The Attacca String Quintet is an ensemble formed in January at the S.C. Governor's School for the Arts in Greenville, but you wouldn't know it was so new if you heard the members play.
Members performed the first movement of Schubert's String Quintet in C Major and did very well. As Larry Barnfield, creator and host of the Piccolo Rising Stars series observed, they do a lot more on stage than just look good.
After the performance, Attacca members - Tina Zheng and Zoe Kushubar on violin, Ben Carter on viola, and Xavier Westergaard and Margaret Murphy on cello - admitted to Barnfield that Carter tends to boss the others around because "he likes to work and the rest like to giggle."
The series, which began last week and continues with 4 p.m. concerts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, features artistically gifted students age 8-18, musicians offering recitals, visual artists and writers all presenting their work with heart. It's an annual opportunity, part of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, to showcase young talent.
In the auditorium of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church on Monday night, the audience was treated to the first of six shows. Performers included Attacca Quintet; David Thompson, an 18-year-old classical guitarist; Katie Kratzer, an 18-year-old visual artist; and Katherine Woo, a 15-year-old violinist.
Woo, a student at Riverside High School in Greer, is enrolled in Juilliard's pre-college program. She was accompanied by her mother, Jin Woo, on the piano.
In the style of the public radio show "From the Top," Barnfield joined the performers on stage after each performance to introduce the kids and talk with them about their motivations and experiences, sharing anecdotes from their personal lives. The kids received a standing ovation from the audience.
"I am a visual artist," said Kratzer during a Q&A with Barnfield at the show. "I like working with oil paints because I think the medium allows me to work with flexibility about my subject. My goal is to capture the essence of psychological development of one's sense of self."
Barnfield developed the series six years ago to show audiences the abundance of young talent in our communities. He says the most challenging part is organizing and scheduling the shows, then it's just fun.
"I look forward most to the interviews I do with the students," he said. "It's so much fun to do and to listen to them. Why they are interested in the art form or what motivates them to perform. It really is inspiring."
His enthusiasm is infectious and his enjoyment obvious.
The series includes 40 student performers from all over South Carolina who auditioned to gain a spot in the program. The series is produced in association with South Carolina for Arts Education.
Adam Kremer is 8 years old and has been playing the cello for about 41/2 years. He started playing the cello because he wanted to be just like his dad, Damian Kremer, who plays cello for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.
"I just love how it sounds," he said. "I practice for at least an hour everyday. I am so excited about performing and learning more music."
A quiet kid, Adam really knows how to make his cello sing when he performs, said Barnfield. He is the only 8-year-old in the series that usually is restricted to musicians 9-18.
Ellen Dressler Moryl, former director of Charleston's Office of Cultural Affairs who also founded the Piccolo Spoleto Festival and ran it for 35 years, now is a "Rising Stars" participant, playing cello in one of the programs.
"I wouldn't call myself a rising star," said Dressler Moryl. "Maybe 60 or so years ago. But I am so excited to be a part of this series. Helping kids discover their talent is such a wonderful feeling."
She will be performing in the final recital, playing Handel's Trio Sonata No. 16 in G Minor, originally for two violins and piano, transcribed for two cellos and piano. Dressler Moryl will be joined by 17-year-old Xavier Westergaard, a member of the Attacca Quintet.
"I am most looking forward to having the opportunity to play music with musicians I have never collaborated with before," Westergaard said. "I also adore the piece, and this is a wonderful chance to get to play it."
Arshie Chevalwala is a Goldring Journalist from Syracuse University.