Caramoor’s 2022 – 23 Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence
The Ivalas String Quartet was formed in 2017 and has been changing the face of classical music ever since. Comprised of violinists Reuben Kebede and Tiani Butts, violist Aimée McAnulty, and cellist Pedro Sánchez, the Ivalas spent 2019 to 2022 in residence at the University of Colorado-Boulder under the mentorship of the Takács Quartet.
We asked them to share some of their thoughts on their upcoming Caramoor residency, which includes concerts in the Music Room on November 13 and April 16.
How does the Quartet feel about being Caramoor’s Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence this year?
We’re very excited! It is a great honor and opportunity to follow in the footsteps of all the fine quartets who have been selected for this residency in the past.
We can’t wait to perform the programs we’ve curated — all music that excites and stimulates us. We’re particularly excited about our fall program because the pieces have a connection to outer space, and NASA recently received photos from the James Webb Telescope.
We’re grateful for the professional growth component, as we’ll get to work with professionals in our field on various aspects of career development, including program curation, which we are deeply interested in.
We also very much look forward to being in beautiful Katonah, NY, several times throughout the year. We’ll be living in NYC and attending The Juilliard School as the Graduate String Quartet-in-Residence for the next two years, so it will be nice to have a little getaway from the hustle and bustle!
The Quartet’s bio states that you “seek to disrupt the classical music world by continuously spotlighting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) composers.” Which composers fall in this category in your Caramoor programs, and how did you choose them?
We’re constantly working towards creating a space for lesser-known, yet uniquely remarkable, works by underrepresented composers. On our fall concert, we’ll be playing works by Jamaican composer Eleanor Alberga and Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov alongside a late Beethoven quartet. Alberga was born in Jamaica and now resides in the UK. All of her string quartets have incredible rhythmic vitality, and we aim to showcase her pieces as a deserving part of the canon. She composed her first quartet after listening to a physics lecture on outer space. Golijov’s Tenebrae was composed after the composer experienced his son’s awe at seeing the earth as a tiny blue dot during a planetarium visit. It is profoundly beautiful.
Our spring concert features George Walker’s first string quartet alongside works of Brahms and Webern. During our time in Colorado, we had the pleasure of working with Walker’s son, Gregory. In the process, we learned a great deal about George Walker’s life. He was the first African American to graduate from the Curtis Institute and also the first to win the Pulitzer Prize in music. While Walker was a formidable concert pianist, being Black in America made that career impossible for him at the time. Nevertheless, he composed music we love, and we are happy to perform it.
Part of Caramoor’s residency involves working with string students in local schools. What kind of education / community engagement work has Ivalas done in the past?
We absolutely consider community engagement an integral part of our mission. When the quartet first formed at the University of Michigan in 2017, we did a lot of community engagement in schools in the Metro Detroit area and Flint. During our time in Boulder, CO, we had a partnership with El Sistema Colorado, in which we coached young chamber groups. We also visited schools as part of the Aspen Music Festival’s Musical Connections program and for Friends of Chamber Music Denver.
We have a shared dedication to our roles as educators and strongly believe that representation matters. There’s nothing quite like playing for kids from underrepresented communities who might otherwise rarely hear classical music. It’s incredibly rewarding when a student goes from not knowing what a cello is to wanting to learn how to play it!
We plan to keep working with organizations in New York and beyond to give back to the community and inspire young minds.
As a part of the Ivalas Quartet’s residency, they will be visiting schools and community orchestras from November 9th to the 18th. Here’s a list of where they will be visiting: Yorktown High School, Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra, Music Conservatory of Westchester, John Jay Middle & High School, Walter Panas High School, The Masters School, and Somers High School.