A world-renowned string quartet has been quietly living in the Creative Arts Building, teaching music to students for more than 25 years.
The Alexander String Quartet kicked off the opening day of the Morrison Artists Series’ admission-free concerts at SF State. Established in 1955, the founder of the series, Edward Hohfeld, believed that chamber music could be made accessible to everyone and that the love of music could be instilled in new generations, according to the quartet’s website.
The quartet is composed of four members: Zakarias Grafilo, Frederick Lifsitz, Paul Yarbrough and Sandy Wilson. Serving as an ensemble in-residence for San Francisco performances, they hope to teach students by expanding their music into other disciplines according to Lifsitz, the group’s second violinist.
“It’s amazing to see the response from students listening to this music live in their classroom and to discuss with them the relevance and parallels with what they are focusing on in a particular class,” Lifsitz said.
Richard Festinger, a professor at the University and composer of classical music, organized the Morrison Artists Series and introduced the quartet to a packed audience last Sunday, Sept. 28. He has been colleagues with the quartet since their inception in 1989.
With regard to what he expects students and audience members to hear when they experience the quartet, he said, “They’re going to hear first-rate concert played to the style of music at the time in a more or less authentic way.”
According to San Francisco Performances President Ruth Felt, the quartet’s residency at SF State is so strikingly innovative that Chamber Music America cites it as a model to be emulated throughout the United States.
The quartet played musical pieces ranging from Beethoven, Mozart and Dmitri Shostakovich in the Creative Arts Building’s McKenna Theatre.
Associate Dean of Research and Performances and costume designer Todd Roehrman wore a lively white and red pinstripe suit to the event and addressed attendants with a big smile.
“The quartet has been a point of pride in the University for a number of years,” Roehrman said.
He stated that they offer private instruction toward string students and are important to the school of music as lecturers.
He added that SF State is second to none in the Bay Area for their arts programs because the departments coincide with one another.
“Part of our mission is to reach young people in the community,” Lisfitx said. “Both young musicians and also those who haven’t been able to hear and see music live due to socio-economic difficulties. It’s a great gap to fill so we are training students to help meet that need.”
Lisftiz acts as an ambassador for the University and has traveled both nationally and internationally, accumulating over a million air miles since arriving at SF State, according to him.
“The quartet performs constantly in the world’s greatest concert halls,” Lisfitz said. “To be a presence as influence on this campus and in this city has been a great joy and honor.”