News Column

Famous string foursome performs at Cumru Elementary

November 2, 2013

YellowBrix

Nov. 02--The ninja-like muscle man, the multi-faceted diva, the grounded cool guy and the wisdom-keeper who held the group together sat in front of a room full of fourth-graders ready to explain the intricacies of classical chamber music.

The members of the Aeolus Quartet used the characterizations to describe their roles in the group, as they played and introduced students to their instruments.

The internationally famous ensemble is the graduate resident string quartet at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York.

The group travels around the world to give performances and teach educational programs. Its musicians are among a few trusted to play the instruments on display at the Smithsonian Institution at special concerts.

On Friday they brought their educational outreach campaign to Gov. Mifflin's Cumru Elementary School. They were in town for an evening concert at Reading's WCR Center for the Arts hosted by the Friends of Chamber Music.

The musicians said they hoped to help students learn how to actively listen to music and really appreciate it, rather than just have it on as something in the background.

"We want them to think about music as something that has something to say to them," said Nick Tavani, the group's first violinist.

The quartet has a special connection to Berks County. Rachel Shapiro, its second violinist, is a 2005 Wyomissing High School graduate.

She said she enjoys performing in Berks and going into schools. It reminds her of the musical performances she enjoyed as a student.

"It's really surreal that you can move from the one that's absorbing all the things that are happening on stage to the one that's on stage performing," Shapiro said.

And that's one of the goals of educational outreach, the musicians said. Showing that it is possible to have a career in music might inspire kids who are interested in the art to stick with it.

"We can all go back to one performance when we were very young that inspired us to perform music," said Gregory Luce, the group's viola player.

The quartet performed quick musical pieces and talked to students in between. They kept it light, boasting about their instruments while gently ribbing one another.

"Maybe they get to play all the nice melodies," cellist Alan Richardson told students, "but I think my job's a lot more fun."

But the students quickly learned that no piece sounded complete with any part of the quartet missing.

The name Aeolus is taken from the mythological Greek god who controls the four winds to serve a single purpose. That's the nature of the quartet, the musicians said. Characters from Greek mythology were also used to describe the musicians' individual roles.

"Mixed together it makes a wonderful sound," fourth-grader Hannah Gann observed after the presentation.

She was hoping to see more of the quartet and planned to look up where they were performing next.

Her classmate, Eathan Vogelin, had similar thoughts. He was unexpectedly impressed.

"It kind of surprised me how good they were," he said.

Contact Liam Migdail-Smith: 610-371-5022 or lsmith@readingeagle.com.

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