January 29, 2004

Quartet to perform, teach at area schools, on campus

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- When the members of the Cavani String Quartet teach music appreciation classes in public schools, they sometimes tell the story of Goldilocks and the Three Violin Players. On occasion, they don baseball caps and portray chamber musicians as members of a different kind of sports team. They've even been known to conclude with a spirited rendition (on violin, cello and viola) of the classic "Surfin' USA."


Media Advisory

Reporters may sit in on a Cavani "informance" at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3, at the Eurma C. Hayes Child Care Center, 441 E. Willow, Carbondale. All children present will be available for photographs and/or interviews. Those who wish to cover the event should arrive 15 minutes before the event starts and ask for Delores Albritten. "It's different from performing -- it takes special skills to understand what works for different age groups," said Kathleen C. Ginther, who teaches in the School of Music at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

"And they have such intensity. They put their whole heart and soul into it."

Ginther, one of two SIUC composers-in-residence, has drawn on a different set of musical arrangement skills to bring the quartet to campus for a set of three-day "mini-residencies." The ensemble -- violist Kirsten Doctor, violinists Annie Fullard and Mari Sato, and cellist Merry Peckham -- came to Carbondale for three days in October. The group, minus Peckham, will be here Feb. 1-4, and the entire ensemble will visit again in May.

"Merry had emergency surgery in January and couldn't travel, so a former student, Stephen Fang, is going to fill in for her," Ginther said.

"I think it will be interesting for our students, because he's just starting out (Fang, 22, earned his bachelor's degree from Cleveland Institute of Music last year), just beginning to make his way in the professional world."

As the residencies are so short, SIUC organizers squeeze a lot into each one.

"In this one coming up, they'll perform at Bethel AME Church in Carbondale and at the Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall on campus, they'll be going to schools in Cairo and Meridian as well as in Carbondale, they'll give a master class with our string students and then have lunch with them, and have dinner with the Chamber Music Society board," Ginther said. "It's grueling!"

The mini-residencies grew out of what Ginther describes as a "smashing, intensely valuable" four-day stay in 2002 that included concerts and classes. Inspired by the enthusiasm of that experience, Ginther and other members of the music faculty began working on a plan to build on it.

"Our ultimate goal is a program of string education in the grade schools here, and we think the Cavani could be a catalyst -- the fuse to ignite interest and set off this program," Ginther said.

"We thought we could get a lot more done if we stretched their visit out over time, so we've set up these mini-residencies. In October, they presented a program and a few of the students from that 2002 visit played with them. This time, they'll work with the students on the basics, and in May, they'll put on a concert that will include the grade school students, the Suzuki Strings (an SIUC-sponsored youth group), our own performance majors and the Southern Illinois Chamber Music Ensemble. It will be a wrap-up of everything the residencies accomplished this year."

Named for a pair of 19th-century violin makers, the Cavani String Quartet was founded in 1984 and had its New York debut in 1987. Two years later, it entered the annual Walter W. Naumburg international competitions, described by The New York Times as "the most prestigious of them all," and won the Naumburg chamber music award.

Since then, the group has gone on to play its trademark mix of classics and new works by living composers in such celebrated venues as Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. It has been featured on National Public Radio and has appeared on television shows on all the major networks and on public broadcasting stations.

The quartet has a permanent residency at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where the members have an apprentice program, an intensive seminar and a quartet project for students aspiring to professional music careers.

Expanding cultural outreach efforts is among the goals of Southern at 150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.