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Draper Journal

Waterford School’s student string quintet performs in Carnegie Hall after winning international contest

Dec 01, 2023 09:30AM ● By Julie Slama

Waterford’s string quintet won and international competition and was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall. (Truman Christensen/Waterford School)

In between the November and December holidays and amongst classes and school activities, five Waterford students will spend a weekend in New York City.

The quintet recently won first prize in the 2023 Golden Classical Music Awards international competition. They will be performing at the awards ceremony Dec. 3 at the Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, where they also will receive their first place medals.

“We were thrilled; the kids are just ecstatic,” said Kathy Morris, Waterford School’s director and music chair. “It’s an absolutely beautiful recital hall and that part of Carnegie Hall is super famous, not everybody gets to play there.”

The string quintet — Adrian Walker, first violin; Grant Brady, second violin; Nathan Kwon, viola; Dalloway Smith, cello; and Connor Greally, bass — submitted a video recording with their application in June to the international contest this past summer. 

“There were applications and videos from all over the world,” she said. “We received an email a month later saying, ‘We are delighted to announce that you have been chosen as a first prize winner.’”

The group is taking full advantage of being in the Big Apple.

They plan to give a recital for friends and family and Waterford alumni in the city at “a very cool venue in 1 Hotel Central Park that overlooks Central Park,” Morris said.

They also were arranging to play holiday music in the hotel lobby or at another location.

“We want them to do community service events, and this would be fun because it’ll be Christmas time in New York. I think the guests will love the holiday music,” Morris said.

The group also plans to visit the Highline and Times Square in addition to taking in the holiday decorations at the Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue. 

“We may take in St. Patrick’s Church as its always beautiful. We want to see those iconic New York sites, which are beautiful especially at Christmastime,” she said.

Bookending their musical performances will be a tour of Columbia University for some students who are arriving early and then, they also will go to Julliard, Morris’ alma mater, before they leave.

“Columbia and Juilliard have a music performance degree program where you study as an undergraduate at Columbia and then, earn a master’s at Julliard; it’s an amazing program. I know at least one of my students said it would be his dream to be accepted,” Morris said.

The student-musicians already have had “some amazing opportunities,” Morris said.

Last spring, the quintet won the chamber music portion of the Virtuoso International Music Competitions both in Brussels and in London. They attended the London ceremony, performing in the Royal Albert Hall recital hall and received their first-place medals. They also performed a 30-minute recital at the Milner Hall at Rhodes House at the University of Oxford, where they received “a very warm welcome.”

The group now is preparing for the Fischoff National Chamber Competition. They’ll submit their video entry in February.

“Fischoff is an amazing competition, but if they make the finals, they’ll have to fly and go to South Bend, Indiana to compete there in-person, so it’s different than knowing beforehand if they’ve won,” Morris said. “They’re excited for these competitions, but they’re challenging, and these kids want that challenge.”

Morris said that unlike orchestral music, chamber pieces are performed without a conductor.

“These kids are like a well-oiled machine. They talk to each other, they’re savvy, smart, and really in tune with each other musically. Chamber music is a musical conversation where you have beautiful melodies and harmonies, and you pass that musical along. Each musician listens to each other and responds so it’s personal and emotional. They’re intimate with each other in terms of their musical phrasing, handing off their phrases to each other. It’s quite remarkable. In 30 years of teaching, I’ve haven’t had an ensemble that just clicked,” she said. “On top of that, these kids are amazing people and are accomplishing so much. They’re really special.” λ