NCCU Offers Free Concert With The Harlem Quartet

The Harlem Quartet, a world-class ensemble of string musicians from diverse ethnic backgrounds, is coming to North Carolina Central University on Sept. 8 for a special 7 p.m. performance at B.N. Duke Auditorium that is free and open to the public.

Praised for its “panache” by The New York Times, the Harlem Quartet is currently the resident
ensemble in the New England Conservatory of Music’s Professional String Quartet Program. Its mission is to advance diversity in classical music while engaging young and new audiences through a varied repertoire that highlights works by minority composers.

The Harlem Quartet has gained a wide audience since its acclaimed Carnegie Hall debut in 2006. That same year, the ensemble also appeared at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theatre with a well-received performance of Wynton Marsalis’s At the Octoroon Balls. In collaboration with New York Philharmonic Principal Cellist Carter Brey, the group performed at the Library of Congress in a concert employing the Library’s matched collection of Stradivari instruments.

Each member of the Harlem Quartet is a seasoned solo artist, having appeared with the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Pops, and the Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, National, New World and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras, among others. As a quartet, they have performed in many communities across the country including Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Boston.

Dr. Timothy Holley, associate professor of music at NCCU, said the quartet’s program strikes a fine balance between the standard chamber music repertoire and that of African-American composers.

“Among the genres of operatic and orchestral music, chamber music—which includes the string quartet in particular–is still recognized as the backbone of classical music,” he said. “It is an interesting and challenging notion to have such an ensemble performing in concert, not just at NCCU but any performance space in the African-American community.”

Holley also noted the unique blend of culture created by the quartet’s lineup. Violinist Ilmar Gavilán is Cuban; violinist Melissa White is African-American; violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez was born in Canada but his family is from the Dominican Republic; and cellist Paul Wiancko is of Polish and Japanese descent.

The quartet opened its 2009-10 season as featured soloists on the national Sphinx Chamber
Orchestra Tour, including performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Eastman School of Music, Oberlin College, and the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. In December, it gave two performances at the White House for guests of President and First Lady Michelle Obama, and made a Christmas morning appearance on NBC’s “Today Show.” The Quartet has also performed with the legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and made its London debut performance at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to the U.K.

The Harlem Quartet performed during the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild 2010-2011 Masters Series. This year, the guild has partnered with NCCU’s Department of Music and University College to bring the ensemble to NCCU as part of a return performance in the Triangle Area. The Sept. 8 concert is funded through the Lyceum Series. The Raleigh Chamber Music Guild will host a ticketed show 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, in the Fletcher Opera House in Raleigh. Tickets are available at the guild’s office, 919-821-2030 or

“The Raleigh Chamber Music Guild has done an amazing job in identifying and engaging young chamber music ensembles of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds in their annual chamber music series,” Holley said. “They have wanted for several years to partner with NCCU in hosting a concert beyond the city limits of Raleigh. It is also a very important charge of the RCMG that its guest performers have a close and direct connection to the community of their audience.”

He described the partnership as “a visionary undertaking” that helps challenge perceptions that only certain styles and traditions of music are presented at institutions such as NCCU.

Learn more about The Harlem Quartet on their website,

WHAT: The Harlem Quartet performs at NCCU
WHEN: 7 p.m., Sept. 8
WHERE: B.N. Duke Auditorium, 1801 Fayetteville St., Durham
COST: Free, open to the public.
INFO: Call University College at 530-6932