Partnership In Education Program Brings the Tesla Quartet to White Plains High School

The Friends Of Music Concert’s Partnership in Education returned to the schools in October for the first time since the pandemic began. The Tesla Quartet worked with string students at White Plains High School in a program led by Zachary May, the school’s Orchestra Director and Guitar Teacher.

“The experience of hosting the Tesla Quartet at our school was outstanding” said May. “Students who worked on a Haydn symphony movement with the quartet came back the next day eager to apply new concepts to our interpretation.”

Members of the Tesla Quartet with White Plains High School Orchestra Director Zachary May (right)

The Tesla Quartet recently won top prizes for their performances of Haydn and their 2018 debut album of Haydn, Ravel, and Stravinsky quartets earned a double 5-star rating by BBC Music Magazine. They also have worked extensively with music students at colleges and school systems as artists in residency.

Violinist Ross Snyder said “Experiences like this open students’ imaginations, gives them a front-row seat to high-quality musicianship, and offers them coaching in a highly motivating setting.”

The program began with a beautiful performance of Haydn’s String Quartet, Opus 50, No. 2 followed by an interactive discussion with the students on the work’s underlying themes.

Edwin Kaplan, viola, explained the work’s pastoral inspiration and how musicians can improve their performance by bringing those feelings into their playing. After coaching from the professional musicians and demonstrations of different techniques, the students played segments of the piece again. The improvement was immediately apparent.

Edwin Kaplan (right) explaining the pastoral inspiration in Haydn’s String Quartet to White Plains music students.

While everyone remained masked to conform to health protocols, that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm.

Violinist Michelle Lie working with students on their bowing technique

“The students had great questions for us about working together in a quartet and also questions about specific instrumental techniques and how to improve their playing,” Snyder said. “The orchestras were quick to respond to our coaching during their rehearsals, and they seemed eager to learn and improve. It was great to see so much enthusiasm, not only from the students but from the teachers as well.”

After the instructional period, the quartet performed for all string students and took questions. The students were particularly interested in learning more about the plucking technique they heard in Bartok’s Allegro Pizzicato which led to a demonstration by Ross Snyder.

“The quartet residency gave the students a huge boost in motivation,” May said adding that several students followed up and listened to recordings of the movement after hearing the live performance.

Recordings by the Tesla Quartet are available at their website.

Ross Snyder answering questions on pizzicato techniques after performing a Bartok piece

“Our Partnership in Education Program program seeks to enrich orchestral programs in schools throughout Westchester at no cost to the school districts,” said Friends Of Music Concerts board member Rosella Ranno who runs the program. “Award-winning young professionals bring their artistry, imagination, personal stories, and creativity to the classroom through performance and detailed workshops.  The students participate in an up close and personal day with outstanding artists; they perform, they listen, they learn.”

The program is funded by donations from individual supporters of Friends Of Music Concerts and by grants from the Frank and Lydia Bergen Foundation and the Rea Charitable Trust.

In the Spring, we will bring the program to Sleepy Hollow High School, Hendrick Hudson High School and the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music. For more information about the Partnership In Education program, click here.

To help the program continue, please consider making a donation.

— Gus Venditto

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