American Ensemble

10.17.14
Calidore String Quartet
Chamber Music America Magazine

The Calidore String Quartet has been gaining recognition ever since it formed at the Colburn School in 2010. But a young ensemble—even an extraordinarily talented one—can use a boost. That came when the group was named an ensemble-in-residence at Long Island’s Stony Brook University, for two years starting this fall. The musicians (Jeffrey Myers and Ryan Meehan, violins; Jeremy Berry, viola; Estelle Choi, cello) will teach undergraduates; and they themselves get coaching from the Emerson String Quartet, the university’s longtime quartet- in-residence, along with its former cellist, David Finckel.

“Music is so much about getting people to hear you play,” says Meehan. “Living in New York will help us raise our profile on the East Coast.” The Emerson connection, too, is bound to attract attention. “We feel like we’re in good hands.”

“It’s such a crowded field right now,” says violinist Arnold Steinhardt, one of the quartet’s mentors. “When we [the Guarneri Quartet] started, you could count the number of professional string quartets on one hand. Now they’re hanging from trees. But [the Calidores] are individually terrific players; they’re hard working—and they have a personality when they play. They have a musical point of view. What more could you ask?”

Key to the quartet’s success has been unyielding commitment. From the first, the four decided that the ensemble would succeed only they all treated it as their primary focus. “We made a pact that this would be our number-one priority,” says Meehan. Mutual respect also helps sustain the diligent effort. “Sometimes we’ll have a dispute in rehearsal,” Meehan says. “Then ten minutes later we’ll say, ‘Wasn’t that funny?’”

And true to the tradition of touring ensembles, food has become a bond. Choi and Meehan both cook, but when the quartet is on the road, finding the right restaurant can be tricky. 

“I’m always on Yelp in whatever city we’re in,” says Meehan. “Vietnamese or Thai food is a good bet for us. I’m gluten-free, and so is Estelle. Jeff is a vegetarian. And as for Jeremy—he’s just picky.”

The musicians’ rapport was tested when they visited Germany for the 2012 ARD Munich International String Quartet Competition. They hopped on the wrong train and ended up in a small Bavarian village where nobody spoke English. Trying again the next day, they missed their stop—ending up in Switzerland. It was a tense situation; but they didn’t let it boil over and ultimately made it to the competition, winning a top prize. “It’s all about shrugging off the small things,” says Meehan, “and keeping our minds on the over- arching goal.”