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Opus 2: Episode 4 – How To Train Your String Quartet


In Opus 2 Episode 4, the Skyros Quartet investigates innovations in the teaching of chamber music, and how an evolution in pedagogy has elevated the art form to its current standards. Chamber music had its roots as a pastime for amateurs relaxing together in their homes and palaces, so how did it become a career path for professionals?

The culture of chamber music has experienced a seismic shift since its early days, significantly evolving through the tradition of passing ideas from one generation to the next. We look at the renaissance of this transfer of knowledge in the past few generations by talking with some of the performer pedagogues who are fundamental to its evolution: violist James Dunham, and violinist Annie Fullard. We also discuss how this shapes the future of chamber music learning. Now more than ever, there are resources available to young musicians who dream of pursuing chamber music as a career, and amateurs who want to deepen their chamber music experience.


James DunhamIn the first interview, Justin and Willie speak with James Dunham. Dunham is a former member of the Grammy-winning Cleveland Quartet and the Naumburg Award-winning Sequoia Quartet. He currently performs with the Axelrod Quartet, in residence at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, and serves as Professor of Viola and Chamber Music at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music where he also co-directs its Master of Music in String Quartet program.

You can find out more about James on his website.

Here is a YouTube video of James performing the Barber String Quartet, II. Molto Adagio with the Cleveland Quartet:

Here is an article titled “What Does Chamber Music Really Do For A Student’s Playing?” featuring James Dunham.


Favorite Coaching Memories of the Skyros Quartet

As an interlude between the interviews, Skyros Quartet members chat about favorite experiences being coached in chamber music, as well as favorite experiences coaching chamber music. Please let us know in the comments if you enjoyed our chat, and tell us about other subjects you would like for us to chat about together in the future!

Annie FullardIn the second interview, Justin and Brandon talk with Annie Fullard. Violinist Fullard joyfully celebrates more than thirty years as a member of The Cavani String Quartet, hailed by the Washington Post as “completely engrossing, powerful and elegant.” Fullard and her quartet colleagues are recipients of numerous awards including the Naumburg Chamber Music Award, Cleveland Quartet Competition, Banff, Fischoff, Carmel Competitions, and were twice awarded The Guarneri Quartet Award for Artistic Excellence. As a leader in the field of chamber music advocacy and education, Ms. Fullard served as faculty, Artist in Residence, at The Cleveland Institute of Music for the past 30 years, and is currently Distinguished Visiting Artist in Chamber Music the McDuffie Center for Strings, Mercer University.

Read Fullard’s full biography on the Cavani String Quartet website.

Here is a video of the Cavani String Quartet performing the first movement of the Mendelssohn String Quartet Op. 13 in a minor:


In the interview, Fullard discusses several rehearsal techniques she uses in her coachings. We’ve compiled them here in this episode’s worksheet so you can try them out in your next rehearsal as well!


In the Quiztime segment, Skyros Quartet members recommend the excellent book, Indivisible By Four: A String Quartet in Pursuit of Harmony by Arnold Steinhardt.


What has been your favorite coaching experience (receiving or giving)? Leave us a question or comment in the comment section below. Alternatively, you can find us on Instagram and Facebook.

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