The Raphael Spiro Quartet is Irene Gadeholt, Mary Ann Coggins Kaza, Gayle Budd O’Grady and Sharon Eng.

The Raphael Spiro Quartet is Irene Gadeholt, Mary Ann Coggins Kaza, Gayle Budd O’Grady and Sharon Eng.

Master music teacher Raphael Spiro died nearly 20 years ago, but his legend continues to inspire his former students.

“He was one of our greatest influences,” says Sharon Eng, who plays viola. “He was the master teacher in Oregon. All professional musicians still alive today were his students for viola and violin.”

She believes if he were alive today, he would be moved to tears by the efforts of Eng and three others who have formed a string quartet in his name and now play for, among others, medically-fragile patients.

Eng plays viola, joined by Irene Gadeholt and Mary Ann Coggins Kaza on violin, and Gayle Budd O’Grady on cello. They formed the Raphael Spiro String Quartet five years ago by happenstance.

The four musicians had been chatting during a chamber music reunion and proposed the idea of playing together to honor Spiro’s legacy. It was being in the right place at the right time.

Each performer, ranging in age from 60 to 73, has had a successful career as a musician, playing in symphonies and other prestigious musical groups. They have studied with master teachers to perfect and hone their craft.

Kaza, for example, won the coveted spot as first violinist for the Oregon Symphony, performing for more than 40 years under four conductors, and at such places as the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall.

She also performed alongside prestigious teachers and conductors, including Leonard Bernstein. She now has 40 students of her own.

Gadeholt performed many seasons as a core member of the Oregon Symphony and has held the post of assistant concertmaster for many ensembles. She even played for opera singer Andrea Bocelli. She is actively performing in many local chamber groups while also mentoring young musicians through private teaching.

Eng has received rave reviews at the United Nations in New York City, and played for national audiences in Seoul, Athens, Australia, China and the sultan’s family in Kuwait. 

O’Grady played cello for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, has played in several Portland groups, and also teaches privately.

Each musician brings her unique talents to the quartet, but they describe working together as “the joy of recreating a composer’s music, making sure the tone is beautiful, the interpretation inspiring and finding the magic that happens when we play together well and all are playing at the highest level,” Eng says.

They each have their favorite composers and collaborate on their choices for concerts. Formulating the next program is a challenging experience.

For their June concert, they “climbed Mount Everest,” by performing monumental pieces from Mozart, Bartok and Beethoven. They represented a complex treatment of a musical idea, and were pinnacle pieces written toward the end of the composers’ lives.

As a string quartet, they have received several grants that allow them to perform for underserved communities, and they express deep feelings about playing in children’s hospitals.

When playing for the children, they bring costumes and other visual treats, and spend a little time explaining each piece of music they will play.

For another project, the quartet recorded music for a high school website. Art students would listen to the music while working on their projects.

“Once you make an ensemble, it’s a job, a labor of love,” says O’Grady, who recently retired from the Oregon Symphony and is enjoying the freedom to do things with her children, attend concerts and other music programs at her church.

Their funding comes from public agencies, individual patrons, corporations and foundations. They are looking for a sizable grant that would extend to more engagements. 

In the meantime, they enjoy pursuing their music, as well as some personal hobbies.

Eng, for example, enjoys scuba diving, and wants to take her camper van to parks all across the nation. Kaza repairs instruments, recently dismantling and restoring a treasured violin for a New York composer.

Visit raphaelspirostringquartet.org for more information.

courtesy photoThe Raphael Spiro Quartet is Irene Gadeholt, Mary Ann Coggins Kaza, Gayle Budd O’Grady and Sharon Eng.Living a legacyRaphael Spiro String Quartet is four career musicians paying homage to their late, great instructorBy MAGGI WHITEMaster music teacher Raphael Spiro died nearly 20 years ago, but his legend continues to inspire his former students.“He was one of our greatest influences,” says Sharon Eng, who plays viola. “He was the master teacher in Oregon. All professional musicians still alive today were his students for viola and violin.”She believes if he were alive today, he would be moved to tears by the efforts of Eng and three others who have formed a string quartet in his name and now play for, among others, medically-fragile patients.Eng plays viola, joined by Irene Gadeholt and Mary Ann Coggins Kaza on violin, and Gayle Budd O’Grady on cello. They formed the Raphael Spiro String Quartet five years ago by happenstance.The four musicians had been chatting during a chamber music reunion and proposed the idea of playing together to honor Spiro’s legacy. It was being in the right place at the right time.Each performer, ranging in age from 60 to 73, has had a successful career as a musician, playing in symphonies and other prestigious musical groups. They have studied with master teachers to perfect and hone their craft.Kaza, for example, won the coveted spot as first violinist for the Oregon Symphony, performing for more than 40 years under four conductors, and at such places as the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall.She also performed alongside prestigious teachers and conductors, including Leonard Bernstein. She now has 40 students of her own.Gadeholt performed many seasons as a core member of the Oregon Symphony and has held the post of assistant concertmaster for many ensembles. She even played for opera singer Andrea Bocelli. She is actively performing in many local chamber groups while also mentoring young musicians through private teaching.Eng has received rave reviews at the United Nations in New York City, and played for national audiences in Seoul, Athens, Australia, China and the sultan’s family in Kuwait. O’Grady played cello for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, has played in several Portland groups, and also teaches privately.Each musician brings her unique talents to the quartet, but they describe working together as “the joy of recreating a composer’s music, making sure the tone is beautiful, the interpretation inspiring and finding the magic that happens when we play together well and all are playing at the highest level,” Eng says.They each have their favorite composers and collaborate on their choices for concerts. Formulating the next program is a challenging experience.For their June concert, they “climbed Mount Everest,” by performing monumental pieces from Mozart, Bartok and Beethoven. They represented a complex treatment of a musical idea, and were pinnacle pieces written toward the end of the composers’ lives.As a string quartet, they have received several grants that allow them to perform for underserved communities, and they express deep feelings about playing in children’s hospitals.When playing for the children, they bring costumes and other visual treats, and spend a little time explaining each piece of music they will play.For another project, the quartet recorded music for a high school website. Art students would listen to the music while working on their projects.“Once you make an ensemble, it’s a job, a labor of love,” says O’Grady, who recently retired from the Oregon Symphony and is enjoying the freedom to do things with her children, attend concerts and other music programs at her church.Their funding comes from public agencies, individual patrons, corporations and foundations. They are looking for a sizable grant that would extend to more engagements. In the meantime, they enjoy pursuing their music, as well as some personal hobbies.Eng, for example, enjoys scuba diving, and wants to take her camper van to parks all across the nation. Kaza repairs instruments, recently dismantling and restoring a treasured violin for a New York composer.Visit raphaelspirostringquartet.org for more information. ■

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