Resident String Quartets
Several string quartets mention that they are resident quartets at various institutions. The idea of a residency is a particularly American idea that began in the Bay Area at Mills College, in 1932. In essence, Mills College made a deal with the Pro Arte String Quartet to spend time at the college, giving concerts and teaching students. Mills arranged for the residency to take place in the summer and the residency arrangement they established with the Pro Arte Quartet lasted from 1932 until 1939.
In an article that appeared in the Lodi News-Sentinel in May 4 of 1936, the program is described as follows: "For the fifth consecutive year the internationally known Pro Arte string quartet of Brussels, Belgium, will present a series of semi-weekly concerts during the Mills College Summer Session, June 22 to August 1, 1936, while at the same time the individual members will direct courses as members of the faculty for the six weeks period ..."
In 1940 the Pro Arte established a more comprehensive arrangement with the University of Wisconsin at Madison. In this case, the quartet members became the first "quartet-in-residence" during the academic year and the quartet members were faculty members of the university's music school. At the same time the quartet performed in the state of Wisconsin and became a part of the community outreach of the university. The quartet officially became the Pro Arte Quartet of the University of Wisconsin. The Pro Arte quartet, much changed over the years by the retirement and addition of new members, remains today, the resident quartet of the University of Wisconsin.
At this point we have two uses of the term "residency." In one case we are talking about a quartet that spends a brief period -- from a couple of weeks to a couple of months -- often returning over the course of several years, at a school, or other institution, as, for example, a music festival. In the other case we are talking a more elaborate arrangement where the quartet becomes part of the perminant faculty of the music department of a college or university. Obviously there are still other possibilities, and its not uncommon today, to find that a given quartet will have multiple "residency" arrangements with multiple institutions. Similarly, some institutions, like the University of Wisconsin, prefer to develop a stable relationship with a single quartet and maintain that relationship over a long period. Other schools prefer to switch from one quartet to another, thus exposing their students to different approaches. Thus, their "residencies" become like temporary appointments rather than ongoing relationships.
To make things even more complex, some schools have a professional string quartet in residence, and then add a graduate student quartet -- in effect an junior resident quartet that supplements the professional string quartet, to provide even more depth in string quartet instruction.
Here are some of the Bay Area residencies we know about.
San Francisco State University (SFSU). The Alexander String Quartet has been the string-quartet-in-residence at SFSU for the last 20 years. The SF Friends of Chamber Music (SFFCM) was established, in part, in an effort to raise money to create the endowlment necessary to establish the Alexander String Quartet at SFSU. The Alexanders teach and perform at SFSU. They direct the Morrison Chamber Music Center at the school, and oversee a Morrison Fellowship Award that provides for an annual residency for a graduate quartet. For a nice overview of this relationship, check this article that appeared in the SFSU magazine in 2011. http://musicdance.sfsu.edu/about/quartet-residence.
Stanford University. The St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ) has been the Ensemble in Residence at Stanford since 1998. (In addition to being resident at Stanford, the SLSQ are visiting artists at the University of Toronto.) For an article on their ongoing relationship with Stanford, see:
Mills College, Oakland. Mills College continues to have resident string quartet relationships, although they have tended to change their resident quartet more frequently. Their program began, as noted above, in 1932 with the Pro Arte quartet. Next, for several years, they had a summer relationship with the Budapest String Quartet. More recently they have had a relationship with Kronos and, more recently still, the Eclipse Quartet.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The SFCM recently announced that it would begin a String-Quartet-in-Residence program, but apparently intends to move from one quartet to another. They announced that the Pacifica Quartet would be in residence in 2015, and that the Borromeo String Quartet would be in residence in 2016. At the same time, they announced a program for a graduate string quartet to be in residence as well, and recently announced that the Telegraph Quartet (which just won the 2014 Fischoff Grand Prize) would be the Alumni Ensemble for 2014-15.
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