Classical music with a strong message of diversity is at the heart of the all-minority chamber group coming to Weehawken next week. The young musicians who make up the Harlem Quartet hope to advance ethnic diversity in the often stifling classical music world.
Only about 4 percent of musicians making up American orchestras are minorities.
“It’s really fortunate that the Sphinx organization came along when it did,” said Harlem Quartet cellist Desmond Neysmith, “because it gives a sense of the numbers of minority musicians there are out there. Musicians get to meet other minority musicians, which has really helped to build a community.”
The quartet’s debut at Carnegie Hall in 2007 was well-received by the classical music world, and even earned a timely nod from the New York Times. And although the group prefers to play together, all of the musicians are seasoned solo artists who have appeared with the New York Philharmonic, and the Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburg, and Baltimore Symphonies. They have been featured on WNBC, CNN, and the Today Show.
“The string quartet is actually my favorite medium to perform,” said Neysmith. “It’s so universal.” With a variety of repertoire to choose from, the quartet can execute a vast majority of pieces written by well-known composers.
“There are so many different styles that can be performed with a quartet,” Neysmith said, “and the vast majority of great composers have all written string repertoire – it’s so rich and diverse.”
But the group doesn’t only focus on performances. For two weeks out of the year, the entire group teaches at the Sphinx Performance Academy, helping children to perform as a quartet.
Keeping with the theme of outreach, the quartet is scheduled to perform at Theodore Roosevelt School before their scheduled April 28 performance at the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center’s (HRPAC) UBS Atrium Series at 1000 Harbor Blvd. in Weehawken.
Best stages in the world
For the future, the group hopes to continue performing at venues across the country and the world.
“In terms of the most immediate future, we are really excited to perform with [the cellist] Carter Brey again at the Symphony Space in midtown Manhattan,” said Neysmith. “Come May, we will be all living in New York City. We’ll hopefully be able to continue our educational outreach work and performing together for the foreseeable future.”
For more information about the Harlem Quartet, please visit www.harlemquartet.org.
The Harlem Quartet will perform at the final concert of this season’s HRPAC UBS Atrium Series at 1000 Harbor Blvd in Weehawken, on Tuesday, April 28 at 12:30 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit www.hrpac.org.
Sean Allocca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org