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John Harvard's Journal

Chiara String Quartet

January-February 2009

Courtesy of the Chiara String Quartet

When Julie Yoon joined the Chiara String Quartet in 2000, she not only gave up a spot in a master’s program at Juilliard, but also agreed to pull up stakes in New York City and put them down in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The Manhattan-based quartet had won a rural residency grant, but had lost its second violinist to an arm injury. Those left (Rebecca Fischer on violin, Jonah Sirota on viola, and Gregory Beaver on cello) needed a replacement. “The fact that they were going to North Dakota to do this residency,” Yoon says, “was a strong indication of what kind of people they were and what kind of group they wanted to be.” The players aim to be musical pioneers in both what and where they perform: Haydn to Schoenberg, in concert halls, company cafeterias, schools, and even nightclubs. Now, as the Blodgett Artists-in-Residence, they will spend 12 weeks (spread across three academic years) teaching and performing at Harvard. Group members say they went out West because that afforded so many opportunities to play (albeit sometimes at schools at 7 a.m., with half-frozen fingers). They also had time to settle on ways to resolve disputes. In an orchestra, notes Beaver, “You can play with people you have active lawsuits against. Not so much in a quartet.” (“At least [the quartet] won’t last,” adds Fischer.) They have since spent two years in New York in a residency with the Juilliard String Quartet, and now hold a long-term position at the University of Nebraska that enables them to spend 60 percent of their time traveling and performing. “That’s really why we do this,” explains Sirota. “We also love to teach, but performance comes first.”