ETHEL, a contemporary string quartet based in New York City, has been Denison’s Ensemble-in- Residence since September 2014. ETHEL has been engaging the entire campus and the greater community in an exploration of music and its connections with other academic disciplines.
The quartet spends two weeks on campus each semester. With music students, ETHEL conducts master classes, works with student composers and assists with the performance of their pieces in recital, among other mentoring experiences. In the classrooms ETHEL, Denison professors, and students have explored music as language; investigated how we communicate, improvised versus scripted; have seen studio art students create pieces inspired by ETHEL works; have created short pieces of music drawn from filed recordings and photos taken by environmental science students culminating in an exhibit at the Denison Museum.
ETHEL experienced its first Denison welcome at their September 2013 Vail Series concert. “Those who attended that concert, as well as their bonus performance in front of Doane Library, can attest to their virtuosity as well as the connection they made with the Denison community,” says Mike Morris, Director of Arts Programming and the Vail Series. “In turn, ETHEL’s musicians were taken by our students’ level of engagement and the warm reception they received at Denison.” That led to the creation of the ensemble-in- residence program, which has exceeded all expectations.
ETHEL is comprised of Ralph Farris (viola), Dorothy Lawson (cello), Kip Jones (violin), and Corin Lee (violin). At the heart of ETHEL is a quest for a common creative expression that is forged in the celebration of community. As cultural and musical “pollinators,” the quartet brings its collaborative discoveries to audiences through multi-dimensional musical repertoire and community engagement.