Group brings chamber music to local children | SierraSun.com

Group brings chamber music to local children

Julie Brown
Sierra Sun

An internationally performing group of musicians, the Afiara String Quartet, will perform for local schools this week, exposing hundreds of students to chamber music.

This tour will be the quartet’s second visit to the Tahoe Truckee region, and this time they are back by popular demand.

“Their reception was fantastic,” said Domenic Favero, chairman of the festival’s educational outreach program committee, about the group’s visit to Alder Creek Middle School last year. “It was just like rock stars appeared. This roar went up, clapping.”

The Lake Tahoe Music Festival’s educational outreach program is sponsoring the Canadian musicians’ four-day visit to elementary schools in Tahoe City, Kings Beach, Incline Village and Truckee, as well as a stop at the senior center and a public performance Friday evening at the Squaw Valley Chapel.

“[The musicians] don’t treat the children like a string quartet is something above,” said Rita Whitaker-Haun, the festival’s coordinator for their educational outreach program. “They make it real palatable for the elementary kids.”

The Lake Tahoe Music Festival is sponsoring the group’s visit, which is budgeted at $10,000, and paid for by private donations and local foundations, Favero said. The value of exposing live music to children, however, is tremendous ” physically, emotionally and mentally, he said.

“Music is the language that everyone understands,” Favero said. “It’s an international language, you might say.”

Whitaker-Haun, who teaches music at Truckee Elementary School, noted how the group incorporated mainstream musical styles that kids are listening to, such as hip hop, into their performance.

The group’s cellist, Adrian Fung, raps on the side, said David Samuel, the group’s violist.

“We use that to reach the kids on a level that is more readily available [for them] to understand,” Samuel said. “We try to draw parallels to the way a rap song is made up. It’s the simple components. You have the base, vocal line … it actually works very similarly for a string quartet.”

Samuel said the enthusiastic reception they received last year is a primary reason why they wanted to come back again.

“We were really pleasantly surprised at the amount of interest that there was for the music we were doing,” Samuel said. “The programs up there, at least compared to where I grew up, seem so much better. And for Truckee being a relatively small place, it was great.”

The group’s musicians met each other and played together throughout high school and college. But it wasn’t until they moved to San Francisco that they officially formed the Afiara String Quartet in 2006, Samuel said.

They are currently at San Francisco State University, playing music and teaching under the guidance of the university’s faculty quartet.

The group plays a diverse selection of music, Samuel said, from songs composed in the late 18th-century to music written just last year.

Whitaker-Haun described the quartet as “up-and-coming.”

“They’re starting to get to that level of competing worldwide,” said Whitaker-Haun. “And getting a name for themselves.”