The inspirational environment of Colburn has always encouraged the harmonious and collegial spirit of collaboration among artists of all ages. Indeed, it seems to be particularly conducive to those seeking an identity as a small ensemble, such as trios, quintets, and especially quartets. Quartet Integra represents one of these student ensembles who currently serves as the Colburn Ensemble-in-Residence.
Last September, one month into their two-year stint as the current Colburn Ensemble-in-Residence, Quartet Integra garnered second prize at the prestigious ARD International Music Competition in Munich, Germany.
“They also won the Audience Award at ARD, which to me, says everything about Integra. Their spirit is infectious because of the joy they gain from the music. They are compelling and charismatic performers,” says Lee Cioppa, Dean of the Colburn Conservatory of Music.
The Colburn Ensemble-in-Residence program provides support for a pre-professional, pre-formed group of chamber music artists to promote the genre on campus, in the Los Angeles area, and on the international stage. Each member may enroll in either the Artist Diploma or Master of Music-Chamber Music Emphasis program, and as such, they are entitled to the same level of scholarship awarded to all Conservatory students, covering tuition and room and board. Additionally, the musicians receive high-level instruction and mentorship from faculty, including weekly chamber coachings, performance opportunities, and invitations to influence the next-generation of artists.
Integra also participates in the Colburn Artists program, which counsels students to work with industry leaders and artist managers. They gain career advice on developing repertoire and cultivating a professional presence, including social media.
Kyoka Misawa, violin, Rintaro Kikuno, violin, Itsuki Yamamoto, viola, and Anri Tsukiji, cello, found their unified voice as Quartet Integra in 2015, and had already accumulated several accolades — in 2021, the group earned first prize at the Bartók World Competition, to name one — before being accepted as the second Ensemble-in-Residence at Colburn.
“The four of us must always blend together like one instrument, while at the same time, each of us must express ourselves as an individual musician. By playing with the same members for a long time, a mysterious power that is unique to us is born,” says Yamamoto.
“The work of the quartet is a true labor of love and requires wholehearted intellectual, physical, and emotional commitment,” says Clive Greensmith, cello and Chamber Music faculty and former member of the renowned Tokyo Quartet. “It is an enriching experience for the members and has a demonstrably positive effect on their peers.”
The inspirational environment of Colburn has always encouraged the harmonious and collegial spirit of collaboration among artists of all ages. Indeed, it seems to be particularly conducive to those seeking an identity as a small ensemble, such as trios, quintets, and especially quartets. The Calidore Quartet, for example, organically formed as members’ discovered a shared vision while attending the Conservatory. The foursome forged a musical personality that continues to capture audiences. Over the past decade, Calidore has recorded several albums and performs around the world.
Greensmith, along with fellow Chamber Music faculty member Martin Beaver, recognized this extraordinary atmosphere could function as a strong foundation for an official ensemble-in-residence program. While performing with the Tokyo Quartet, they both served in the quartet-in-residence at the Yale University School of Music.
“Although Calidore had formed and was being nurtured by our faculty colleagues when we arrived at the School in 2013, there was no formal structure in place,” says Beaver, who also teaches violin.
Both artists/instructors worked toward formalizing the initiative, which launched in the fall semester of 2019, and they continue to play significant advisory roles.
The Viano Quartet, another group born out mutual experiences at the Conservatory, was named the first Colburn Ensemble-in-Residence. Despite COVID’s interruption, Viano emerged as a remarkable new voice in the chamber music community. In 2019, for example, they were named co-first prize winner at the Banff International String Quartet Competition.
“People followed the Viano Quartet from the beginning. It was a wonderful opportunity to see the musicians travel from where they were to where they are now entering into their careers,” says Cioppa.
One of the Ensemble-in-Residence pillars is to create multiple opportunities for the group to fine tune and further develop their persona before a variety of audiences. In addition to their appearance at the ARD competition, Integra played a Debussy string quartet for Colburn’s Discovering Debussy celebration last month. Other appearances included performances at the Tokyo Opera City, Suntory Hall, and the California Club in Los Angeles. In April, they are slated to partake in the Quartet Festival Charity Concert for Humanitarian Aid in Ukraine at the Prince Hall Memorial Auditorium in Los Angeles. In May, they travel to Japan for several concerts.
Serving as chamber music ambassadors, introducing the genre to new audiences, is another key component to the program.
“Musicians become invested in their communities as artists, teachers and mentors, and should be open about sharing their art,” says Cioppa. “They then bring those relationships to their art.”
“Recently, we participated in outreach activities and master classes for a middle school and high school in Bellingham, Washington. Through the music, we could communicate with many people even though English is not our native language. These experiences will definitely be helpful for our career growth as a string quartet,” says Misawa.
The third Ensemble-in-Residence function is to assist others in advancing their talents. On campus, Integra members informally interact with fellow Colburn students.
“They act as mentors/role models to young aspiring ensemble players in both the Music Academy and the Conservatory,” says Greensmith.
Next year, the artists will assume more tutorial roles.
“This gives them experience of not just learning as a quartet from masters, but learning the teaching pedagogy from master teachers,” says Cioppa.
Just the Beginning
Although the Colburn Ensemble-in-Residence program is still relatively new, the benefits clearly are reverberating among the School community and beyond.
“We certainly hope that this will encourage other Colburn groups to strive for excellence in chamber music,” says Beaver.
The Colburn School would like to thank Mimi Rotter for generously supporting Quartet Integra’s residency at the School.