What Have We Learned, Parker Quartet?
A publication no less august than The New York Times has hailed chamber string ensemble The Parker Quartet as nothing less than “something extraordinary.” A body no less distinguished than the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (you know, the folks who hand out the Grammys) has bestowed upon The Parker Quartet its award for Best Classical Music Recording. A school of music no less local than the University of South Carolina School of Music has invited the Parker Quartet — one of the preeminent chamber music ensembles of our time — to occupy its first-ever chamber music residency; next up, it returns to Massachusetts, where it’ll be the Blodgett Artists-in-Residence at Harvard.
All this is preamble to say that The Parker Quartet’s residency-closing concert on Sunday at 5 p.m. the School of Music Recital Hall — it’ll perform Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 9 and contemporary composer Jeremy Gill’s Capriccio, which it debuted in Minnesota in 2011 — will be an extraordinary performance of demanding chamber music, and the quartet, surely, will deliver its performance flawlessly.
But public concerts are a fringe benefit of the Parker Quartet’s residency, which started last April. The Parker Quartet wasn’t just here to play — it was mostly here to teach.
Saturday, March 29
Chamber Music Day
All events are open to the public and will be held at the USC School of Music (813 Assembly St.).
9-11 a.m.: Coaching and rehearsal session with eight string quartets.
11:15 a.m.: Parker Quartet performance.
1-3 p.m.: Coaching and rehearsal session.
3:15-5:30 p.m.: Master classes with Parker Quartet.
7:30 p.m.: All quartets perform; winners announced following performance.
Sunday, March 30
5 p.m.: Free Parker Quarter performance at the School of Music Recital Hall.
“Over the past several years the scope of our career has enlarged to include not just touring but also teaching,” says Kee-Hyun Kim, the quartet’s cellist, via email. “This is really a separate skill set, and we feel that [at USC] we have learned (and continue to learn) to articulate our musical thoughts and ideas in a more coherent way, and to communicate with them in a way that invites further exploration and commitment by the students.”
During its three weeklong stints in Columbia, the members of the quartet — Kim, violinists Daniel Chong and Ying Xue, and violist Jessica Bodner — performed a few times, yes, but it focused most of its energy coaching chamber musicians and give informational performances at area high schools. As the Parker Quartet had its own mentors help cultivate its development — like the Cleveland Quartet and Grammy-winning violinist Kim Kashkashian — it hopes to do the same for the next generation of classical musicians.
“Music, and classical music in particular, is a craft that cannot be taught by text, or by rote, or even by watching some clips on YouTube,” Kim says. “The subtleties and nuances of this craft is very much handed down from generation to generation, passing off not just technical tips and skills, but a wealth of wisdom and experience brought about from actually living this lifestyle.
“All of that is a preamble to saying that mentorship is not only necessary in learning our craft, but a vital and invaluable way of passing on the knowledge and skills learned through years of experience onto the next generation of classical musicians.”
And in Columbia, thanks to music school Dean Tayloe Harding and cello professor Robert Jesselson, the quartet found an eager audience.
“We continue to come back thanks to Bob Jesselson, but also because we are attracted to the level and the enthusiasm of the students,” Kim says. “Our relationship with them, and with the larger community, has continued to grow throughout our time there, and it is incredibly rewarding to see the level of progress being made by the students.”
After all, Kim believes the children, to coin a phrase, are the future of classical music.
“I know for me,” Kim says, “it’s not to just have personal satisfaction and play into a void. I want to go out and share the gift of music with as many people as I can.”