A summer scene in downtown Staunton, Virginia. (See the Heifetz banners?)
A summer of study at the Heifetz Institute not only features an international cadre of outstanding students learning from and performing alongside some of the most celebrated teachers and musicians on the planet, but also it invariably brings our students in closer touch with the beautiful natural surroundings of our area (such as Shenandoah National Park, the George Washington National Forest, and the Blue Ridge Parkway), and its storied history. (Among other things, no fewer than eight U.S. Presidents were Virginia-born, including the first four out of five – “founding fathers” Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.
Then there’s the beautifully-preserved 19th-century character of downtown Staunton, Virginia itself (also the birthplace and presidential library of 28th President Woodrow Wilson). It’s a Heifetz Institute tradition to celebrate our charming city by presenting weekly free chamber-music concerts at various downtown venues around town. In 2021, our go-to site was the Staunton Augusta Art Center, for a series of concerts called Fridays at The Gallery. It’s also a Heifetz tradition to give each summertime string quartet assembled at the Institute the name of landmarks, people, and places found in the Old Dominion.
So our sample grab from the Gallery will kick off with the Madison Quartet, named after 4th President and “Father of the Constitution” James Madison (1751-1836) playing a piece of Madison’s contemporary Franz Joseph “Papa” Haydn, also known as the “Father of the String Quartet.” In this performance the Madison foursome (violinists Arianna Schickel and Isabella Gorman, violist Josephine Stockwell, and cellist Mira Kardan) play the good-humored Finale of Haydn’s String Quartet in D major, Op. 76, No. 5.
James Madison (1751-1836), “Father of the Constitution.”
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809) “Father of the String Quartet”
This particular Fridays in the Gallery concert began with a quartet written in 1790s, and concluded with one written in the 1990s: the Fifth String Quartet by American composer Philip Glass. It’s been called both the “most substantial and most traditional” of his five string quartets, as well as a piece that delivers “both driving energy and an unforgettable, threnody-like tenderness.” The energy – and tenderness is delivered here by the members of the Blue Ridge Quartet: violinists Clara Kim and Kearston Gonzales, violist Alicia Yang, and cellist George Wolfe-McGuire.
A summer at the Heifetz Institute has students reaching great new heights in the practice room, the concert stage, and out and about in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains!
Among the fans of Philip Glass is former US President Barack Obama, who awarded the composer a National Medal of Arts in 2016 for “his groundbreaking contribution to music and composition.”