Sunday, February 29, 2004

Amernet Quartet leaving NKU for Florida in May


Perhaps it was inevitable. The Amernet String Quartet has been wooed away from the Tristate.

The quartet, which is the Corbett String Quartet in Residence at Northern Kentucky University, is leaving to become the resident quartet at Florida International University in Miami.

The award-winning quartet will leave at the end of May. They are trading a half-time position for a full-time post.

For the first time since the LaSalle Quartet came to the University of Cincinnati in 1953, the Cincinnati area will be without a resident string quartet. (Miami University in Oxford has the Oxford Quartet.)

"We are very proud at what we have done at NKU. It's really starting to take off and it's a sad thing to have to leave," says cellist Javier Arias, a founding member. "But sometimes these things happen."

The quartet received the offer last month, after the director of the Florida music school heard them play a concert at the University of Miami. The group will replace the Miami String Quartet, which is moving to Kent State.

In 2000, the Amernet Quartet launched a new string program at NKU, aided by more than $2.5 million from the Corbett Foundation, arts patron Patricia Corbett and the Amernet Society, a nonprofit group founded to support string music. The quartet established NKU's first orchestra, and attracted 14 high-caliber string students.

NKU music department chair Paul Kreider will conduct a search for a new ensemble, and strive to make the post a full-time position, "so we can establish something more permanent," he says.

The Amernet, which was formerly at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, is now in its 12th season. It performs a chamber music series at NKU and another at the Contemporary Arts Center.

They hope to come back to the Tristate to perform, Arias says.

"We hope we can keep our connection in Cincinnati. We don't want to leave for good," he says.

The Amernet Society, which has provided strong support for the ensemble, will hold a meeting March 4 to determine the future of the nonprofit. Its members have raised about $50,000 over five years to support various programs featuring strings, principally NKU and the Amernet Quartet.

"My guess is we'll continue to help NKU keep its string program going, and help others as well," board member Jack Nebergall said.

Top strings

Kaila Potts, 23, a CCM student of Masao Kawasaki and Catharine Carroll, has won the 2004 Sphinx Competition, held in Detroit's Orchestra Hall last Sunday. Her $10,000 first prize includes several performance dates with symphony orchestras in Detroit, Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland and Philadelphia.

She is a native of Las Vegas.

Among the judges was Miami University Provost Ronald Crutcher. The Sphinx Competition showcases top black and Latino string players in the country. The organization's goal is to encourage minority involvement in classical music.

NKU star player

Pianist Anna Polusmiak, 20, an NKU student, won the prestigious Corpus Christi International Competition for Piano and Strings, in Corpus Christi, Texas.

She was selected over 50 participants, winning $5,000 and a date to perform with the Corpus Christi Symphony.

"I just had tears," says her dad, Sergei Polusmiak, who is also her piano teacher at NKU.

Opera casting

Cincinnati Opera has announced its principal cast members for Margaret Garner, the new opera based on the true story of a Northern Kentucky slave and her quest for freedom in Cincinnati.

Besides the already-announced Denyce Graves, who will star in the title role, baritone Gregg Baker will portray Robert Garner, her husband. Baritone Rodney Gilfry will make his company debut singing the role of Edward Gaines, the owner of Maplewood Plantation.

Soprano Angela M. Brown will appear as Cilla, Margaret's mother-in-law. The plantation foreman, Casey, will be sung by Canadian tenor John Mac Master.

Tenor Chad Shelton, a regular at Houston Grand Opera, will sing the role of George Hancock, who is to wed Edward Gaines' daughter.


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