the question was asked one of the students volunteered “yeah, my heart is pounding”!

In the afternoon we had quite a different experience in a completely untraditional setting – that of the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center. The quartet unpacked their instruments in a gymnasium devoid of any accoutrements other than 10 rows of hard, indestructible, plastic chairs. The adolescents were led into the gym in single file, hands behind their backs, and seated amidst a palpable silence. Daniel McDonough, cellist, spoke to the audience explaining the music that they were about to hear. (The group played the entire Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8, which they performed on our series on the preceding Sunday.) He spoke of the feelings of violence and anger described in the music. One section was characterized as sounding like gunshots. The audience was rapt and attentive, and sat quietly throughout the entire 25 minute piece. The music was accompanied by the eerie sound of key chains rattling as guards walked around the room.

It is our hope that as these children go back out into society, they will remember that someone took the time to share something precious and invaluable with them.

Submitted by Allyson Dawkins, Chair – Education Committee

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