About Harlem Quartet


New York-based Harlem Quartet, currently quartet-in-residence at the John J. Cali School of Music and the Royal College of Music in London, has been praised for its “panache” by The New York Times and hailed in the Cincinnati Enquirer for “bringing a new attitude to classical music, one that is fresh, bracing and intelligent.” It has also won plaudits from such veteran musicians as GRAMMY-winning woodwind virtuoso Ted Nash of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, who declared in a May 2018 Playbill article, “Harlem Quartet is one of the greatest string quartets I have ever heard. They can play anything.” Since its public debut at Carnegie Hall in 2006, the ensemble has thrilled audiences and students in 47 states as well as in the U.K., France, Belgium, Brazil, Panama, Canada, Venezuela, Japan, Ethiopia, and South Africa.


Harlem Quartet has three distinctive characteristics: diverse programming that combines music from the standard string quartet canon with jazz, Latin, and contemporary works; a collaborative approach to performance that is continually broadening the ensemble’s repertoire and audience reach through artistic partnerships with other musicians from the classical and jazz worlds; and an ongoing commitment to residency activity and other forms of educational outreach.


The quartet’s mission is to advance diversity in classical music, engaging young and new audiences through the discovery and presentation of varied repertoire that includes works by composers of color. Passion for this work has made the quartet a leading ensemble in both educational and community engagement activities. In this capacity, the quartet has written several successful grants, including a Cultural Connections Artist-In-Residence grant from James Madison University and a 2016 Guarneri String Quartet grant from Chamber Music America; the latter allowed the quartet to participate in an extended performance and educational residency in Mobile, AL, which included a close partnership with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra. In the 2017-18 season Harlem Quartet undertook a week of residency activities with the Santa Fe Youth Symphony. And since 2015 it has led an annual workshop at Music Mountain in Falls Village, CT, culminating in a concert at that venue.


In addition to performing a varied menu of string quartet literature across the country and around the world, Harlem Quartet has collaborated with such distinguished artists as classical pianists Michael Brown, Awadagin Pratt, Misha Dichter, and Fei-Fei; jazz pianists Chick Corea and Aldo López-Gavilán; violist Ida Kavafian; cellist Carter Brey; clarinetists Paquito D’Rivera, Eddie Daniels, Anthony McGill, and David Shifrin; saxophonist Tim Garland; jazz legends Ted Nash, Gary Burton, Stanley Clarke, and John Patitucci; the Shanghai Quartet; and Imani Winds.


Harlem Quartet’s 2019-20 engagements included a weeklong Quad City Arts Residency (Rock Island, IL); debuts with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club, Chamber Music Tulsa, Stanford Live, and Duke University; and return engagements with the Chamber Music Society of Detroit, the Phillips Collection (Washington, DC), Asheville Chamber Music Series, and Calgary Pro Musica. Scheduled for 2020-21 are concerts with bassist John Patitucci at Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL) and Chamber Music Concerts (Ashland, OR); an engagement at Newberry Opera House (Newberry, SC); and a joint appearance with the Catalyst Quartet at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, sponsored by the Chamber Music Society of Philadelphia.


Alongside its regular activities as a chamber ensemble, Harlem Quartet performs a variety of works written for solo string quartet and orchestra. In 2012, with the Chicago Sinfonietta under Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, the quartet gave the world premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story as arranged for string quartet and orchestra by Randall Craig Fleischer. It reprised its performance of that score with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra under Fleischer’s direction, and again with the Santa Fe Concert Association. Chicago Sinfonietta and the quartet recorded the West Side Story arrangement, along with works for string quartet and orchestra by Michael Abels and Benjamin Lees, for the Cedille Records release Delights and Dances.


Harlem Quartet has been featured on WNBC, CNN, NBC’s Today Show, WQXR-FM, and the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and it performed in 2009 for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. The quartet made its European debut in October 2009 performing at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., and returned to Europe as guest artists and faculty members of the Musica Mundi International Festival in Belgium. In early 2011 the ensemble was featured at the Panama Jazz Festival in Panama City.


The quartet’s recording career began in 2007 when White Pine Music issued Take the “A” Train, a release featuring the string quartet version of that jazz standard by Billy Strayhorn; the CD was highlighted that year in the November issue of Strings magazine. A second CD, featuring three string quartets by Walter Piston, was released in 2010 by Naxos. The quartet’s third recording, released in 2011, is a collaboration with pianist Awadagin Pratt and showcases works by American composer Judith Lang Zaimont. More recently the quartet collaborated with jazz pianist Chick Corea in a Grammy-winning Hot House album that included Corea’s “Mozart Goes Dancing,” which won a separate Grammy as Best Instrumental Composition. The jazz album Heart of Brazil: A Tribute to Egberto Gismonti, recorded with the Eddie Daniels Quartet, was released in June 2018 on Resonance Records. Harlem Quartet’s latest album, the July 2020 release Cross Pollination, features works by Debussy, William Bolcom, Dizzy Gillespie, and Guido López-Gavilán.


Harlem Quartet was founded in 2006 by The Sphinx Organization, a national nonprofit dedicated to building diversity in classical music and providing access to music education in underserved communities. In 2013 the quartet completed its third and final year in the Professional String Quartet Training Program at New England Conservatory, under the tutelage of Paul Katz, Donald Weilerstein, Kim Kashkashian, Miriam Fried, and Martha Katz.


July 2020


Ilmar Gavilán


Violinist Ilmar Gavilan, a native of Havana, Cuba, has had a remarkable performing career that has taken him all over the world. This fascinating journey range from performing for world leaders such as President Obama at the White House and Queen Sofia of Spain at The Royal Palace of Madrid to performing with top stature artist of diverse styles such as Itzhak Perlman and Chick Corea.


As a soloist, Mr. Gavilan has performed concertos with the Atlanta, New Jersey, Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Hartford, Nashville, Ann Arbor, Santa Monica, Phoenix, Denver, Louisiana, Anchorage, Santa Fe, Havana, Mexico City, and Venezuela Symphonies and played recitals in England, Russia, Spain and Portugal.


An avid chamber musician, Mr. Gavilan has performed with ItzhakPerlman, Arnold Steinhardt, Ida Kavafian, Carter Brey, Paul Katz, Fred Sherry, Anthony McGill and Misha Dicter.Mr. Gavilan has participated in numerous chamber music festivals including Tanglewood, Ravinia and Angel Fire.


Jazz and Afro-Cuban music found a shining place in Mr Gavilan’s musical life. Along side his accomplished classical music career he has enjoyed the privilege of performing with Jazz legends Chick Corea and Gary Burton. This collaboration rendered him a Grammy for the recording of the “Hot House” album as member of the Harlem Quartet. Mr. Gavilan also performed and commercially released albums with Paquito D’Rivera, Eddie Palmieri and Dafnis Prieto. Other Jazz collaborations include performing with Stanley Clark, Lee Konitz, Henry Threadgill and Doc Severinsen. Mr. Gavilan has been presented in iconic Jazz venues such as The Blue Note in New York as well as International Montreal Jazz, Detroit Jazz, Panama Jazz and Saalfelden Jazz Festivals.


As a recording artist, Mr. Gavilan has numerous recordings with the Harlem quartet as a funding member. In addition to these, Mr. Gavilan’s U.S. Solo recording debut “Aires y Leyendas” and his latest solo album “Por el Mar” solely comprised of music composed by his father Guido Lopez-Gavilan including a violin concerto dedicated to him, are available on Amazon and iTunes.


Mr. Gavilan is an experienced educator, having taught for several years at Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program. In addition to private students, he has also taught chamber music and given master classes worldwide, most prominently at Música Mundi in Belgium, Soweto Music Academy in South Africa, Eumak Journal Festival in South Korea, and “El Sistema” in several youth orchestras throughout out Venezuela. In the US, Mr. Gavilan has given master classes at Brevard Summer Institute, Eastman School of Music, Interlochen Arts Academy, Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Berklee School of Music, and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.


Mr. Gavilan’s own academic journey began at the Manuel Saumell Conservatory in his native Havana. Having won all national competitions in which he participated, Ilmar Gavilán was selected for advanced studies at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow at the age of 14. Through the personal recommendation and royal scholarship of Queen Sofia of Spain, studies took him to the Reina Sofia School of Music in Spain where he studied with Zakhar Bron.


Later studies brought Mr. Gavilan to the Manhattan School of Music in New York City where he studied with Glen Dicterow. As a founding member of the Harlem Quartet, Mr. Gavilan received a Graduate Diploma in Quartet Performance from the New England Conservatory in Boston. His mentors there included Donald Weilerstein and Miriam Fried. In addition, Mr. Gavilan received private lessons from legendary Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern and Ruggiero Ricci. Mr. Gavilan has achieved a Doctor in Musical Arts at Rutgers University under the mentorship of Arnold Steinhardt.


Mr. Gavilan won first prize at the Sphinx competition, as well as top honors at the Lipinski-Wieniaswski and the Henryk Szeryng International violin competitions.


Ilmar Gavilan, was born to a prominent musical family. His father Guido is a widely recognized composer and conductor, his mother Teresita is a respected pianist and pedagogue. Aldo, his younger brother, is a celebrated pianist and composer, particularly known for his phenomenal improvisations in Classical and Jazz styles. Ilmar Gavilan’s unique, passionate, and brilliant performances reveal the fulfillment of his heritage and early promise. Today he has a beautiful family of his own and enjoys ocean related activities. Ilmar will be featured in the upcoming public television documentary LOS HERMANOS/THE BROTHERS http://www.patchworksfilms.net/the-brothers


Melissa White


American violinist Melissa White has enchanted audiences around the world as both a soloist and chamber musician. A First Prize winner of the Sphinx Competition, Ms White has received critical acclaim for solo performances with some of America’s leading orchestras, including those of Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Colorado, as well as the Boston Pops. Internationally, she has appeared as a soloist with the Colombian Youth Orchestra in a tour of Columbia as well as in Poland with the Philharmonia Dolnoslaska under the direction of Piotr Gajewski. She has also appeared in recital in Baku, Azerbaijan and, in April 2016, served as interim concertmaster in performances and recordings with the Louisville Orchestra.


As a founding member of the highly acclaimed Harlem Quartet, Ms. White’s passion and artistry have contributed to performances that have been hailed for their “panache” by the New York Times and as “bringing a new attitude to classical music, one that is fresh, bracing and intelligent” by the Cincinnati Inquirer. Together with the Harlem Quartet, Ms. White has performed with luminaries such as Itzhak Perlman, Ida Kavafian, Paul Katz and Anthony McGill, and in many of the country’s most prestigious performance spaces, including Carnegie Hall, at the White House in a performance for the President and First Lady, as well as at the Kennedy Center in collaboration with Misha Dichter. Ms. White’s passion for chamber music has recently expanded to sharing the stage with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, most recently joining the world-renowned conductorless chamber orchestra for a tour of Japan.


Always looking to push and expand musical boundaries, Ms. White has also collaborated closely with several leading jazz musicians including Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Gary Burton. Following an extended international tour with Corea and Burton, her recording with Harlem Quartet and the jazz duo entitled “Mozart Goes Dancing” won three Grammy Awards, including one for Best Instrumental Composition, in February 2013.


In addition to her musical role with the Harlem Quartet, Ms. White also serves as the ensemble’s in-house grant writer. In this capacity, she has written several successful grants, including James Madison University’s Cultural Connections Artist-In-Residence Grant and a 2016 Chamber Music America Residency Grant which was designated the Guarneri String Quartet residency grant. This award will allow the Harlem Quartet to partake in an extended residency in Mobile, Alabama that will include a close partnership with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra.


Ms. White holds performance degrees from both the Curtis Institute of Music as well as the New England Conservatory of Music and has studied with Jaime Laredo, Ida Kavafian, Donald Weilerstein and Miriam Fried. Her current instrument, “Matilda,” was commissioned as part of a Sphinx MPower Artist Grant in 2014 by the American violin maker Ryan Soltis.


When she doesn’t have a violin in her hands, Ms. White is an advanced practitioner of Bikram Yoga and enjoys taking photos while exploring the many wonderful places around the world that her music has allowed her to visit.


Jaime Amador


Known for his unique and vibrant sound, violist Jaime Amador has distinguished himself among the latest generation of musicians to emerge from Puerto Rico.


Before joining the Harlem Quartet in 2012, Mr. Amador has had a successful career as a member of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. In 2007, he won first prize at the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra Solo Competition for his interpretation of Béla Bártok’s concerto for viola and orchestra. The newspaper El Nuevo Día praised his performance as “outstanding, having displayed sound technical mastery and a sobriety most appropriate to the nature of the piece. From the moment the viola alone is introduced, this young musician exuded confidence and aplomb, which was mirrored in the precision of his execution throughout the entire performance.”


Born in San Juan, Jaime Amador began his career at the Children String Program of the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music. He continued his studies at the Juilliard School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, and the New England Conservatory under the guidance of Toby Appel, Isaac Malkin, and Kim Kashkashian. He has participated in several master classes with renowned artists, such as Pinchas Zukerman, Yuri Bashmet, Roberto Díaz, Michael Tree, Gérard Caussé, Hellen Callus, Paul Neubauer, Pamela Frank, Sylvia Rosemberg, and Hartmut Rhode, to name a few.


As a chamber musician, Mr. Amador has played in prestigious venues in the United States and Europe, such as Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall in New York, Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, and the Kurhaus in Baden-Baden. Throughout his career, he has collaborated with Chick Corea, Ida Kavafian, Fred Sherry, Emanuel Borok, Mikhail Kopelman, David Geber, Michael Lewin, Misha Dichter, Emilio Colón, Vanessa Pérez, Mykola Suk, and Eric Himy, among others.


Mr. Amador has participated in important international music festivals at the Meadowmount School of Music, where he was teaching assistant to Eugene Becker, Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía in Santander, Academy of Music in New Jersey, the Norfolk Music Festival in Connecticut, and the Carl Flescsh Akademie in Baden-Baden. Most recently, he participated in the 30th anniversary celebration of the highly acclaimed chamber music festival, Music from Angel Fire, as a member of the Harlem Quartet.


Mr. Amador’s interest in educating the new generation of musicians has led him to direct the String Department at the 2011 FOSJA Youth Festival in San Juan. In addition to master classes in Puerto Rico and throughout the United States, Mr. Amador has made outreach programs a priority, bringing music to those with limited opportunities and to a society in need of healing through the arts.


Jaime Amador plays a Ryan Soltis 2010 viola.


Felix Umansky


Praised for his “sublime” playing by Cleveland Classical, cellist Felix Umansky is a frequently sought-after recitalist, chamber musician, and pedagogue. His versatile career has taken him all over Europe and North America where he has performed in some of the most prestigious concert halls including Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center, the Krannert Center, and the Kennedy Center.


Prior to joining the world-renowned Harlem Quartet, Mr. Umansky spent six seasons as a founding member of the award-winning Linden String Quartet. Accolades with the Linden include first prizes in the 2009 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, 2009 Coleman Chamber Ensemble Competition, 2010 Hugo Kauder Competition, and 2010 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition, as well as the ProQuartet Prize at the 2011 Borciani International String Quartet Competition, and an honorable mention at the Banff International String Quartet Competition in 2013.


One of Mr. Umansky’s missions as a performer is to bring a wide range of classical music to as many people as possible. In addition to performing in concert halls, he has been seen and heard playing everything from Bach to works written just yesterday in settings such as libraries, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and even performances on the street. An avid supporter of contemporary music, Mr. Umansky has performed and premiered works by numerous living composers such as William Bolcom, John Corigliano, Kelly-Marie Murphy, Vivian Fung, John Harbison, Chen Yi, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Chick Corea, among many others. As the newest member of the Harlem Quartet, Mr. Umansky is excited about future collaborations with many Jazz and Latin-American composers.


Mr. Umansky has been an artist-in-residence at Yale University and the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts. He has also performed and given masterclasses at the University of Idaho, University of Iowa, University of Wyoming, and Utah State University. His festival appearances include Aspen, La Jolla, Music Mountain, Perlman Music Program, Music at Port Milford (Ontario), Highlands-Cashiers (NC), Madison (GA), and Amelia Island.


A native of Carmel, Indiana, Mr. Umansky holds Bachelors and Masters degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music and an Artist Diploma from Yale University. His teachers have included Richard Aaron, Desmond Hoebig, Clive Greensmith, Janos Starker, and Polina Umansky. In his free time, he enjoys exploring New York City as well as traveling with his wife, violinist Amy Schroeder.