The 2020-21 academic year marks the commencement of the Grissom Artist-in-Residency Program, which brings high caliber artists to campus for education, student engagement and performances. This year’s artists-in-residence will be The Harlem Quartet, which is comprised of four musicians who focus on giving engaging performances while showcasing music that is typically underperformed or underrepresented.
The program is made possible by a generous donation from David Grissom through the Marlene and David Grissom Endowment for Academic Excellence. Grissom served a long tenure as chair of the Centre College Board of Trustees and continues to be a life trustee of the College.
“Our students deserve a chance to see what practicing artists do and how they prepare. The Harlem Quartet will even team teach a class during CentreTerm, as well as appear as guests in classes across campus,” says Robert Seebacher, director of instrumental programs at Centre. “In short, this residency provides unprecedented access to highly influential artists.”
Seebacher explains that the quartet conveys exceptional skill in teaching and are capable of sharing their love of music and the power that music has to shape societies and give voice to those who would not otherwise be heard. “This, coupled with their energy, enthusiasm and intelligence, made them a natural choice for the program’s inaugural year.”
Though the College is excited to begin this program, pandemic adjustments are being made to enforce how students and professors will be able to access these artists.
“Our largest challenge is that music has traditionally been showcased in the concert hall,” Seebacher says. “We simply can’t place that many people in a confined space just yet. But, because the Harlem Quartet is on the cutting edge of music and access to music, they are happy to host all events virtually, with the hope of coming to campus later in the fall, CentreTerm or spring.”
When asked how he thought the pandemic would shape this program, Seebacher was able to remain positive, stressing that COVID-19 has inspired us all to be more adaptable, and this flexibility will carry the program through.
“If nothing else,” he says, “the pandemic has shown us that we can still function, can still make music, can still bring people together. We live in an age saturated with technologies that allow us to see and interact with each other in real-time, even if we are literally half a world apart. It is a wonderful thing, and we are now taking full advantage of it.”
The Harlem Quartet will not only be making music on campus, they will be immersed in the campus culture. United by their different backgrounds, they are champions of reform through music and offer an often-absent perspective in classical music.
“Whether they are performing with the Centre Symphony Orchestra or guest lecturing a class in Spanish or philosophy, or presenting a convocation, they will engage our campus community and bring us all closer together,” Seebacher says. “They will provide a better understanding of who we are and why we need music to unify often disparate ideas, notions, and people.”
by Ainsley Wooldridge ‘21
September 10, 2020