Award-winning FaMa Quartet reunites for Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival | Performing Arts | 7 days

Click to enlarge FaMa Quartet, from left: Ella Eom, Jasper Sewell, Julie Kim and Ari Peraza-Webb - Courtesy of Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival

  • Courtesy of Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival
  • FaMa Quartet, from left: Ella Eom, Jasper Sewell, Julie Kim and Ari Peraza-Webb

Each summer, the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival brings talented young violinists, violists and cellists from across the country to the St Michael’s College campus in Colchester for four weeks of intense coaching, training and performance. The students, who range in age from 13 to 30, practice their instruments for several hours a day and rehearse with classmates in their assigned quartets before arriving. They relax by attending performances by a professional quartet of festival teachers and visiting artists.

Recently, out of this ordeal emerged a quartet of students who won America’s most distinguished award for young chamber musicians: the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. Its members met at a music festival in 2021 and named themselves the FaMa Quartet, after the abbreviation of F major. Violinists Ella Eom and Julie Kim from New Jersey and cellist Ari Peraza-Webb from Ohio were 16 at the time; violist Jasper Sewell from Tennessee was 17.

FaMa will perform a public performance this Saturday, May 18, at the Isham Family Farm in Williston to mark the upcoming 20th edition of the festival, which will run from June 23 to July 21 held. Spectators are asked to bring monetary or food donations.

This may be FaMa’s last reunion for a while. All four members will undergo more intense training in the fall, violist Sewell said by phone from her home in Chattanooga. Eom and Kim will attend dual degree programs at Columbia University and the Juilliard School in New York. Peraza-Webb will attend The Juilliard School and Sewell will study at the Sheppard School of Music at Rice University in Texas. Only Sewell will participate in this summer’s Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival.

How does one become part of an award-winning quartet? Sewell, a 19-year-old high school student, said his mother started taking violin lessons when he was 4 years old.

“My mother wasn’t a musician, but she listened to a lot of Bach,” he said. “She noticed that I would laugh out loud during certain parts and have perfect pitch.” He points out that, thanks to his mom, all six of his brothers play instruments and, like him, swim competitively.

After years of violin lessons, Sewell began studying viola at age 13 at the Jacobs School of Music Summer Strings Institute in Indiana, in part because he could read the alto clef. In 2019, during his first summer at the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, he took violin lessons. When he returned to Colchester in 2021, he recalled, “I chose to play violin in one chamber orchestra and viola in another.” The latter became Fama.

Liz Chang, the festival’s current artistic director, said she sorts the incoming students into quartets based on their age, range of experience, teacher comments and audition videos. Each quartet will be notified a few weeks before the festival. Its members must get in touch before the festival starts, decide on a piece to play and learn their parts.

This year, Chang is dividing the festival’s largest freshman class ever—about 220 students—into more than 55 quartets, a task she describes as “hanging over my head.” Her predecessor, festival founder Kevin Lawrence, was matched with fellow FaMa members and resigned the year they were formed. He continues to teach as a member of the faculty.

The quartet didn’t immediately resonate, Sewell said. Its members chose Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 6 in F minor.

“The first rehearsal, we all walked into Ali’s dorm room. It was very awkward. We played the piece through and no one said anything,” Sewell recalled.

Their quartet coach Bayla Keyes, a founding member of the Muir String Quartet, “really burst the bubble. She encouraged us to put our own spin on it,” he said. Their eventual connection “was all about music, on a level I’d never experienced before,” Sewell continues. “Our friendship started with music.”

Case gave the orchestra two weeks to memorize Mendelssohn’s work for a performance during the festival’s third week.

“They didn’t know it was impossible,” Zhang said with a laugh, adding that FaMa nonetheless succeeded. “I have something to say [being young and] Just don’t know what you are doing.

Sewell said the quartet has memorized everything it has played. These include Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, which helped FaMa place second in the 2022 Kirtmann Chamber Music Competition presented by the Austin Chamber Music Center in Texas Name; Claude Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor as part of his award-winning Fischoff program. Saturday’s concert will feature the first movements of Debussy, Mendelssohn and Eugène Ysaï’s Sonata for Two Violins.

Sewell, who also attended the similarly high-level Meadowmount Conservatory of Music in Westport, N.Y., said the rigor of the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival is paired with hiking, amusement park trips and “massive community involvement.” It is “balanced”.

Students participate in a two-weekend quartet that performs free pop-up concerts in various shops and cafes in downtown Burlington and the South End. The May 18 concert and final concert of the festival is presented by senior fellows in the program in partnership with Music for Food, an initiative founded by Boston violinist Kim Kashkashian to raise awareness Awareness of local hunger issues.

“This is an important part of our identity: providing a place for students to grow, become musical ambassadors, and give back to the community in a more tangible way,” Zhang said. “They are advocating for something they believe in.”

The students’ passion for the music they play is obvious to anyone who attends the festival’s public concerts and events – which are often packed, noisy, and more of a stomping and cheering affair. Instead of polite applause. (It helps to get an accurate idea of ​​how difficult it is to play the music.) This year’s lineup includes tutorials from acclaimed violinist Hilary Hahn (who will appear via Zoom from Brazil), as well as visiting Baludette , Verona and concerts of the Miró Quartet.

Zhang mentioned that the Baludai Quartet won the Fischoff Senior Group Gold Medal in 2020; one of its members is a three-time Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival student. It’s not hard to imagine the Fama Quartet returning one day.

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