Orchestra Demonstrates Musical Transcendence

Orchestra Demonstrates Musical Transcendence
High School Program Chosen for National Award by Miró Quartet

miro2It was an extraordinary gift! In celebration of their 20th anniversary and the release of their “Transcendence” album, the internationally-renowned Miró Quartet selected Fox Chapel Area High School’s orchestra program and orchestra teacher Mairi Cooper to receive the Transcendence Education Project award. Quartet members spent March 14 at the high school – leading masterclasses, performing, and participating in question and answer sessions. Any student involved in the high school music program was invited to attend. Ninth grader Chloe Yofan, a violinist and member of one of the quartets, said of the experience, “It was crazy. First of all, they were so good.” She added, “I didn’t think anyone could play that well.”

Chloe said that her mother first told her about the contest sponsored by the Miró Quartet, whose members were seeking to recognize a program that demonstrated musical transcendence. Chloe then spoke with Ms. Cooper who encouraged her to apply for the award.

It was just five days before the application was due when Chloe met with a group of her orchestra friends to talk about the award. She and junior Francesco Fava, who is a member of her quartet, along with freshmen orchestra friends Leah Fetting and Arnav Gupta, got together at her house and in two days prepared the 30-second video. They said they wanted to recognize Ms. Cooper who has demonstrated “transcendence” by being a mentor and a music educator and winning the 2015 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year Award. Chloe said they decided what piece to play on the first day and wrote a script of what they wanted to say, then her mother taped the quartet playing the piece on Chloe’s phone. The next day they recorded the speaking part, Chloe put it together using iMovie®, and they submitted it for the contest.

After they submitted the video, she showed it to Ms. Cooper. Chloe said that they also viewed the other application videos and said, “Everyone else was really professional.” She hadn’t quite expected that. Additionally, she said, “The schools were from Alaska and other cool places.”

However, a week later they found out that their orchestra program and Ms. Cooper had been selected to receive the award – a visit from the Miró Quartet. According to Miró Quartet founding member Joshua Gindele, “This educator really inspired all four of us – having transcended the limitations of what people think is possible within the public school system, and allowing students to transcend themselves. We cannot wait to meet her and her students in person.”

As a part of the visit, all of the students in the Fox Chapel Area High School music department had the opportunity to hear the Miró Quartet perform. Additionally, three string quartets and the ambassador orchestra from the high school performed and the members of the Miró Quartet led the orchestra students in masterclasses. The Miró also held Q & A sessions and ate lunch with the students.

Chloe and the other members of her quartet, including Francesco (viola), Ji-Yool Moon (cello), and Ziya Xu (violin) performed and participated in a masterclass. “Going in to it, I didn’t think we had that much more to do with it. I thought our piece was pretty ready,” Chloe said. “But after they worked with us, I realized how much more you can still do with a piece.” She mentioned that the quartet members taught them about presentation. “We weren’t looking at each other.” She said when the professional musicians took away their music stands, it forced them to interact with each other as they played.

When the Miró Quartet performed, “You could almost touch it,” Chloe said. “They were so together, so in tune with each other, both literally and figuratively. They were phenomenal.”

Chloe, who recently performed with her quartet at the Boyd Community Center grand opening event, said that now when her quartet works together, they think about what they learned. “We still look back on what they said and apply it to what we’re doing in orchestra.” She added, “We have more knowledge on how to work with the musical pieces now.”

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