Chamber music by way of Harlem

The Harlem Quartet performs live

June 15, 2012

Caroline O'Donovan and Joe DeCeault

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They've graced the stage at Carnegie Hall and now they're live in WBEZ's Studio 4 on Navy Pier. The Harlem Quartet will release their fourth CD this year, a new arrangement of West Side Story and a collaboration with the Chicago Sinfonietta that will debut at their concert this weekend. They will also premier Michael Abels' Delights and Dances, a piece commissioned by the Sphinx Organization, a promoter of classical music for black and Latino artists.

Sphinx founded the quartet after they won a competition through the national non-profit six years ago. It is the mission of the quartet to feature arrangements and original compositions by musicians of color, and to reach out to minority youth and encourage a passion for classical music.

Violinist Melissa White grew up in Lansing, Mich., where opportunities for learning classical violin were few. After seeing violinst Itzhak Pearlman perform on Sesame Street as a young girl, however, White was hooked. She received private violin tutoring throughout school and joined the Detroit Symphony Civics Orchestra before ultimately becoming a member of the Harlem Quartet. It was because of that early mentoring that White has dedicated herself to promoting classical music through the quartet to minority youth. "They understood my situation. I didn't come from a lot of means and they understood that I needed this nurturing," White said. "It was a bigger thing for them to do for me than I had realized at the time."

The Harlem Quartet will perform at Wentz Concert Hall of North Central College on June 16 and in the Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center on June 18.