How to Find the Right Chamber-Music Partners

Article excerpt

Members of top chamber ensembles discuss a few good ground rules

IT ALL BEGINS WITH AN IDEA, a notion that you want to play in a string quartet. But it isn't like you can go to the neighborhood bar and pick up a violinist or a cellist who has an affinity for the same music you like. Beginning an ensemble, just like initiating any relationship, comes with a mix of romance, politics, and obstacles. You need a plan. Here's where to start.


Your network of peers and musical resources will set you in the right direction for the perfect match. Conservatory connections are what brought the members of the Miró Quartet together.

Miró cellist Joshua Gindele and violinist Daniel Ching met while studying at the Oberlin Conservatory where they were tasked with creating an ensemble to fulfill their chamber-music requirement. The two became serious about playing chamber music and formed a quartet that won the Coleman Chamber and Fischoff Chamber Music competitions. Later, the two other members left the group and were replaced by violinist Sandy Yamamoto, who had played with Ching, and violist John Largess, who had been recommended by Ching's college roommate. The new lineup went on to win first prize in the 1998 Banff International String Quartet Competition, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and the Cleveland Quartet Award.

Now the quartet will be looking for another violinist - at press time Yamamoto was leaving the quartet to focus on her family.

But don't discount those pre-conservatory connections. Case in point: the Pacifica Quartet. Pacifica violinist Simin Ganatra was 15 years old when she went to live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to study with Roland and Almita Vamos, the parents of cellist Brandon Vamos. Ganatra would end up playing in chamber-music festivals with the young Vamos.

Years later, when Vamos was working on his master's degree, he received a call from Ganatra who invited him to rehearse with the group. "We had instant connection and that's basically how we formed," Vamos says. "We all have a passion for playing chamber music, and it was absolutely the right group of people at the right time."

Vamos and Ganatra married in 2000.


Once you have your ensemble together, make sure you're on the same page in all areas. …