Cavani string quartet ring through Carbondale tonight at Shryock

By Gus Bode

SIUC students performed with ensemble Sunday, group slated for grade school concert Tuesday

Jennifer Wisehart intently watched the four members of the Cavani quartet rehearse an original piece by their mentor at the Cleveland Institute of Music at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center Sunday afternoon.

An hour before the internationally known string ensemble performed at 3 p.m., Wisehart, a senior in music education from West Frankfort, listened carefully and appreciatively to the sounds of the chamber music.


This was the first time she was listening to the distinguished ensemble live, and in less than two hours she would be playing alongside the four women musicians for the local Allegro group, who helped pay for Wisehart’s string scholarship and chance to perform with her mentors.

Aside from connecting with Wisehart and five other students who played with the quartet Sunday, the Cavani string quartet will perform for an audience at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Shryock Auditorium and for students Tuesday morning at Thomas School in Carbondale.

The quartet’s performance with SIUC students and faculty was one of four performances this year sponsored by the Southern Illinois Chamber Music Society. Bringing larger names, such as the Cavani string quartet, to Carbondale was something the Allegro group contributed to, but also helping was the new Fine Arts Fee.

Violin, viola and chamber music professor Michael Barta said the students realize how organizations such as the Southern Illinois Chamber Music Society can invite and involve the SIUC community more with the arts.

“For the price of a value meal they can see some of the finest musicians, like Cavani,” Barta said.

Not only is the quartet important for the students who attend the concerts, but for those who were involved in the special privilege of learning and performing with artists such as Cavani.

The string quartet has traveled across Europe and most of North America, and was the recipient of the Naumberg Chamber Music Award in 1989. But this ensemble started much like a band.


“We were college friends and we wanted to start a ‘band,'” said Annie Fullard, one of two Cavani violinists and co-founder of the original quartet. “We all have different personalities and we can keep those individual personalities that make the quartet special.”

After attending the Cleveland Institute of Music, Fullard and celloist Merry Peckham, met violinist Mari Sato and Kristen Docter, who played the viola at another university. The group of friends

continues to work toward a more than 14-year commitment to playing innovative music and teaching those who are aspiring in the same direction.

“Music speaks louder than words,” Fullard said.

Docter said she has a lot of fun practicing with the SIUC string scholarship recipients before their performance and learned a lot from them as well. Even though they perform many regular concerts, involvement with college students is something new.

But the performances of fairy tales and children’s stories, similar to the concert at Thomas School Tuesday, is old hat for the quartet.

“For every formal concert we do, we do three performances at schools,” Docter said.

But Wisehart will remember the performance she shared with the group Sunday. Like the members of Cavani, she has played the violin since before she began kindergarten.

She attended Chamber music camps to learn her craft, practiced upon request of her mother and continued to pursue a career in music like the four musicians in the distinguished ensemble.

But this day and privilege will remain in her memory.

“This is a great opportunity for me to perform with such a well-known group,” Wisehart said. “It was a lot of fun and I hope to see them again.”

Reporter Samantha Edmondson can be reached at [email protected]