Meet Class Notes Artists: Minneapolis Guitar Quartet

by Claire Philpott, Minnesota Public Radio
January 13, 2014
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — As one of the leading guitar ensembles in the world, the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet refuses to be pigeonholed. With repertoire ranging from Renaissance to contemporary commissions, and collaborations with a flamenco dancer and a Chinese Pipa expert, the extent of the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet's musical exploration is wide indeed.

Since the group's founding in 1986, the quartet has performed concertos with several major orchestras, including the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra, and has presented recital series all over the United States. The ensemble has been featured on the nationally syndicated American Public Media programs Saint Paul Sunday (no longer produced) and Performance Today. Minneapolis Guitar Quartet's five recordings include commissioned pieces from more than 20 composers, as well as many well-known classical pieces arranged for the quartet by founding member Joseph Hagedorn. One of the most critically well-received arrangements is that of the entire Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky. You can listen to the Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks from Pictures by clicking the link at right.

When performing in schools, the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet creates a kid-friendly atmosphere right from the start. As he introduces each member of the group, Joe Hagedorn asks the kids in the audience to raise their hands if their names are Joe, Ben, Wade or Maja, respectively. With a warmth (and a little humor) that makes the audience comfortable, the quartet presents several 19th-, 20th- and 21st-century composers from Europe and North America.

At times, the kids are also encouraged to participate. For example, to demonstrate how important it is to pay attention when playing in an ensemble, the quartet divides the audience into four groups, then leads the kids in a rhythm exercise that requires them to clap on the beat assigned to each group (which the kids do with a gusto that only 500-odd children can bring).

While discussing the anatomy of the guitar, the audience is encouraged to shout out answers to questions. ("What do you think this part of the guitar is called?" "Body!"). There is time for the kids to ask their own questions at the end of the performance. Questions such as, "How long have you been playing guitar?", "Do you play any other instruments?" and "What is your musical inspiration?" are popular inquiries.

It seems there is never enough time for every question to be asked, but it is still heartening to glean — from the sea of hands in the air — that the children are inspired enough by the performance to be so inquisitive.

Here is what the members of the quartet have to say about giving educational performances:

"I have clear memories of guest artists and speakers coming to my school when I was very young, so it makes me think these kinds of experiences could have a lasting impact on kids. I especially enjoy hearing questions from the kids and introducing them to something new." — Joe Hagedorn

"It is a great experience to play for young audiences and to test how communicative our music is. Kids are the most honest audience — they will give immediate feedback on a performance. Another aspect of this experience that I like is being able to share information about guitar and guitar music in such a friendly environment, and possibly inspire young people to start music lessons or to appreciate classical music, to attend more concerts, et cetera." — Maja Radovanlija

"The best part of these educational performances is witnessing how enthusiastic kids can get about classical music. It tells me that if we performers and educators play our cards right, the future of classical music can be very bright." — Ben Gateño

"Sharing music with young people is a great gift for any musician. As a performer, I appreciate the opportunity to perform for an enthusiastic audience unfettered by preconceptions." — Wade Oden

Audio:

  • Maria Kalaniemi arr. Joe Hagedorn: Skymningspolskan
  • Claude Debussy arr. Joe Hagedorn: Petite Suite, L65 — II. Cortège: Moderato
  • Claude Debussy arr. Joe Hagedorn: Petite Suite, L65 — IV. Ballet: Allegro giusto
  • Modest Mussorgsky arr. Joe Hagedorn: Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks from Pictures at an Exhibition

Schools:

  • Highland Elementary — Columbia Heights, Minn.
  • Hoover Elementary — Coon Rapids, Minn.
  • Eastview Elementary — Lakeville, Minn.
  • Saint Anthony Park Elementary — Saint Paul, Minn.
  • Battle Creek Elementary — Saint Paul, Minn.

About the Classical MPR Class Notes: Artists program this year

Classical MPR is now in its fifth year of welcoming in-school Artists who perform, teach and speak about music during visits to schools throughout the state of Minnesota. The Artists are selected because of the quality of their musicianship and their interest in promoting music education.

The 2013-14 school year features seven different Artists:

  • Lyz Jaakola: Musician and educator who is an enrolled member of the Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Ojibwe located outside of Cloquet, Minn.
  • Silver Spruce Duo: Flute and Harp Duo, who are members of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra
  • Dolce Wind Quintet: Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and French Horn ensemble from the Twin Cities made up of educators involved in several local and regional ensembles
  • Artaria String Quartet: Twin Cities-based string quartet that runs the Artaria Chamber Music School and Stringwood Music Camp
  • Minneapolis Guitar Quartet: Renowned classical guitar quartet with repertoire ranging from Renaissance to Contemporary and European to Latin American
  • Vecchione/Erdahl Duo: Twin Cities-based Oboe and Double Bass duo with many years experience educating children with their Pages of Music programs
  • Odelia Trio: Newly formed Piano Trio (piano, violin and cello) based in Rochester, Minn., made up of members of the Rochester Chamber Music Society and Rochester Symphony Orchestra

Over the next few months, these seven Artists will give an educational music performance to more than 40 schools in the Twin Cities, Bemidji, Duluth and Rochester areas. The performance includes information about their respective instruments, and the style, technique, history and traditions related to the music that they present.

These performances are supported by curricular materials designed by Classical MPR's Curriculum Specialist that are given to the music teachers in advance for use in their classrooms. Students at participating schools receive an MPR-produced compilation CD featuring performances by the artists, allowing students to hear the different approaches and styles of music.

Classical MPR's goal with these in-school performances is to create authentic and transformative experiences for young pupils that will inspire their creative pursuits, and be a meaningful addition to what they are already learning from their music teachers.

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    Christopher Parkening, guitar
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  • Bibo No Aozora 11:19 Ryuichi Sakamoto
    La Pieta
    Angele Dubeau
    Angele Dubeau, violin
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