Ajax Quartet chosen for Takacs Quartet residency

New graduate ensemble wins audition for two-year appointment at CU

By Peter Alexander

The Ajax Quartet, a string ensemble that is less than a year old, has won the audition to study with the Takacs String Quartet at the CU College of Music, starting in September. They will succeed the Altius Quartet in the highly coveted position as the designated graduate string quartet-in-residence at the college.

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Ajax Quartet

The four members of the quartet—violinists Tom Yaron, Renée Hemsing-Patten, violist Mario Rivera and cellist Eric Haugen—came to the CU from different parts of the country. “There’s not any way we could have met up before CU,” Hemsing-Patten says.

“The faculty members, having auditioned all of us and knowing our playing, seemed to think we would play well together. So they introduced us to each other, and they were completely right! We hit it off right away.”

Only three weeks after they had starting working together, the Takacs asked the Ajax Quartet to play one piece for an event at The Academy. Members of the Takacs Quartet offered to coach the new group prior to that performance.

“We hadn’t even thought about auditioning for the Takacs program at that time,” Hemsing-Patten says. “But as things progressed over the fall semester, we just began to feel like everything was working out really well, and decided to go ahead and shoot for that. There was an official audition in early February.”

Having won the CU residency is the realization of a dream for the members of the quartet, she says. “I listened to recordings of them because my grandma was a violinist in quartets since I was a kid, so I’ve known who they are through my entire life. And I know the other guys have as well. It’s a dream to be able to work with them.

“We have all wanted to play in a quartet in different points in our lives, and have just never found the right group, so for us it’s something we’re really serious about pursuing.”

There will be opportunities to hear the Ajax Quartet in Boulder in the coming weeks, before their official performances as graduate quartet-in-residence next fall. At 4 p.m. Saturday, April 29, they will play a full concert at the Carillon, and at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, they will share a concert at the Academy with the Altius String Quartet. For the second program, the Ajax Quartet will play Dvořák’s American String Quartet, and both groups together will play Mendelssohn’s popular Octet for Strings.

Both performances will be free and open to the public.

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Ajax Quartet
4 p.m. Saturday, April 29
The Carillon, 2525 Taft Dr., Boulder

Ajax Quartet and Altius String Quartet|
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9
The Academy, 970 Aurora Ave., Boulder
Dvořák: String Quartet in F major, Op. .96, “American” (Ajax Quartet)
Work TBD (Altius String Quartet)
Mendelssohn: Octet in E-flat major for strings

Both concerts are free.

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CU College of Music adds Fourth Named Program

$2 million gift endows the Roser Piano and Keyboard Department

By Peter Alexander

The Roser Piano and Keyboard Department joins the Thompson Jazz Studies Program, the Ritter Family Classical Guitar Program and the Eklund Opera Program as one of four named programs at the University of Colorado, Boulder, College of Music.

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Becky Roser. Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado.

The name is the result of a $2 million endowment created by Becky Roser, who has helped support the College of Music in a number of significant ways. She is currently the chair of the music+ campaign committee, a fundraising effort that aims to raise $50 million for the College of Music in advance of its centennial in 2020.

Roser’s is the first major gift to the music+ campaign since it’s public announcement earlier this year. Roser says the gift reflects her love of the piano from childhood. “My mom and dad bought me a piano back in 1951,” she said in a statement from the university. “I played that piano from the time I was young, and then my daughter Nicole played it, too.”

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Robert Shay

“This is an individual of unique vision and leadership and commitment,” College of Music Dean Robert Shay says. “Becky was determined to make this happen, and it really comes from the heart, it comes from her passion, from her love for music generally, but I think her love for this College of Music in particular.

“I want to highlight from my perspective how much Becky means to all of us here in the college and how appreciative we feel of this very generous effort. These kind of funds really allow all of us, our faculty especially, to kind of dream big.”

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David Korevaar

David Korevaar, the Helen and Peter Weil Faculty Fellow and acting chair of the piano and keyboard department, says it will take some time for the faculty to realize what the gift will mean. “It’s a whole new world as far we’re concerned,” he says. “We’re all still sort of just getting our heads around this. We’re going to end up in a situation where we can be thinking more strategically, and thinking bigger than we’ve been able to think.

“We have this great feeling that Becky, who has been such a friend to the College of Music, is willing to make this amazing investment in keyboard. That’s just kind of a stunning, wonderful thing.”

Korevaar said that the faculty have discussed several opportunities that the funds would create. These include a summer piano festival in Boulder, residencies by distinguished keyboard artists that would include both teaching and performances, and increased support for scholarships and professional development for students. Such plans will develop over time, he says.

The statement from the university quoted Roser saying “It makes me happy and it brings me joy to be able to do this. An endowment goes on forever, and now more than ever, it’s important to have done this.”

Prior to heading the music+ campaign, Roser served on the College of Music Advisory Board, and led a fundraising program to refinish the pianos in the Grusin Music Hall and Chamber Hall.

The contribution to the piano and keyboard department is only the latest in a series of gifts from the Roser family to the CU Boulder campus. The Roser Visiting Artists Program brings artists, musicians, dancers and filmmakers to campus as guests. In 2009, the ATLAS Institute’s home on campus was named the Roser ATLAS Center in honor of a gift by Becky and her late husband Jim Roser.