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Spivey Hall, string quartet launch 3-year partnership

Daniel McDonough, the cellist in the Boston, Mass.-based Jupiter String Quartet, explained to local middle and high school students at Clayton State University's Spivey Hall on Wednesday that he bops his head around during performances, as his way of getting down to the music.

The quartet performed five pieces during two concerts for Atlanta-area orchestra students, as part of Spivey Hall's Young People's Concert series. Throughout each piece, McDonough bopped his head to the beat. Violinists, Nelson Lee and Meg Freivogel (McDonough's wife), and viola player, Liz Freivogel (Meg's sister), swayed back-and-forth, and side-to-side, as they played.

"We just do that to move to the rhythm," McDonough said. "It's the same as if you tapped your foot to the beat of a song, or started moving to the rhythm. We're just doing that on stage."

During the concerts on Wednesday, Spivey Hall Education Manager Catherine Striplin announced that the quartet and officials from the concert hall have entered a three-year, education partnership. She said the quartet will come to the Southern Crescent twice a year to conduct educational programs for Spivey Hall.

"This quartet will do outreach programs by performing at schools, hospitals, and events in the community, in an effort to bring awareness to string programs," said Striplin, before she introduced the quartet to the school children.

After quartet members came out to begin their 50-minute performance, McDonough got things started by asking how many of the youths had ever heard a chamber quartet perform. A few hands rose up in the audience. McDonough then explained, to the children, the differences between a chamber quartet and an orchestra. "There's really not much that is different, except a quartet is made up of 10 people or less, and has no conductor," McDonough said.

The quartet then launched into its program, which included Ludwig van Beethoven's "Quartet No. 6, Opus 18;" Dmitri Shostakovich's "Quartet No. 3;" a movement from Antonin Dvorak's "Quartet in F Major" (also known as the "American Quartet"); Leos Janacek's "Quartet No. 1" (also known as the "Kreutzer Sonata"), and another movement from Dvorak's "Quartet in F Major."

Between songs, quartet members took turns explaining the next piece they were about to perform. The group was formed in 2001, as its members were getting close to graduating from college. McDonough, Lee and Meg Freivogel attended the Cleveland Institute of Music in Cleveland, Ohio, while Liz Freivogel was attending Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio.

All of the members of the group, who range in age from their late 20's, to their early 30's, said they had begun playing string instruments by the time they were five, so they already had a lengthy background in playing music.

"Like anyone one else about to graduate, we had to decide what we were going to do after college," McDonough said. "Some of us had majored in music, so we decided chamber music was the way to go. The great thing about chamber music is you get to shine as an individual, and as a group at the same time. It's kind of ideal."

According to their web site, jupiterquartet.com, the quartet has won first prize in the Banff International String Quartet Competition; the grand prize in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition; the 2005 Young Concert Artists International auditions, and the Chamber Music America's Cleveland Quartet Award.

Also, according to the web site, the group has performed across North America, South America and Europe, in venues such as New York City's Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center; Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center, and Mexico City's Palacio de Bellas Artes.

It was during a week-long education effort in Seattle, Wash., a year ago, that the quartet met Spivey Hall Executive Director Sam Dixon. "We have long yearned for a program that would allow us to go into the schools and teach children about music," Dixon said. "About a year ago, I heard about this group, and flew out to Seattle to hear them, and the next morning, we met over breakfast to discuss how we can serve the community through music ...

"Through their concerts and outreach in the community, they'll get to see the Southern Crescent in a way they wouldn't be able to see it, if they were just coming in for a concert."

After the quartet performed its concerts on Wednesday, it was clear that it was already beginning to have an impact on some of the young musicians sitting in the audience. Jonesboro High School orchestra members, Caroline Callaway, 18, a bass and cello player, and Bryan Johnson, 16, a bass player, said they were impressed, and inspired to get better as performers after hearing the Jupiter Quartet perform.

"Hearing someone that good, who is not much older than we are, makes me want to go home and practice right now," Callaway said.

"It's nice to see what they've been able to accomplish ... It kinda makes you want to keep doing this as long as you can," Johnson added.