Quartet pulls the right strings at URI

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 20, 2001 — “To be successful in a string quartet, members have to communicate to each other without words,” explains violinist Christina Dickson of Hyannis, Mass, a University of Rhode Island junior majoring in music performance.
“When the first violinist hands me a line, I need to play it back as beautifully as she handed it to me,” says cellist Pamela Ursillo of Warwick.

“You need to know what the others are thinking and where they are coming from,” adds the senior. “Our quartet is special because we are all so different and it works. We teach each other new things every time we play together. I love learning from them.”

Dickson and Ursillo know what they are talking about. The two are half of a talented string quartet at URI that not only had the distinction of performing in Belize this summer, thanks to a grant provided by the College of Arts and Sciences’ Hope and Heritage Fund, but reunited earlier this fall to play at the dinner for higher education which was held at Fidelity Investments in Smithfield.

“The arts in Belize are very limited. Currently there is only one music school in the entire country where you can learn strings or piano,” explains the quartet’s other violinist Daniela Gongora, a Belizean exchange student.

“The best part of the trip was performing for my fellow Belizeans. It was a real treat for the music students there to see a live performance,” Gongora adds, noting that Belizean students rarely get to see professional groups perform and then only through the courtesy of some ambassadors from other countries.

The URI quartet performed at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Belize. “It was the finest performance the quartet ever gave,” says the proud quartet coach John Dempsey. “They were outstanding not only as musicians, but as representatives from URI and our country. Dempsey notes the trip was made possible by the Hope and Heritage Fund which provides monies from private donations for students and faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences who have been invited to perform, present research, or exhibit their work nationally or internationally.

Kirstie Newton of Kingston, the fourth member of the quartet, began playing the violin when she was 3. She switched to the viola about 10 years ago. Newton graduated last May and now teaches violin and viola. She also works part-time as a secretary at the West Kingston Baptist Church. Playing with the quartet has been richly satisfying, she says, noting that not only did she grow musically, but also spiritually while attending college. She is considering ministry overseas.

Ursillo plans to follow in her sister’s footsteps and become a music teacher after she graduates. Dickson hopes to play in a symphony orchestra, and Gongora may go to graduate school or teach strings at a private school and open her own studio.

Wherever their paths lead them, the quartet will always recall their shared musical experiences. “We were very much in sync with each other,” Gongora says.

Contributions to the Hope and Heritage Fund can be made by contacting Tom Zorabedian, senior development officer for the College of Arts and Sciences, at 874-2853 or zman@advance.uri.edu.

For Information: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116