Wyeth String Quartet Visits Young Violinists
February 1, 2013
Third-grade students at Peak Preparatory School in East Dallas got an unexpected treat when the Wyeth String Quartet, composed of principal players in the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, showed up for an impromptu performance during an after-school violin class last week.
The 28 students are members of the Uplift charter school’s “Violin Club,” an outreach program of the Fine Arts Chamber Players of Dallas. Since November, these students have participated in free beginning instruction on the violin twice a week using instruments provided by the Fine Arts Chamber Players. The class is taught by local professional musicians Jenny Sweetman, Norbert Gerl and Rosalyn Story.
The students sat cross-legged on the floor of Peak’s art classroom while the quartet — Michael Shih, Adriana DeCosta, Leda Dawn Larson and Laura Bruton — performed music from a Beethoven quartet.
Shih, the quartet’s first violinist and concertmaster of the Fort Worth Symphony, told the young musicians how music saved him from military service. When he was a child growing up in Taiwan, Shih said, all young boys were required to go into the military and therefore could not leave the country after a certain age. But, Shih said, he was exempt from the requirement: Having fallen in love with the violin and showing exceptional talent, he was one of a few youngsters permitted to leave Taiwan to continue his music studies in the United States.
And Laura Bruton, violist, told the young players the story of how she got her instrument, “Jerome.” The violin, she said, had once belonged to the father of the Wyeth’s cellist, Larson. A professional musician, Larson’s father played the instrument for 50 years. “When he died a couple of years ago, he said he wanted the instrument to have a good home,” Bruton said. So the 200-year-old instrument became the possession of Bruton.
At the end of the performance, the students gathered closer, standing and huddling at arm’s length around the quartet as they performed the final number. Swaying and moving to the beat of the music, the young musicians burst into applause after the final chords of the quartet. “I think it’s so important that the students hear the personal stories of the musicians,” said Steven Kincel, Peak’s art teacher, who helps facilitate the violin class. “It shows them what’s possible for them.”