An evening with the Tesla Quartet

Internationally renowned string quartet, Tesla, wowed audience members last Friday with a performance of high classical music. The scores ranged from Haydn and Brahm to Janáček, whose piece recounts a murder through the voices of the four stringed instruments.

The quartet is Mount Allison’s Marjorie Young Bell string quartet-in-residence. The quartet’s residency is supported by a fund that was established to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mt. A’s first Bachelor of Music degree and the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Marjorie Young Bell Conservatory of Music.

The quartet is made up of violinists Ross Snyder and Michelle Lie, cellist Serafim Smigelskiy, and violist Edwin Kaplan. Snyder founded the original group in 2008 at Juilliard. As the only remaining original member, Snyder has watched the group evolve and develop into what it is today.

Tesla Quartet’s musicians from left to right: Ross Snyder, Serafim Smigelskiy, Michelle Lie, and Edwin Kaplan. Dario Acosta/Photographer
Tesla Quartet’s musicians from left to right: Ross Snyder, Serafim Smigelskiy, Michelle Lie, and Edwin Kaplan. Dario Acosta/Photographer

The quartet takes its name after electrical engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla. “[Tesla] talks about experimentally harnessing and transmitting the earth’s natural forces as history and that’s what we try to do with music,” Snyder said.

Described by classical music magazine The Strad as “technically superb,” the group draws their inspiration from each other and mentors like the Takács Quartet.

“You will hear [one of the others playing] and will get so excited because what they are doing is so cool,” Kaplan said. “It just makes you want to be even better too.”

Tesla discovered the opening for a string quartet-in-residence at Mt. A when they saw an advertisement shared on Facebook by the Banff Centre’s competition director of music activities. Having all come from different metropolitan areas in the United States, the move to small-town Sackville was a big change, but one that they felt happy about.

They are also excited to be travelling in the upcoming months. “We are going to [Europe] very soon, and to parts of Asia in the new year,” Lie said.

Snyder said that the group was excited to be “playing [one of their favourite composers] Hyden’s pieces in parts of Europe where he would have played and even written them.”

Other exciting updates for the Quartet include arranging a debut album and starting a Facebook live stream, a project that entails performing and answering fan questions once a month.

The quartet also performs outreach work in places such as soup kitchens and children’s hospitals. “We promote educating younger audiences and younger players,” Lie said. “They are our future audience.”

As a word of encouragement to Mt. A students, Smigelskiy shared one of the best pieces of advice that he ever received: “There’s a very high chance of you failing at something that you’re not passionate about, so why not go ahead and fail at something that you are passionate about?”

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