Founding member and principal violinist, Jennifer Bustin, has managed the group since its beginning and is one of Edmonton’s most active freelance performers dividing her activities between performing with the Strathcona String Quartet and frequent appearances in various ensembles in the province including the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra, and the Citadel Theatre Orchestra.
Recently, Jennifer appeared as the concertmaster for the Edmonton Opera productions of King of Atlantis, and Weill in Weimar, 1929, and she performed in the same position for Opera Nuova’s productions of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Offenbach Opera’s Tales of Hoffmann and La Perichole.
Born and raised in Edmonton, Jennifer enjoys riding her quarter horse, practicing yoga, running, cross country skiing and holds a third degree black belt in Chinese/Okinawan Karate at the Northern River Karate School.
Jennifer maintains a full private teaching studio.
Strathcona String Quartet
The Strathcona String Quartet pays tribute to composer George Andrix
by ALLISON KYDD
An Andrix disposition
Hype is so rampant these days that it’s refreshing to talk to an artist who’s a little shy about blowing his own horn. Composer, violinist, violist, chamber and orchestral musician George Andrix admits public relations isn’t his forte, though he acknowledges that musicians must not only reach their audience but also, in the case of classical musicians, convert the unbelievers and create a following.
“If I possessed the secret of interesting young people in classical music, then I’d be a lot richer than I am,” says the seasoned performer, whom some say resembles
a cross between Brahms and an old bluesman. “Many people probably have the idea that [classical music] is not for them. If we could get them started, they might find there’s something there.”
Andrix admits it’s a little usual for a composer who isn’t even dead yet to see their work featured in a retrospective like this weekend’s concert at Convocation
Hall. Fortunately, his friends and colleagues—specifically, the three women who make up the rest of the Strathcona String Quartet—are eager to put him forward. They suggested the all-Andrix series of concerts and a CD of Andrix’s string quartets. The Sunday concert, sponsored by the Edmonton Composers’ Concert Society, winds up the series, and the following week the group steps into the recording studio. They’re aiming for a CD release party at the Yardbird Suite early in the new year.
“George’s music is so great,” says first violinist Jennifer Bustin, a founding member
of the 16-year-old quartet. “It’s appealing to both newcomers to classical music and those with more experience. It’s also challenging, keeps the players interested. We’ve learned a lot.”
The other members of the quartet are cellist Josephine van Lier, who performed solo for the Music at Noon series at McDougall Church two weeks ago, and Anna Kozak, who also plays in the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Alberta Baroque Ensemble. All members of the quartet also give private lessons.
Bustin’s partner, trombonist Ken Read, shares her admiration for Andrix and speculates about the role of new music in our society. Read believes this kind of project fits into an earlier tradition where audiences expected a constant diet of new music. “Unfortunately,” he says, “many new music composers now are in a negative kind of spiral. They don’t have an audience, so they don’t write with an audience in mind, which alienates any audience who hears the music, et cetera. George’s music is clearly written with the listener in mind, and not just the ‘educated’
listener, either. It’s just good music: dramatic, funny, endlessly varied and interesting, and with solid roots in the most entertaining musics of our time—jazz and blues.”
Keeping things interesting has been a lifetime goal for Chicago-born Andrix, who came north to join the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in the early ’70s. Since then, he’s also spent time with the Regina and the Prince George symphony orchestras. “Orchestras are a good way to make a living,” he says. “If you’re a classical musician but don’t play in the symphony, it’s necessary to do a lot of other things to make ends meet.” The Strathcona String Quartet, for instance, plays a lot of weddings and similar gigs. “It’s something we can do without spending a lot of time rehearsing,” Andrix says.
Even before he joined the quartet, Andrix was attracted to smaller ensembles.
With the Ithaca String Quartet, he was a finalist in New York’s Naumberg Competition and spent part of his college years in a quartet-in-residence. More recently, he performed with Calgary’s Beau Quartet while whitewater rafting on the Colorado. “It was a spectacular experience, with or without the quartet,” says Andrix. It also inspired his Grand Canyon Suite, one of the works on the program for the Edmonton concert.
Other works, such as “Shades of Blue,” represent his jazz and blues leanings. There’s also his Variations on a Theme of Bartók and a playful piece originally written for the Plumbers Union, a local recorder group. V
Strathcona String Quartet
Featuring the work of George Andrix • Convocation Hall (U of A) •