John Jay String Musicians Connect with the Ivalas Quartet

Meeting Caramoor's String Quartet in Residence

Some students sat just inches away from the Ivalas Quartet; it was easy for all members of John Jay Middle School’s 8th Grade Orchestra to see how the four musicians used eye contact and body language to communicate with each other, and the joy the musicians experienced through the music.

Connecting student musicians with professional musicians is one of the stand-out aspects of John Jay’s music program. The enrichment was set up by Elissa Leventhal, the conductor of John Jay Middle School and High School Orchestras, in collaboration with Caramoor’s String Quartet-in-Residence program.

Up Close with the Pros

An Introduction to new Composers in Classical Music

The Ivalas Quartet’s visit shared more than technique; it was also about diversity. The quartet includes Black and Latinx members and showcases BIPOC composers.

Before they began playing, cellist Pedro Sánchez told the students the group would be performing two pieces composed by African Americans—one by George Walker, the first Black person to win a Pulitzer for composition, and one by Jessie Montgomery. “Look them up,” Sánchez said to the students. “They will start you on a journey discovering new composers in classical music.”

The visit included time for a Q&A with the Ivalas Quartet. At the high school, the conversation ranged from how to use breath to play more expressively to who the musicians were rooting for in the World Cup.

The Joy of Music

The Positive Impact of Diversity

One student asked the Quartet if they argue. “Yes,” said Sánchez, saying that arguing respectfully and listening to each other is part of the rehearsal process. “We are each from a different background and bring a different element into the big picture, creating something beautiful. That’s why diversity is important!”

The high school orchestra played a portion of their new piece, “The Legends of Sleepy Hollow” for the visitors. “You sound awesome,” said Ivalas Quartet violinist Reuben Kebede. “This is the first time I’ve heard this piece. Keep practicing!”