ETHEL Presents 10th Anniversary NACAP Events, 8/14-9/2

The nationally acclaimed string quartet ETHEL commemorates a decade serving as the Ensemble-in-Residence of the Grand Canyon Music Festival's Native American Composer Apprentice Project (NACAP). Since 2005, ETHEL has been extending the gift of music to the underserved and rural communities of the Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations. To date, ETHEL's residency has impacted almost 18,000 students, premiered over 150 works by Native American children, and touched more than 15 schools throughout Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. (See below for more details.)

Next month, ETHEL embarks on its 10th annual educational visit to middle and high schools on Native American reservations. For about three weeks, the quartet conducts intense, one-on-one tutorial sessions, readings and rehearsals to help student composers refine their works. They then showcase the children's pieces at school performances, all culminating at the public performances at the Grand Canyon Music Festival, which are recorded and sometimes later aired on National Public Radio (NPR).

"NACAP gives a voice to students isolated by geography, culture, and economics," says Clare Hoffman, Director and Founder of NACAP. Through ETHEL, music of NACAP apprentice composers has reached audiences internationally. That kind of backing creates incalculable benefits for our students, providing a platform for advocacy of these talented, overlooked youth. Our students' music comes alive through the quartet's passion and commitment."

ETHEL approaches the works of these budding composers with the same level of seriousness and focus as they would with any established name. "We consciously make it clear that we are only in their service," explains Dorothy Lawson of ETHEL. From sacred melodies that their grandmothers used to sing to them to the heavy metal music of today, the young Native composers bring all kinds of music to the table. "Native American composers need to be heard. Their music is so spiritual and ceremonial." They "revere music," noting that the culture uses music in everyday life and spiritual practice. "I sometimes feel that when we're playing their music it's like encountering the Venus rising fully born from the waves."

For ETHEL, the NACAP residency is a natural fit. Education is increasingly central to the quartet's ethos. "This residency is so much a part of our mission, and outgrowth of what we're doing," says Lawson. Dedicated to using musical practice to broaden and deepen cross-cultural interchange, ETHEL has a strong attraction to exploring indigenous music.

"The second we landed we wanted to come back," says Ralph Farris of ETHEL, reflecting on the group's first visit to the reservation. "It is a creative space and cultural opportunity that we never saw coming. It became clear as we realized how little we knew about this culture that we had so much to learn."

According to ETHEL, the NACAP residency gives the quartet a whole new purpose to being musicians. "It is the most exciting and defining cultural or creative opportunity that we've ever had!


Acclaimed as "unfailingly vital" (The New York Times), "brilliant," "downtown's reigning string quartet" (The New Yorker), and "one of the most exciting quartets around" (Strad Magazine), ETHEL invigorates the contemporary music scene with exuberance, intensity, imaginative programming, and exceptional artistry. At the heart of ETHEL is a quest for a common creative expression that is forged in the celebration of community. As cultural and musical "pollinators," the quartet brings its collaborative discoveries to audiences through multi-dimensional musical repertoire and community engagement.

ETHEL performs adventurous music by celebrated contemporary composers such as Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe, Phil Kline, Andy Akiho, David Lang, John King, R, John Zorn, Steve Reich, Anna Clyne, Kenji Bunch, JacobTV, Don Byron, Marcelo Zarvos, Evan Ziporyn, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Osvaldo Golijov, Judd Greenstein, Terry Riley, Kimo Williams and Mary Ellen Childs.

ETHEL's 2014-'15 season celebrates the diversity of regional American music, anchored by a national tour of the evening-length, multi-media ETHEL's Documerica, described by The New York Times as "new music bonding with old images in rich, provocative and moving ways." ETHEL tours several critically-acclaimed signature programs, ranging from a collaboration with guitar virtuoso Kaki King, to the "Music of the Sun" concerts with Navajo flutist Robert Mirabal, to an introspective program "Grace," featuring ETHEL's arrangements of music by Ennio Morricone and Jeff Buckley. ETHEL currently serves as Ensemble-in-Residence at the Grand Canyon Music Festival's Native American Composers Apprenticeship Project, and Resident Ensemble at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Balcony Bar.

Founded in 1998 and based in New York City, ETHEL is comprised of Ralph Farris (viola), Kip Jones (violin) Dorothy Lawson (cello) and Tema Watstein (violin). For more information, visit


Since 1984, the Grand Canyon Music Festival has been dedicated to bringing the world's finest musicians to Grand Canyon National Park in celebration of the power and beauty of this magnificent World Heritage site. Since 1985, the Festival has extended this gift of music to the students of northern Arizona's under-served and rural communities, primarily at schools on the Navajo and Hopi reservations. In 2001, the Festival initiated its Native American Composer Apprentice Project (NACAP) to extend its outreach to training talented Native American students in the art of composition.

NACAP develops musical literacy and enhances critical thinking and decision-making skills through the study of music composition. It introduces students to European "classical" music techniques, develops their understanding of their musical heritages and how to use that knowledge to develop their own compositional voices. NACAP is the winner of the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, NewMusic USA's New Music Educators Award, and Arizona Governor's Arts Award. For more information, visit

For more information about ETHEL, visit:

For more information about NACAP, visit

GCMF Performance of ETHEL + James Bilagody

WNYC "Composition on the Reservation" with ETHEL's Ralph Farris

NPR Radio "Performance Today" Interview with ETHEL

NACAP Workshop Session video

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