By Alison Baumgartner
For 11 years, Borromeo has been in residency at Colorado State University and captivating its audiences with their contemporary take on classical music.
“Only a few groups in the world can do what the Borromeo achieve; it’s an honor to be a part of that experience here at CSU,” said Ron Francois, coordinator of strings at CSU.
Borromeo’s story is much lengthier than their residency at CSU. Twenty-eight years ago, four students played a series of concerts north of Milan. They named themselves Borromeo after the picturesque Borromeo Islands nearby, and have been performing ever since. While that may seem like a long history, Borromeo roots go even deeper. First violinist Nick Kitchen and cellist Yessun Kim had been performing together since they were 16 before they cofounded Borromeo.
Even after all these years, their vision has remained fresh and forward-thinking.
“String quartet is such an amazing tradition,” says Kitchen. “If you love the richness of how classical music fits together, the string quartet is the ideal thing to see.” But don’t expect them to just blow the dust off of some old classics when they come to CSU. “We are always rediscovering and recreating what we think the meaning of classical music is.”
In fact, their music has been described as taking “a private tour through a composer’s mind,” by Cathy Fuller, Classical Radio Boston host on WCRB radio.
During their residency at CSU, Borromeo has educated numerous students with new perspectives and a modern view of classical music.
All of the members of Borromeo are passionate about music education. For Kitchen, it’s “a shared process,” and one that students at CSU, and the general public, can be a part of via their Master Class. Borromeo brings certain expertise to help students develop skills, but they are still learning new thoughts and ideas through teaching.
Education is more complex than the symbiotic relationship between student and teacher. To Borromeo, music education is two-sided. Those who listen can learn from it just as much as those who play the instruments.
“We feel that music is beautiful enough that if we give it an honest and spirited reading we can making someone enjoy it even if they don’t know anything about music,” says Kitchen.
Conversely, when a student learns to make the music, they learn incredible physical skills through creating mood and compelling rhythm and melodies.
“Music education is a fantastic thing for people to learn even if it’s just a little bit. Even if it’s just a scale,” says Kitchen. “I personally believe that if we find ways to get people to learn an instrument, and what it means to make a melody, you’ve taught them something important.”
“The Borromeo are excellent teachers. They connect with the students, are really down-to-earth, and inspire everyone,” said Francois. “I love working with [them] because I am attracted to their way of playing. […] I learn new things from them every year.”
You can see Borromeo String Quartet on May 5th, 2017 in the Griffin Concert Hall at CSU. Tickets available at LCtix.com
Their master class is May 6 at 10:30 a.m. and is free and open to public observation.