string quartet | Worldwide
Harlem Quartet

New York-based HARLEM QUARTET, currently serving a three-year residency at London’s Royal College of Music, has been praised for its "panache" by The New York Times and hailed in the Cincinnati Enquirer for “bringing a new attitude to classical music, one that is fresh, bracing and intelligent.” It has also won plaudits from such veteran musicians as GRAMMY-winning woodwind virtuoso Ted Nash of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, who declared in a May 2018 Playbill article, “Harlem Quartet is one of the greatest string quartets I have ever heard. They can play anything.” Since its public debut at Carnegie Hall in 2006, the ensemble has thrilled audiences and students in 47 states as well as in the U.K., France, Belgium, Brazil, Panama, Canada, Venezuela, Japan, and South Africa.

Harlem Quartet has three distinctive characteristics: diverse programming that combines music from the standard string quartet canon with jazz, Latin, and contemporary works; a collaborative approach to performance that is continually broadening the ensemble’s repertoire and audience reach through artistic partnerships with other musicians from the classical and jazz worlds; and an ongoing commitment to residency activity and other forms of educational outreach.

The quartet’s mission is to advance diversity in classical music, engaging young and new audiences through the discovery and presentation of varied repertoire that includes works by minority composers. Passion for this work has made the quartet a leading ensemble in both educational and community engagement activities. In this capacity, the quartet has written several successful grants, including a Cultural Connections Artist-In-Residence grant from James Madison University and a 2016 Guarneri String Quartet grant from Chamber Music America; the latter allowed the quartet to participate in an extended performance and educational residency in Mobile, Alabama that included a close partnership with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra. In the 2017-18 season Harlem Quartet undertook a week of residency activities with the Santa Fe Youth Symphony. And since 2015 it has led an annual workshop at Music Mountain in Falls Village, Connecticut, culminating in a concert at that venue; the quartet returns to Music Mountain for the fourth time in July 2018.

In addition to performing a varied menu of string quartet literature across the country and around the world, Harlem Quartet has collaborated with such distinguished artists as classical pianists Michael Brown, Awadagin Pratt, Misha Dichter, and Fei-Fei Dong; jazz pianists Chick Corea and Aldo López-Gavilán; violist Ida Kavafian; cellist Carter Brey; clarinetists Paquito D’Rivera, Eddie Daniels, Anthony McGill, and David Shifrin; saxophonist Tim Garland; jazz legends Ted Nash, Gary Burton, Stanley Clarke, and John Patitucci; the Shanghai Quartet; and Imani Winds. Highlights of Harlem Quartet’s 2018-19 season include debut appearances at Koerner Hall in Toronto (in partnership with D’Rivera) and at the Detroit Jazz Festival (with the Eddie Daniels Quartet), as well as a return to the Chamber Music Society of Detroit, where the quartet closes that organization’s 75th anniversary season with a gala performance at Orchestra Hall in collaboration with pianist Leon Fleisher and the Dover, Catalyst, and Attaca string quartets.

Alongside its regular activities as a chamber ensemble, Harlem Quartet performs a variety of works written for solo string quartet and orchestra. In 2012, with the Chicago Sinfonietta under Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, the quartet gave the world premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story as arranged for string quartet and orchestra by Randall Craig Fleischer. It reprised its performance of that score with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra under Fleischer’s direction, and again with the Santa Fe Concert Association. Chicago Sinfonietta and the quartet recorded the West Side Story arrangement, along with works for string quartet and orchestra by Michael Abels and Benjamin Lees, for the Cedille Records release Delights and Dances.

Harlem Quartet has been featured on WNBC, CNN, NBC’s Today Show, WQXR-FM, and the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and it performed in 2009 for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. The quartet made its European debut in October 2009 performing at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., and returned to Europe as guest artists and faculty members of the Musica Mundi International Festival in Belgium. In early 2011 the ensemble was featured at the Panama Jazz Festival in Panama City.

The quartet’s recording career began in 2007 when White Pine Music issued Take the "A" Train, a release featuring the string quartet version of that jazz standard by Billy Strayhorn; the CD was highlighted that year in the November issue of Strings magazine. A second CD, featuring three string quartets by Walter Piston, was released in 2010 by Naxos. The quartet’s third recording, released in 2011, is a collaboration with pianist Awadagin Pratt and showcases works by American composer Judith Lang Zaimont. More recently the quartet collaborated with jazz pianist Chick Corea in a Grammy-winning Hot House album that included Corea’s "Mozart Goes Dancing," which won a separate Grammy as Best Instrumental Composition. Its latest jazz album, recorded with the Eddie Daniels Quartet and released in June 2018 on Resonance Records, is Heart of Brazil: A Tribute to Egberto Gismonti.

Harlem Quartet was founded in 2006 by The Sphinx Organization, a national nonprofit dedicated to building diversity in classical music and providing access to music education in underserved communities. In 2013 the quartet completed its third and final year in the Professional String Quartet Training Program at New England Conservatory, under the tutelage of Paul Katz, Donald Weilerstein, Kim Kashkashian, Miriam Fried, and Martha Katz. The quartet is represented worldwide by Sciolino Artist Management, www.samnyc.us.

June 2018

Harlem Quartet members:
Ilmar Gavilán, violin
Melissa White, violin
Jaime Amador, viola
Felix Umansky, cello

Do not make any alterations to this biography. Concert presenters and other interested parties may obtain an updated and/or abridged version by contacting Chester Lane, Director of Communications at Sciolino Artist Management, chester@samnyc.us. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

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