Greetings from Banff!

The view from Tunnel MountainHere we are after week one at the Banff Centre in Banff, Canada! The Banff Centre was built at the bottom of the Canadian Rockies where we are surrounded by mountains, each with their own personality. Some are snow capped, some are covered in pine trees, and others are sharply shaped with their peaks jutting into the sky. Each day the view is different. Today the mountains in the distance are covered in mist as low clouds roll over them. 

The repertoire we brought includes the quarky Haydn String Quartet Op. 50, No. 2 and the epic String Quartet No. 3 by Alfred Schnittke. We have worked with two coaches this week, Mark Steinberg of the Brentano Quartet and James Boyd of the London Haydn Quartet and can honestly say our brains hurt from the amount they have expanded with all of the wonderful musical ideas and perspective they have brought to us. We are not only inspired by our coaches, but are here with some amazingly talented groups from all over Canada and the United States; among them are the Afiara, Cecilia, Aiana, and Arneis String Quartets. (two of whom will have gone to Deer Valley with the Muir Quartet...small world!)

We have been chosen to perform the Schnittke String Quartet on Saturday, June 23 at the Rolston Recital Hall at 7:30. So, if any of you or your friends happen to be near Banff, Canada next weekend, come on by!

We're going to Banff!

We are stoked! Three weeks rehearsing in beautiful Banff, Canada? Yes please! We will be a part of the chamber music residency at the Banff Centre studying with such amazing musicians as Mark Steinberg, Donald Weilerstein, James Boyd, Joel Krosnick, Gilbert Kalish, and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein. We are preparing Haydn's String Quartet Op. 50, No. 2 and Schnittke's String Quartet No. 3. We will also be spending time on our improvisations and coming up with more fun ideas for our MIND|THE|GAP series. We can't wait to be among the beautiful mountains. June can't come soon enough!  

Musical Scientists...and other names....

Alright folks here it is, the first list of possible names for our quartet (yes, there is a second list). Some names were taken, censored. The hours we spent sitting around brainstorming in Jessie's apartment was definitely funny, but not necessarily productive. It took us about 3 months to settle on PUBLIQuartet...perhaps we should have been The Musical Scientists Dancing on Fog? Perhaps.

2nd Track
Cah Caw Quartet
Cutting Floor
Dah Unit
Eagle Death
Ebony and Irony
Eternal Harmonies
Eternal Melodies
Harmonies from Eternity
Melodies from Eternity
Exit 14 (replace with any number)
Final Cut
Liquid Frost
Moon Pie
Dancing on Fog
Musical Scientists
Musical Scientists Dancing on Fog
Mystical Fog Dancers
No Parking
Project (Something)
Sound Factory
Take 2
The Killer Quartet
The Quartet Project
Whole Milk
Hold The Sauce

Jessie's ACO Composers OutFront! concert

So the dust is beginning to settle on our February 25th concert at University Settlement, where PUBLIQuartet, joined by a smashing cast of musical companions, performed all of my recent works for string quartet, wind quartet and music for film. The program started off with Eric Lamb, Josh Rubin, Adrian Morejon and Katie Sheele playing a premiere of Scherzo for Winds. It was a noodl-y piece which they maneuvered masterfully. PQ played Voodoo Dolls, a piece written for a youth dance troupe that featured some improv solos, and my most recent string quartet, Standing/Forward. Curtis took this one home with his full throttle, legs-a-flaring solo at the end. Jannina Norpoth stepped in to fill my spot on 3 Scenes for String Quartet. It was very settling to sit back and hear the piece performed so efficiently and beautifully. The film cues were entertaining from what I could tell of audience laughter (at the cartoons on the screen, hopefully and not at the content of the music ;-/) and sighing. The arrangement of Strum for 11-piece string orchestra was just a heck of a lot of fun. Everyone was really going for it and the energy really made the piece fly. 

It felt like PQ was in exceptional form: performing with ease and really connecting.  Speyer Hall has a warm, intimate sound and it felt like we were taking full advantage of it. The audience was also filled with old friends from the Lower East Side 80s and 90s downtown music and art scene which gave extra warmth to the moment and added to the sense that we were sharing in the life-cylce of our mentors and idols--Representing. Looking back, I am touched by the dedication and insight that everyone put in to the performance of these pieces, some of which I had drummed up from the past and even thought were unworthy of presentation--but the thoughtfulness and creativity of my colleagues helped bring the pieces to life again in a brand new way, and I am indebted to them. It gave me the confidence to begin to listen to and own my ideas more readily and charge ahead with new energy.  

Jessie Montgomery, violin

PQ music in film

Behind the scenes in rehearsal PQ will be the featured artists along with Mark August on banjo in the soundtrack for the upcoming film, Thru|Lines, an art piece documenting the daily lives of 24 different New Yorkers. PQ's cellist, Amanda, wrote the score and we are going in to the studio to record in early April!

Learn more about the project here!

Robert Mann String Quartet Institute

We are thrilled to have been accepted as one of six string quartets to participate in the Robert Mann String Quartet Institute in January of next year! We had an incredibly inspiring experience at the Juilliard String Quartet Institute back in May and we can't wait to delve in to new repertoire at another amazing seminar. We will have private coachings and masterclasses with Nicholas Mann, David Geber, Clive Greensmith, and members of the American String Quartet on the Brahms String Quartet No. 3 and the Mozart String Quartet No. 23, K. 590. We will be performing these works at a concert on January 6, 2012 at the Manhattan School of Music. Stay tuned!

Watch the live broadcast of the masterclass with PQ and Robert Mann here!



Our first review!

Hey, look!  PQ got our first review, and in The Strad magazine nonetheless! 

This was our first live performance of Stravinsky's "Three Pieces for String Quartet" back in June and we had such a blast peforming this fantastic piece.  We were featured on a larger concert put on by violinist, Elektra Kurtis, in the historically cultural venue, University of the Streets, a "grubby New York loft" as Strad put it.  Check out what they had to say below!

The Strad, September 2011 issue

Utah Week #3

Well, the last week was a haul to say the least.  It was our busiest week in Utah and certainly pushed us in many ways.  On top of trying to polish our Brahms, get the Stravinsky in order, and tweak Tony’s piece with Joan Tower, we were also coaching chamber music at the Lyceum Music Festival.   This youth symphony meets at a top Alpine-themed resort 30 mins outside ofPark City where Yodeling is pumped through the outdoor speakers and the guest services wear Lederhosen.  The experience for us was great because for the first time at the festival we switched into teacher roles and were able to draw from our experiences with the Muir Quartet to better help the students.  Let me tell you, after 2 an half weeks of intense, brutally-honest, and humbling coachings with the Muir, it’s good to switch roles.  The Muir quartet rocks, and they are all exceptional coaches, but they are also not afraid to be…honest.  After the second day of coaching all the students gathered in the hall to hear us perform the music we were working on.  They really liked the performance and all in all it was a fun experience to work with the kids.

And then all of a sudden it was the last day, day of the concert.   To have the Muir Quartet in the audience didn’t help my nerves.  Preparing for the afternoon performance, all I could focus on were the treacherous pitfalls within each piece.  However, the performance itself was a blast!  I’ve never felt so proud to be on stage before.  Working with PQ for three weeks in virtual solitude was the best thing that has happened to us.  Now back in NYC, we prepare for a season filled with education outreach and a handful of performances around NY.  We’ll miss you Utah, someday we’ll be back.

Nick Revel, viola

Utah Week #2

Curtis w/ Joan Tower

Curtis w/ Joan Tower

The whole gang from the Emerging Quartets and Composers Program. Composers-in-residence Antonin and Max in frontThe pace picked up this week when we had a spot on Park City TV:  Performances from Stravinsky and Brahms quartets, plus a full interview about the Emerging Quartets and Composers program and our recent quartet history.  Also, Joan Tower and her composer entourage arrived on Wednesday to kick things into high gear with more coachings, more music to grapple and more parties ;)  It's an especially interesting time for me at this point, since the last time I was here at the Festival I was in the role of "Emerging Composer", and now, in working with Antonin Fajt (the young and very talented Czech composer) I get to give back a little of the experience I had here in the past working with the Vinca Quartet.  It's really a great environment for workshopping music and bridging the composer and performer gap.  It's great to be on both sides of the coin.  I'm looking forward to presenting the fruits of our labor at this weekends concerts!

Jessie Montgomery, violin


Just a regular afternoon here in Utah....?



It's pretty safe to say you know you're not in NYC anymore when a friendly neighborhood dog wanders into your house one afternoon.  We had just finished rehearsal and Jessie left the front door open for a moment while on her way out.  We turn around, and there is an adorable Golden Retriever in our living room!  She was wet and scared by the thunder storm, so we've taken her in while we wait for her owner to drive back from Salt Lake City.  Luckily she doesn't have a palette for rosin or other such items.  She was, however, extremely intrigued by Curtis's microwaved taquitos....

Utah Week #1

Hello from Utah!

The view from our lodge as storm clouds roll over the mountains in the distance...if you look closely you can see a lightning streak right above the sun

The view from our lodge as storm clouds roll over the mountains in the distance...if you look closely you can see a lightning streak right above the sun

As I write, the rain is pouring against the windows of our lodge.  The sun is still out, setting over the mountains as storm clouds pass over quickly, echoing with thunder.  By the time I finish this sentence, it will have already passed.  Rain doesn't last long in Utah. 

We have been here in Park City for four amazing days.  There are rare moments where a young quartet has the opportunity to be together and rehearse for as many hours in the day as they wish.  The days in NYC are usually packed with running from one commitment to the other and fitting in as many rehearsals as possible.  Stress, heat, mass transit, crowds, I could go on and on.  Here we find ourselves in a beautiful, quiet haven.  A place where we can focus and play; what we could only dream would be possible for ourselves back home.  Also, home doesn't come with a private hot tub. What?!

We have had two inspiring coachings with members of the Muir Quartet and will continue to work with them for the next 2 and a half weeks.  Next week Joan Tower comes with her two protégés and we will begin to workshop the piece written for us entitled, "Thyme" by Antonin Fajt.  At the end of the program there will be two public performances in which we will play the Brahms String Quartet #3, the Stravinsky Three Pieces for String Quartet, and "Thyme" by Fajt.  

We can already tell the next three weeks will speed by, but what we will get from being here will stay with us forever.  

That will be it for now....we will have much more to report soon!

Amanda Gookin, cellist

PQ's week at the Juilliard String Quartet Seminar

Nick w/ Ronald Copes

Nick w/ Ronald Copes

Nick w/ Ronald CopesAs a young musician, you tend to rely mainly on instincts: feelings about the music that come from hearing and reacting to your gut; the experience of playing a lot of different styles of music that allows you to be free; perhaps of having an innate understanding of harmony and its implications on some level; of wanting, naturally, to engage in musical dialogue with your other players. As we continue to develop, we are informing our instincts with facts and meaning about the music--historical context, a closer look at the harmonic language, sources which may have inspired the creation of a work—and from this information we deepen our understanding to find a real voice in what was once just an inkling, an idea about what might be possible in the music. The main thing I’ve been realizing as a result of our first coaching’s with Joel Krosnick and Ron Copes is that all the information is right there in front of me, as long as I’m willing to look for it. As we have chosen to be re-creators of this music and speakers of this rich tradition of string quartet writing, we are learning how to find our own meaning and to tell our own story of the score. Since we’ve formed PUBLIQuartet, there has been much discussion among us to build clarity and consensus about why we are doing what we’re doing. Many possible reasons have come up, such as: “Well, I want to be able to stay current with new composers and play new works.” Or, “Staying connected to the traditional repertoire is important to me because of its boundless beauty and I wish to explore it further.” Now these explanations seem merely plain in retrospect.   

   PUBLIQuartet w/ Joel Krosnick


PUBLIQuartet w/ Joel Krosnick

PUBLIQuartet w/ Joel KrosnickA discussion came up in our coaching with Mr. Krosnick when Curtis boldly asked for advice on how PUBLIQ can plan to move forward. As Mr. Krosnick took a moment to ponder the question, he related to his students who come through Juilliard each year and wish to pursue careers in music in this tempestuous environment, and in a concerned and candid tone said something along the lines: “what on earth are you going to do when you leave this place?!” He recognizes the world changing as rapidly as we do, and knows that the road he has paved as a member of the Juilliard String Quartet has been re-paved, and re-routed. He further posed the question to us: “Is it still important that we continue to value and find meaning in this music [of Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, etc.]? Is it less or more important than making money and having a new car, social status or politics? Is finding beauty in what we do still important?” His conclusion was that our music will only remain significant if we continue to search and define our own perspective and beauty in these works, or any other work, for that matter. Our individual or group success will have everything to do with whether we choose to grapple with the meaning in the first place, and how diligently we work at doing so. It doesn’t matter what you play, but how you perceive and how you make connections that engages others in what you are trying to do. And as long as we keep doing that, we will exist.

   PUBLIQuartet w/ Ronald Copes


PUBLIQuartet w/ Ronald Copes

PUBLIQuartet w/ Ronald CopesWe took this pep talk to the stage with us and delivered our best product to date. The concert was a success. Thanks to the illuminating guidance of our esteemed coaches, we found our voices and our dialogue with each other in the music on stage. It’s an incredible launching place for us as we move on to the study of new works this summer (which will include Brahms, Stavinsky, Mozart, and a fresh work by young composer Antonin Fajt). Our favorite comment was from an enthusiastic concertgoer who seemed to find his own new perspective: “I never knew Webern could be beautiful!” Thanks, guy. Us, too ;)

 Jessie Montgomery, violin

Cornelia Street Cafe concert a success!

Postcard designed by Chris CornwellJust this past Tuesday, PUBLIQuartet stepped onto the stage at Cornelia Street Cafe for the very first time.  The room was packed and there was a bubbling high energy in the air.  

We opened with "Broken Lines" by our violist, Nick Revel.  After the rock out crazy finish we went into Don Byron's "Four Thoughts on Marvin Gay".  It was a pleasure to be able to perform this great piece for the composer himself!  From starting with a piece that had been quoted to sound like "robot lovin'" into a downright raucous jazz/new music fusion piece, we were beading with sweat and mellowed the mood with Sky Steele's beautiful piece, "January 5 (sun ice)".  This work was dedicated to a friend of Sky's who had passed and the ethereal melody sang out and was a touching part of the show.  PQ brought it back around and into Anton Webern's extremely intricate String Quartet, Op. 5.  There are 5 movements, each with its own particular sound.  From the gritty and eerie into the suspenseful stratosphere and everything in between, this piece represents how Webern paved the road for a new style of string quartet. Following the Webern, we went from the wrote to the unwritten, improvising as a group live on stage.   The improvisation led into the reading of the poem associated with the last piece, Sky Steele's "Evalynn".  The piece has a wonderful repetitive melody which gets torn apart, fragmented, and brought back together again with open sections for free improv in the violin, viola, and cello.

All in all, it was a success and a wonderful experience for us!  Thank you all who made it; we laughed, we hollered, we had a great time.


Please check out the group that was on the bill after us, The Mighty Third Rail.  They were absolutely amazing.