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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

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

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