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Kronos Quartet Workshop

JACK Quartet cellist Kevin McFarland describes the impact that participating in Carnegie Hall’s 2007 Kronos Quartet Workshop had on the identity of the JACK Quartet, and how that experience helped lead the ensemble to where it is today. In April, Kronos Quartet returns to Carnegie Hall to lead another workshop for young string quartets. The deadline to apply is November 17, 2015.

JACK Quartet attended Carnegie Hall’s Kronos Quartet Workshop in 2007, and it’s hard to say exactly where we would be now had we not. We were a young group just starting out in the world but were not exactly sure where we were headed or how we would get there. Kronos Quartet helped us to come up with a plan for both short-term and long-term goals—to think big beyond our wildest dreams—and it’s incredible to look back and see how much of this we have achieved since.

Kronos awakened in us a desire to really find what moves us in the music we perform ...

Kronos inspired us to incorporate as a nonprofit organization, which has been crucial to our success. Through talks with members of the Kronos team, we received unique access to the inner workings of their organization and how they bring creative projects to life. Without this insight, many grant opportunities and potential commissions may have fallen by the wayside for us, and we may have never realized the educational component of our work that is at the core of our mission.

Kronos also pushed us to think outside the box and try repertoire that was very different from the music we had formed to play. We had cut our teeth on European modernism, music that we love and is still at the core of our work. But this now has expanded to include a much more diverse array of composers and styles, ranging from music inspired by world, folk, and rock music as well as arrangements of medieval and Renaissance music that we make ourselves. Whereas when we first emerged on the scene the press liked to pigeonhole our group as specializing in “thorny” and “avant-garde” music, we are now known as musical chameleons who tackle the widest range of music a string quartet can play.

JACK Quartet (Henrik Olund) 400x200
Photography by Henrik Olund

Perhaps most importantly, Kronos awakened in us a desire to really find what moves us in the music we perform, and bring this out in our performances. For many years now, Kronos has been building an audience by finding deep connections to the music they love and performing in a way that makes this love apparent and undeniable. While we received much technical insight into quartet playing from Kronos, we also learned how to tap into a place of vulnerability and to make music from the heart. This is the model that has always worked for us since: to know that if we find a way to connect to music making at its core, the audience will respond and follow.

The coachings we received from the Kronos Quartet were invaluable in their own right, but in the big picture, attending these workshops helped us redesign our mission and envision a new path for our group that has led us to where we are today. Now we are in a position to inspire young musicians and pass this wisdom on, which is an amazingly gratifying place to be!

—Kevin McFarland, cellist of JACK Quartet

Learn more about the Kronos Quartet workshop for young string quartets. The deadline to apply is November 17, 2015.

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