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Arts & Culture Student gains life skills by forming a string quartet By Mandy Marksteiner When Emily TenCate started String Theory, a local string quartet made up of high school musicians, she learned about more than just chamber music. While she and three friends prepared to perform classical music for weddings and parties, she gained business, organization and communication skills that will serve her well throughout her professional life. Last summer Emily applied for a youth business grant from the Los Alamos Small Business Development Center. Since many of the students in the high school orchestra are open to being in a quartet, Emily always has access to enough talent to play for any event. “There are so many kids that can play. If someone has an event that needs music they can just call.” She used the grant money to buy everything she needs to have a fully functioning quartet – sheet music and an account with a virtual music store. The experience of leading a quartet beefed up TenCate’s organization, planning and communication skills. For example, she recruited and motivated the other members to join the quartet and rehearse week after week. “I learned how to get four people to meet at the same place and the same time,” she said. “It’s a lot harder than you’d think!” The members include Judy Lee on first violin, Emily TenCate on second violin, Alex Kendrick on viola, and Lauren TenCate on cello. Each of the members started playing their instruments in 4th grade and play in the Los Alamos High School Orchestra. “Emily recruited me to play four months ago. I had never played in a quartet or even outside of school,” said Kendrick.



Lauren TenCate, Emily’s younger sister, said playing with her sister is just like playing in any other group, with one added benefit: “We can practice together at home.” Being in the quartet has given all the members the opportunity to expand their musical skills by learning pieces without the help of a teacher or director, and finding opportunities to perform in public. Their first performance was playing music from the Harry Potter movies at Harry Potter night at Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church. They are working on their own arrangements of popular songs for a wedding reception. “If I want to be in a quartet in college I’ll know how to do it,” said TenCate. She also knows what mistakes to avoid. In the case of String Theory, the biggest mistake was to try to plan rehearsals around the players’ busy schedules, instead of establishing a regular rehearsal time. “We all had AP tests to prepare for, but didn’t realize how long it would take to prepare the music.” Even though Emily and Alex aren’t planning to study music in college (Emily is going to MIT with plans to study bioengineering and Alex plans to study physics at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA), they both hope to play their instruments. “I’ll bring my viola and play it whenever I want to blow off steam,” said Kendricks. Emily said, “I am interested in playing music throughout my whole life. The nice thing about music is that, even though you have to work hard to do it, it’s weirdly relaxing. It’s a methodical thinking process, but it’s a different kind of thinking.” String Theory formed because TenCate noticed that so many students were interested in playing chamber music. Organizing a quartet can benefit young people in every area of their lives, plus it’s just fun to get together and play music.

Essence August/September 2011

Essence Aug-Sep 2011  

The Essence of Los Alamos & White Rock