World-Class Quartet Comes to Youngstown

By Marah J. Morrison

The Harlem Quartet, a New York-based stringed quartet, presented a master class for the Dana School of Music students on Jan. 16 in Bliss Hall.

Along with the master class, the acclaimed quartet performed on Jan. 17 at the Ford Family Recital Hall. The quartet was founded in 2006 by The Sphinx Organization, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to building diversity in classical music.

Since its public debut in 2006 at Carnegie Hall, the quartet has appeared throughout the United States as well as France, the U.K., Brazil, Ethiopia and South Africa.

Jaime Amador, viola, said once he saw Youngstown State University music students change the way they played during the master class, he could tell by their faces that they enjoy what they do.

“[They’re] actually getting what you’re explaining to them,” he said. “I think that’s one of the best things for me. That fulfills why we’re here.”

Amador said he enjoys playing music with different people, which got him into music, and when it comes to playing music with different people, it doesn’t matter what kind of language they speak or if they’re a different nationality.

Ilmar Gavilán, violin, said he enjoyed the questions from students after the master class, and he thought they were engaged and to the point.

“Rather than general questions, they were really made with objective of growing,” he said. “That makes me feel that the class was not just symbolic but made an impact.”

Gavilán said he never tried to become a musician, and it was done little by little, but in the end he was happy he ended up where he is today.

“I grew up in a musical family,” he said. “It was so natural. It was a part of everything around me.”

Melissa White, violin, said the music students at YSU are bright and great thinkers. She said they are talented and their questions were stimulating.

Photo by Marah J. Morrison/The Jambar

“Their music making was wonderful to hear and to get to work with them and see how fast they were to pick up on ideas and try all of our suggestions was exciting,” she said.

White said she saw the violin on “Sesame Street” when she was four and asked her parents if she could play.

“After two years of begging for a violin, I got to start playing,” she said.

“Youngstown feels close to home,” White said. “It’s nice to come back and have our friends be here with us.”  

Felix Umansky, cello, said he could tell the students enjoy performing and the music, and as a listener, made it much more engaging for him.

“They were really eager to try all of our suggestions,” he said. “It was a really engaged group of students.”

Umansky said he always grew up with music in his home and his parents are both musicians, so that is how he got started.

“As I got older and older, I realized that music is the way I felt most comfortable expressing myself as a person,” he said.