Chamber music in the souls of youth |

Envision students sitting at the feet of their masters. Great artwork has portrayed the likenesses of Plato, Socrates and Jesus teaching. Okay  – not exactly like that –  but the Artaria String Quartet residency program is pouring love and appreciation of great composers into hungry minds and souls of orchestra students in Grand Rapids.

“This is not just education,” says Artaria 1st violinist Ray Shows, “It is illuminating; shining a light on possibilities in areas students have not yet considered.”

The Artaria residency is part of a grant from the MN Arts Board. The group has been working with local orchestra students for the past year. Meeting them at the schools to do one on one and group training.

“Through this program we watch the kids develop,” said Shows. “But it is not only us, the families see the hard work and watch as the light goes off in the kids’ eyes. We are extending our knowledge to open a door or window into who they (student) can be.”

Training sessions are encouraging and illuminating. From students learning how to communicate nonverbally with their peers during a performance to timing, posture and sound details. Part of the goal is to prepare them for a public performance with Artaria on March 26 at The Reif.

“Someone did this for me.” Said Nancy Oliveros, Artaira violinist. “This is important to share what I know, what I learned.”

Artaria members are quick to give credit to the day-to-day influence and training of local teachers like Sarah Kowitz, Itasca Orchestra instructor.

“This partnership with Artaria began in 2016,” said Kowitz. “And we continue to have students devote time to chamber music. It’s a wonderful experience for the students.”

During the Artaria show, five student groups will be playing with the quartet.

“They are playing as part of an ensemble, and are part of something bigger. It is not so intimidating as playing alone can be for a younger student,” Kowitz explained.

The 7:30 p.m. performance will focus on the music and talents of the renowned Artaria String Quartet including what Shows promises to be elegant, familiar and some fun and surprising pieces. Part of the evening will include student work, some side-by-side with Artaria.

“The night will be worthy of the Art,” said Shows. “You will hear masterworks. The youth will perform early levels of great composers.”

The Chamber Orchestra students are divided into three trios:
Andie Chase (violin), Kayla Witherill (violin), and Sam Stertz (cello) are playing pieces from 5 Cassationsstucke by Haydn
Elizabeth Laughlin (violin), Melody Jenkins (violin), and Zachary Nichols (cello) are playing the 4 Ungarische Tanze
Rachel Shiller-Hartwell (violin), Rain Skyles (violin), and Hannah Hafar (cello) are playing Pachelbel’s Canon

The Intermezzo Orchestra has been divided into two quartets:
Peyton Skelly (violin), Kayla Jenkins (violin), April Clayton (violin), and Joseph Loney (cello) are playing the Sarabande and Crusaders’ March by Handel
Annika Yankowiak (violin), Gavin Mjolsness (violin), Alex Worrath (violin), and William Skaudis (cello) are playing Themes from “Peer Gynt” by Grieg