Since September 2017, the Rolston String Quartet, a group that was coached at the 2016 Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival by the likes of the Brentano and Emerson string quartets before winning that year’s prestigious Banff International String Quartet Competition, has been the Yale School of Music’s fellowship quartet-in-residence. The opportunity to be mentored by the Brentano String Quartet, YSM’s quartet-in-residence, and to mentor undergraduates studying at the University’s Department of Music, while maintaining an active performance schedule, has been fruitful.
Rolston cellist Jonathan Lo pointed to collaborations with such distinguished School of Music faculty members as composer Hannah Lash, clarinetist David Shifrin, and flutist Ransom Wilson as invaluable opportunities. Of the Brentanos, Lo said, “They have been some of our foremost musical inspirations.” He described the Brentanos as “incredible musicians,” quick to share his appreciation for the chance “to be able to play for musicians of their caliber … one of the finest quartets in the world.”
Brentano violinist Mark Steinberg talked about the freedom YSM’s fellowship quartet-in-residence has at YSM to discover itself. “We give them regular coaching,” Steinberg said, “but we don’t overwhelm them.” The world doesn’t simply need more quartets, he said, but “we’re in a world that needs a string quartet with something urgent to say.”
Ideas are in plentiful supply at Yale, and “the University as a whole is open to (the Rolstons),” Steinberg said. “Everything that’s going on is fodder for your own thinking. The resources at Yale are incredible that way. It’s a really fertile place.”
The Rolstons’ residence, which ends in May 2019, has allowed them to pass some of their shared experience on to other, younger musicians. “For us to be able to work with the undergraduate students,” and to gain teaching experience, “is very invigorating for us,” Lo said. “Any serious ensemble should consider the (fellowship) program, because it offers a great balance of resources and input. It’s been everything that we could have hoped for.”