The two time Grammy winning group, Turtle Island Quartet, will play at Baker Theater Monday.


For Turtle Island Quartet cello player Mark Summer, it all started at age four. 

His mother took him to a small children’s rhythm band concert, and as he watched the young musicians tinker with their triangles and drums, he was hooked. At age nine he began playing the cello, and now, several years later, the co-founder can boast that the quartet holds two Grammys. 

The Turtle Island Quartet will take the Baker University Center Theater stage Monday at 7:30 p.m., composed of its four members: co-founder David Balakrishnan and Mateusz Smoczynski on violin, Benjamin von Gutzeit on viola, and Mark Summer on cello. 

But this isn’t your typical classical-music quartet. The group, which is approaching its 30th anniversary, varies in its style, from bluegrass to jazz. 

“You might be a fan of jazz, classical or world music, but it’s still possible to see how all those different genres can really work well together,” said Caroline Heaney, the quartet’s tour publicist. “There doesn’t need to be such a big wall between different genres of music.” 

Early Monday, the quartet will work with voluntary students from the School of Music to talk about the differences in the kind of grooves found in classical music versus jazz, blues, and rock. 

“They’re extremely well-known in the classical world as amazing performers,” said Andrew Holzaepfel, associate director of the Campus Involvement Center. “They’ve taken a really interesting approach to [music] that is exciting and I think our students will be excited by.”

And although Holzaepfel anticipates some of the audience will be made up of faculty and Athens community members, Summer encourages college students to come as well. 

“I think live music in general is inspiring to all ages,” Summer said. “Getting away from the screen, getting (earbuds) out of the ears and being together with a group of people listening is very healthy and inspiring.” 

At Monday’s program, attendees can anticipate covers of pieces by Miles Davis as well as a brand new original composition by Balakrishnan, “Rebirth of the Holy Fool.” Additionally, the quartet will play pieces from its album, Confetti Man, set for an October release. 

“People get an idea that a string quartet is a solemn experience,” Summer said. “I always like to say that our concerts are fun. There’s not a lot of equipment, there’s not a lot of flash and dazzle with lights; it all happens with the musicians on stage and the audiences always respond positively to what we do.”


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