NC Chamber Music Institute

Return to HOME



  1. Zuill Bailey- An Artist "Up Close" Connection with NCCMI - read here
  2. Playing Chamber Music - read here
  3. Meet the WCPE String Quartet - read here
  4. Board Member Profile: Meet Kristen Hess - read here
  5. Peer Mentoring Program with Community Music Schoolread here
  6. A Word From Our Executive Director - read here
  7. Arioso Quartet wins competition prize in China -read here
  8. Grant Llewellyn Orchestral Workshop and Concert - A True Winner - read here

Zuill Bailey- An Artist "Up Close" Connection with NCCMI

By David Kim

When I sat down in the concert hall before the performance, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The soloist Zuill Bailey - I’d heard of him, sure, and I’d even observed one of his instructional masterclasses in the past. Yet, as every musician knows, the true ability of a performer can be found only in their performance. The instant Mr. Bailey played his first note, a pure, melodic “G#”, any previous doubts of mine were dispelled, and I knew that the concert would be one to remember. From the mysterious, yet profound Walton Cello Concerto, to finally Strauss’s majestic and ostentatious “Don Quixote”, I was captivated from beginning to end. By the finale, I was on my feet shouting, “Encore! Encore!”.

Yet, I was not limited to simply watching such a talented, skilled performer from within the audience - Through the connections of Ms. Beilman we were actually able to meet him in person. One-on-one, were able to personally discuss at a length many facets of his professional career as a cellist, such as his personal relationship with his cello. At the end, I was even able get him to sign my program!

None of this would’ve been possible without the assistance of the NCCMI. It was only through the efforts of the many, behind-the-scenes organizers and planners that I was able to secure a spot in Mr. Bailey’s masterclass, gaining valuable experience and knowledge. The cost of attendance to Mr. Bailey’s most recent performance, like many others, was covered by the institute. Without masterclasses like these, I would never have met the many talented musicians that I now consider my closest friends.


By Elizabeth Beilman

Chamber Music is by its very nature a connective art. Each instrumental part is independent and yet reliant upon the others in the ensemble. While one musician might begin the melody, another one carries it forward or adds embellishment. The fact that a string quartet can sound almost orchestral- in the hands of a composer like Beethoven or Shostakovich- is a small miracle of texture and harmonic depth. For a student, learning to play one’s own part while at the same time listening and responding to the others- “in the moment”- is another small miracle. This is one of the reasons why playing chamber music builds artistry and leadership in young musicians. It is also a metaphor for the success of NCCMI in its 5th anniversary year.

The connections we see in the form of chamber music itself are also inherent in our community of partners, teachers, contributors and friends. NCCMI started with only 13 students and now has 81. This growth came about mostly through word of mouth recommendations and the strength of many friendships: From the inspiring master classes by nationally recognized ensembles, provided by NCCMI’s partnership with Chamber Music Raleigh to the use of wonderful spaces at our Partner Churches for weekly sessions and events… From the North Carolina Symphony, whose music director Grant Llewellyn conducted an amazing workshop in the fall of 2018 to the helpful suggestions of NCS staff and performing opportunities like Ovations Before the Symphony or the upcoming NCS Legislative Reception. Our newest partners are the Raleigh Arts Commission and the United Arts Council who have provided NCCMI with essential program support. UAC recently presented the NCCMI String Quartet at the annual State of the Arts event, giving us terrific exposure in the arts community. 

One thing leads to another. Just like the theme and variations in a great Haydn string quartet or perhaps the precise and graceful “handing off” of musical phrases in a well-honed chamber ensemble. What would we do without the beautiful graphics and marketing materials created by Kim Ridge or the gorgeous photos taken by ChrisWalt Photography and volunteer Joseph Fuller? And we love visiting our many partner Retirement Communities and the Wake County Libraries where we have found vibrant friends who give our students a real boost with their enthusiastic applause and warm response. Once again this year, WCPE-The Classical Station and Arioso Strings, Incorporated have bestowed our program with generous gifts, resulting in the naming of two of our scholarship ensembles in their honor. We would be remiss to leave out long-time friends known throughout the community for years for consistent support of the arts: Soprano and NCCMI trustee Florence Peacock and Tom and June Roberg (through the Triangle Community Foundation). Their major gifts have helped to fund scholarships and important NCCMI programs. Each of our Board members and sub-committee members has shared his/her many gifts with enthusiasm; our growth is a tribute to their constant and creative stewardship. Be sure to read the article about our newest board member, the highly accomplished and talented Kristen Hess!

Our friendships continue to “crescendo.” Just look at our partnership with the Community Music School. The upcoming/annual NCCMI-CMS Side by Side Workshop and Concert event is sure to bring a smile to every face. Try to attend if you can! Building upon our partnership, NCCMI and CMS are exploring a brand-new Peer Mentoring program, launching soon.

Our NCCMI teachers provide the most inspiring connection to the NCCMI students. There is no more effective training found in the world than the intensive mentoring of classical pedagogy. Our teacher/student ratio is 1:4. Through their remarkable and vivid connections with composers and diverse traditions and cultures, our teachers literally bring the past to life for their students. This is an irreplaceable gift.

It’s as though we are having one big chamber music party. We welcome all our friends: come together and join the party!



By Waltye Rasulala

For the past four years, WCPE The Classical Station has sponsored NCCMI through its Education Fund. In recognition of this generous gift, NCCMI established the WCPE String Quartet. This scholarship ensemble is made up of students from the North Carolina Chamber Music Institute. All of the chosen WCPE String Quartet musicians have to audition, a process includes a videotaped preliminary, three rounds of semifinals and final auditions.

Let me introduce you to the students who are members of the WCPE String Quartet this year.

Quenton Blanche, cellist, is 17 years old and joined the WCPE String quartet and NCCMI for the first time this year. Quenton is a graduating senior at Ravenscroft School and has studied cello for eight years. He is a Lower School Orchestra assistant, plays Varsity Soccer and has been accepted for the second consecutive year to the National Youth Orchestra. In addition to all of this he also composes music and is an NCCMI intern. He plans on majoring in music when he enters college next year.

Abigail Marshall, violist, is 18 years old and is a graduating senior at Apex High School. She participates in the orchestra at her school and this year she is an NCCMI intern.

Abigail started her string playing with the violin and two years ago she started focusing on playing the viola. UNC-Greensboro is her college of choice where she will be majoring in music. Her career focus is to become a music teacher, but she wants to make sure she leaves time to play in small ensembles, orchestras and to learn contemporary string music.

Neha Vangipurapu, violinist, is 17 years old and is a senior at Raleigh Charter High School. She has been studying violin for ten years and this past summer she attended the Meadowmount School. Her time there was spent practicing intensively her violin for hours each day.

This year at NCCMI she is an NCCMI intern learning the business of what it takes to run this organization. At Raleigh Charter she plays in the school orchestra. When she attends college next year she will become a double major in music and international relations. Neha says that through her relationship with NCCMI she has learned how to play chamber music, communicate with her fellow musicians when she plays in these groups and has expanded her list of close friends. She feels that all of these attributes grouped together have given her the greatest experience of being part of NCCMI.

Jaewon Jung, violinist, is 17 years old and has been in NCCMI the longest of all the WCPE String Quartet members. This is his second year playing in the WCPE String Quartet and he has been part of NCCMI since 2013. This year he is also an NCCMI student intern and as part of his internship, he is managing all of the online program submission forms (for over 40 events!) In addition to all this responsibility he serves on the stage crew. Jaewon has studied music for eleven years and when he goes to college he plans to major in health care and music will be a hobby.

All of the members of the WCPE String Quartet practice daily at least two hours a day. They each follow through working with their private teachers, NCCMI coaches and of course in school orchestras. The music they are focusing on this year in their WCPE String Quartet is the music of Beethoven and Grieg. They have performed for the Jasper and Borromeo String Quartets in NCCMI Master Classes and in May will be performing in the Caroline Shaw Master Class. All of them say that learning to communicate with each other as musicians is one of the most important aspects of playing chamber music.



By Rebecca Christian

Board member Kristen Hess is a believer in collaboration which is also at the heart of chamber music.  Kristen is the Principal and CEO of HH Architecture, a commercial architecture and interior design firm which differentiates itself by a collaborative, partnership-style approach to design.  That has made the firm Kristen founded a success; it was just named the Triangle Firm of the Year by the Triangle chapter of the American Institute of Architects.  And Kristen is seeing the collaborative approach of NCCMI with its students from close range, not only as a board member but as a parent—her son Ethan, 14, is a cellist with the Espressivo Quartet, and her daughter Lauren, 10, plays viola in the Vivace String Quartet.

The NCCMI board is comprised of a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. Currently two parents serve on the board: Kristen and Mei Thai. Kristen brings her business, governance, leadership and decision-making experience to the board but also brings the very important perspective of parents, helping the board stay in touch with issues that affect students and families.

Kristen’s business philosophy includes continual civic investment and community involvement so her firm is engaged in many ways in the community.   Personally she serves on the board of the NC Coastal Pines Girl Scout Council and also of the Chamber of Commerce.  She said she joined the NCCMI board because of her great respect for the organization’s leadership and her gratitude for the organization, which she believes gives opportunities to her children.

“At NCCMI the children receive not only wonderful musical training, but also life skills and lessons for leadership, teamwork, and public presentation. The coaches and musical professionals are critically acclaimed and have been mentors and advocates for our children. There is constant attention to critical thinking, public speaking, risk taking and decision making,” she said. Kristen believes NCCMI has many strengths and is committed through her board membership to enhancing the organization.  Fostering that collaboration is a key strength she believes. As she summarized, “NCCMI pulls together young musicians who might not otherwise work together to create strong teams. The small groups afford these students the opportunity to be important team players and leaders. They are not lost in a crowd. They are required to communicate with one another and lean on each other to create a unique product. They learn to prepare, audition, present and participate in their communities.”



By Brooke Chow

This year, NCCMI is partnering with Community Music School Raleigh to start a peer-mentoring strings program. Community Music School is a non-profit organization that aims to provide all children with the opportunity to learn music through access to quality music lessons that cost as little as $1 per lesson. NCCMI students that play violin, viola, or cello now have the opportunity to peer-mentor a student at Community Music School.

By working with Community Music School, NCCMI supports a positive cause for the community. Many students at CMS lack the confidence and support they need during their lessons and performances. By having an NCCMI peer-mentor that can practice with them and help with fingerings and musicality, both NCCMI and CMS students are strongly benefitted. NCCMI students can volunteer occasionally or weekly, based on their schedules. They can also choose the time and how long they peer-mentor: ranging from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours.  All volunteering with CMS students can count towards school volunteering hours and club.

If you or your child is interested in this opportunity, please fill out the following SignUp Genius:



By Elizabeth Beilman

NCCMI is celebrating our 5th anniversary year; our yearly student number has grown from 13 to 80. We now have 20 small ensembles, working and performing throughout the year. These include string quartets, piano/string combinations and a woodwind quintet who meet weekly in sessions with professional teachers, including NC Symphony musicians. NCCMI organizes events at over 40 locations each year, including retirement communities, museums, libraries, Ovations at the Symphony and many more.

Over the last five years, NCCMI has grown in numbers and visibility as students and teachers see the quantifiable results of a great chamber music education. Our students are leaders in their individual schools and occupy prominent positions in All-Region and All-State Orchestras.

The process of rehearsing independently and receiving guidance from professional musicians builds transferable life skills: leadership through interaction with peers; independence as each player is responsible for their individual part; communication through public speaking and student-led rehearsals; and teamwork, where each player trusts other members of the ensemble to do his job. All this could sound very serious, but NCCMI would not be so popular if playing chamber music weren’t also a lot of fun!

Our partnerships have helped us along the way: North Carolina Symphony (Grant Llewellyn Workshop Concert, Ovations performances, Caroline Shaw master class and outreach opportunities), Chamber Music Raleigh (master classes with Jasper and Borromeo String Quartets and pianist Andrew Tyson). We are so grateful!

We also thank the many area churches that provide space for NCCMI sessions and performances: Edenton Street United Methodist Church, Highland United Methodist Church, Church of the Nativity and Apex United Methodist Church. Another facet of our partnership: our groups are honored to provide music for worship services at these churches.

Support for scholarships and programming has increased as well.

NCCMI is funded in part by the City of Raleigh based on recommendations of the Raleigh Arts Commission.  NCCMI is supported by the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County, as well as the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. For the 4th year, WCPE-The Classical Station is supporting NCCMI through an Education Fund grant.

Most of our county-wide events are open to the general public. Check us out through social media outlets and plan to drop in for a master class, workshop or concert. You will be glad you did!

Among our highlights for the fall/winter season: The Borromeo String Quartet Master Class (Nov. 17 at Highland United Methodist Church) and concerts at many area retirement communities (The Cardinal at North Hills, the Oaks at Whitaker Glen and Searstone).  To see our students at their very best, attend one of our Performance Reviews (1/6 or 1/12 2:30pm) or Spring Concerts (April 27 or May 4 at 2pm)

Chamber Music is a musical conversation among friends. Welcome to the party!


In the summer of 2018, members of the Arioso Quartet, Belinda Wang (violin), Demi Wang (violin), Richard Gao (viola) and Jonathan Thai (cello), competed in the semifinals of the Chinese National Television Talent Search Competition in Washington, DC. After winning that competition, they were off to Beijing, China to compete in the finals.

Arriving in China, they realized that their chosen work to play, Horse Race (a traditional Chinese piece, arranged for Classical String Quartet) was being performed by another competing group, which had more people, traditional Chinese instruments, in addition to Western instruments. Arioso plays strictly Western instruments. Right away they realized that they had to find a way to be more appealing; to show the audience more than just “look at what we can play”. They had to be more than just classical musician…they had to be a stand out.            

So in a single afternoon, despite jet lag they reworked their program to incorporate a medley of different styles, Pachelbel Canon, Despacito by Luis Fonsi, Beethoven String Quartet Op. 18, No. 4 and of course Horse Race, and performed their program as a skit. To quote cellist Jonathan Thai, “in a quartet there are four different instruments, four different parts and four different opinions. So personalities were attached to each instrument and we incorporated a conversation within the chamber music” selections”. The completely memorized performance won the attention of the judges and the show’s producer. As a result, they were awarded the Instrumental Prize and their videotaped performance will be presented on Chinese Television this year.  The creativity and beautiful performance made Arioso a “stand out for sure.”



On a beautiful October Saturday, the strains of the music of composers Edward Elgar and Antonin Dvorak moved beautifully throughout the sanctuary of St. Francis United Methodist Church in Cary. Inside the church, a 62-piece orchestra made up of young musicians from North Carolina Chamber Music Institute, University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill and Greensboro campuses), and Greenville and Wake County high schools played together. Joining them in this Side-by-Side experience were other professionals including NCCMI faculty, freelance musicians and members of the North Carolina Symphony. Conducting them was the Music Director of the North Carolina Symphony, Music Director Grant Llewellyn. 

What!! Am I seeing this correctly? The music director of the North Carolina Symphony conducting these young people; How did this happen? According to Maestro Llewellyn, it was simply the thing of asking.  “I was approached by Liz Beilman, our associate Principal Cellist to see if I would like to work with the students from the NCCMI chamber groups. I had previously only heard them play chamber music and was impressed with their standard, so I jumped at the idea."

That idea produced an intensive workshop including sectionals with NCCMI Assistant Director Jimmy Gilmore and David Glover (former NCS Associate Conductor and NCCMI teacher). This was followed by a two-hour rehearsal for the young musicians with Grant Llewellyn in order to prepare a public performance of Serenade for Strings, Op. 20 by Edward Elgar and Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op 88 by Antonin Dvorak. 

What kind of expectations did Grant Llewellyn have for the day? “I arrived without any expectation and I was immediately impressed.”  The students were also impressed with this wonderful and generous conductor who gave them the chance of a lifetime.

Not only did this world class conductor teach and lead these young musicians, but he also gave one, Lauren Southwell, a crash course in conducting. Did she actually volunteer to stand in front of this 62 - piece orchestra and suddenly try her skill at conducting? According to Maestro Llewellyn “She didn’t exactly put her hand up, but she smiled and that is always fatal.” Extending this kind of opportunity is something that Grant says he enjoys doing.” If I can open the door for any young person to have an opportunity, then I will.”