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QUADRE: For Educators

"They came from California.  And they conquered 14,000 hearts and minds."


 Quadre at Columbine Elementary, Boulder, CO

Quadre visits Columbine Elementary School, Boulder, CO

QUADRE's core mission to make music more accessible extends far beyond the concert hall.  Equally at home in K-12 classrooms, senior settings and colleges/universities, their interactive interdisciplinary outreach activities have reached over 50,000 people across the United States.  QUADRE's nationwide education residencies in urban and rural environments have been supported by funding from prominent organizations including:

  • -  The National Endowment for the Arts
  • -  Chamber Music America
  • -  The San Franciso Symphony
  • -  The Arts Council of Silicon Valley


Of the many education residencies QUADRE has led, their most in-depth and extended tenure took place several years ago when the ensemble relocated for nine months to Selma, Alabama as leaders in Chamber Music America's Rural Residency program, also funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.  As musical ambassadors, QUADRE traveled to all corners of the state, reaching citizens of all ages and backgrounds through concerts, K-12 classroom visits and community outreach events of all types:


QUADRE Captures Hearts During Stay

 By Nancy Raabe, Birmingham News Staff Writer

They came from California.  They played Alabama.  And they conquered 14,000 hearts and minds, as part of their effort to make music an indispensable part of all of our lives.  Formally, this Quartet of West Coasters is hailed around Alabama as "Quadre, The Voice of Four Horns."  Colloquially, it's been hailed on the streets of Selma as "The Quadra's" - as in, "Hey there, you Quadras!" when two or more happen to be out and about.  

For the past nine months, QUADRE has had its fingers on the state's pulse, via Chamber Music America 's Rural Residency Program. Headquartered at Wallace State Community College , the horn quartet is one of eight professional ensembles nationwide that participated in the program this season. Sites in addition to Selma are Mammoth Lakes , CA ; Safford , AZ ; Stephenville , TX ; Hickory , NC ; Arkansas City , KS ; Grand Forks , ND ; and Ellsworth , MA .

Cost of the program is $300,000, with half coming from Chamber Music America and the National Endowment of the Arts and the other half from the community the ensemble lives and works in. Its goal is to combine community development and ensemble career development to help make chamber music a permanent part of a rural community's life. QUADRE's residency has been particularly newsworthy because it's the only horn quartet ever to participate in the Rural Residency Program since its inception in 1992. For that matter, QUADRE is the only full-time professional horn quartet in the country, as far as any of the group's members know, and all of them are as plugged into the national horn scene as any could be by their mid-to-late 20s.

"We kind of stretched the limits when we took on the horn quartet," admitted Nancy Christensen, Chamber Music America 's education coordinator, who oversees the Rural Residency Program from CMA's New York City office. "It was very new territory for us, and the idea did raise a few eyebrows. One of the things we look for is, 'What's going to happen after the residency?' Hopefully the ensemble will survive and go on to do other things after the residency work, but in many cases brass groups aren't as lasting as strings or woodwinds."

For its part, Wallace State Community College had been inclined to accept a string quartet, Ms. Christensen noted. "Four seemed to be the magic number in terms of personnel, and they would have enjoyed strings. But then we realized there is such a big focus on band music in the area that it would be good for the French horn to be featured." It also helped QUADRE that "their materials were so well presented, they had a deep commitment to education, and they had a gorgeous sound," Ms. Christensen said. "So we decided it was something we should move forward with."

Education in the broadest and most entertaining sense of the word is clearly what QUADRE is all about, judging from its final pair of state performances last week - a full-length concert at the Ritz Theatre in Talladega and a demonstration the following morning at the Alabama School for the Blind.

The evening program listed 11 selections plus intermission. But what the audience didn't know was that the group would fan out around the hall, between rows of seats no less, with their backs turned to each other to play one of the pieces. Nobody realized they'd put down their horns and launch into a barbershop rendition of " Alabama , Here We Come" (a twist on their home state's song, of course). And certainly nobody had the premonition that, before the evening was out, the audience would find itself clapping neatly contrasting rhythmic patterns with each other like giddy schoolchildren. And not even the astute listeners at the Alabama School for the Blind the next morning could have imagined they'd have such fun joining together for several delightful minutes, after being "rehearsed" from the stage by Castellano, in a little four-measure vamp that perfectly illustrated the principles of melody, harmony and bass.

Afterwards, members Melissa Hendrickson, Armando Castellano, Eric Thomas and Daniel Wood finally allowed themselves to relax.

"Whew," said Wood, plunking himself down at a restaurant on Talladega 's town square after the morning program and scanning the menu eagerly. "We've played four to 10 concerts a week every week we were here, for a total of 400 services altogether. Last week alone we did 11 concerts in five days, in four different cities. But having done it now, I wouldn't change a thing. Most musicians might play one concert a week. I'd think, 'How boring!'"

When asked about their impressions of Alabama , the foursome seemed excessively polite. They then admitted to a chronic fear of being misquoted, having been falsely accused early along of downplaying the attraction of barbecue - clearly a serious sin - and of claiming that there's no culture between Atlanta and New Orleans ("What I said was, 'That's the perception,'" Wood said. "But that perception is wrong!")

"This year has been sort of an experiment for us," Wood reflected. "The idea was, 'Can you go into a city that doesn't have a strong cultural tradition and help it create one?' I think we've been able to key into the 'arts experience' by making connections between the players and the audience. Some performers just talk about their instruments. But we believe you have to break down all sorts of barriers."

One way has been by getting rid of their music stands and playing everything from memory, a remarkable feat in itself for a busy chamber group that has 250 works in its repertory. Another has been by bursting through the conventions that formalize the typical concert experience.

"You can't assume," Wood said, "that music is a universal language."