Master Class with the Callisto Quartet

Cade, an eighth grader, played a piece he'd composed as the theme song for a favorite fantasy show. Casey, a seventh grade violinist, chose to play a piece she prepared for NYSSMA this spring, for which she received a perfect score. Luke, a high school student, played an excerpt from a concerto he's been working on. Sophie, a freshman violinist, played "Chanson de Matin" by Elgar

These are just some of the orchestra students at John Jay Middle School and High School who had the opportunity to play for the pros, recently. The Callisto Quartet—Caramoor’s Quartet-in-Residence—led three Master Classes in which individual students played pieces they are working on and received valuable feedback which all students could apply. The Quartet also performed a selection from their upcoming concert at Caramoor.

The visit, live streamed from Rice University where the Callisto Quartet is the Graduate String Quartet in Residence, was set up by Elissa Leventhal, conductor of John Jay’s orchestras. It was the Quartet's second Master Class with John Jay's string students this school year.

Leventhal applauded the student soloists. “It can be hard enough to play a solo in front of peers,” she said to the students. “This was in front of peers and professionals! I want to commend you for taking the risk.”

Members of the Callisto Quartet offered encouragement and coaching to each student who played, emphasizing the importance of positioning and bowing technique.

“I learned this song when I was your age,” violist Rachel Stenzel said to Casey. “Let me show you some different bow strokes you can experiment with.”

“This piece is big and thick and slow,” cellist Hannah Moses said to Luke. “Try playing close to the bridge with a super slow bow to get a more powerful sound.”

The Callisto Quartet played Haydn’s String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 76, No. 4 “Sunrise” for each group of students, followed by a Q & A.  Even Leventhal had a question!

“My students applauded at the end of the movement,” she asked. “Is there a way to recognize when it’s the end of the movement, not the end of the whole piece?"

“Typically, you would look at the program,” answered violinist Paul Aguilar. “However, in the time of Hadyn, Mozart and Beethoven, audiences were very noisy and involved. They’d bring food into the concert hall, cheer when they liked something and boo when they didn’t. Your students are doing something very appropriate to the time in which the music was written!”