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The Quadrivium Players aim to make us think about music — and culture — in a different way. 

Connecting Cultural Dots

Classical music, "art" music, or whatever other label is appropriate these days, continually has to justify its existence. With all the cultural white noise swirling around us, classical music can sound a clear bell of reason. Classical music may never be as attention-grabbing as the latest boy-band, but people with vision can reinvent classical music programming and pull us back in.

Alfredo Franco, adult programs manager at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, has hit upon a way to inject life back into both music and art. "From the moment that I came into this position, I'd been thinking that a major museum requires a musical arm, a musical wing — a resident ensemble," he says.

Having grown up in Washington, Franco had long been aware of the presence of music inside the walls of the major museums in the capital. He naturally thought of music "as part of an art museum's mission." However, the Virginia Museum, to the best of anyone's recollection, had never had an ongoing resident ensemble, at least not since the '30s and '40s. Franco felt acutely the need to integrate music into the museum's work.

Franco began sending out feelers in the Richmond musical community — many musicians were supportive and encouraging, but most were committed elsewhere. Eventually, Mary Boodell, principal flutist of the Richmond Symphony, took the bait. She brought in the Beaumont Trio, who were interested in expanding their ensemble to a quartet. The Quadrivium Players were born.

In addition to Boodell, the Quadrivium includes violinist Michael Heald, cellist Hannah Holman and pianist Peter Miyamoto. Heald, who is obtaining a doctorate at Michigan State University, has performed with several prestigious ensembles, including the City of Birmingham Orchestra. Holman is the assistant principal cello of the Richmond Symphony. However, the member who may emerge as the star quarterback is Miyamoto, who studied piano with superstar teachers Leon Fleischer and Claude Frank. Miyamoto plays with a bravura style that gathers up the other players in his energy. The quartet's first concert oscillated between moments of near-perfect ensemble playing and a sort of noisy conversation among vibrant personalities.

Franco points out that a major difference between the Virginia Museum's ensemble and other museums' music programs is that Quadrivium "is going to make an effort to link the arts. ..." Rather than merely acting as a venue for a musical performance, the museum will explicitly draw connections among music, art and even literature in its new classical music series, "Soundframes." Quadrivium is not just a bunch of hired hands, "not just performers," Franco says. "They are consciously an educational agent." Future plans for the ensemble include visits to schools as well as educational events directly aimed at adult art patrons.

Making music for its own sake is good, but making music with a vision is better. As what we think of as classical music recedes further and further into the past, musicians must invent increasingly creative means of reasserting their place in our collective consciousness. One way is to remind us that classical music is still being written, and to that end, Quadrivium will present a concert of contemporary American music in conjunction with the reopening of the museum's Lewis galleries on April 7. "It isn't possible to understand art, music and literature in isolation from each other," Franco says. Culture is an organic thing — separating out its components weakens the whole. Quadrivium's mission is to begin piecing things back
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