Talking with Austin Hartman and Mark Holloway

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Talking with Austin Hartman

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and grew up in Lancaster located about an hour and a half west of Philadelphia.

Do you come from a musical family?
My parents both studied keyboard instruments as children, but didn’t receive formal training in music. My sister also plays the violin and continues to play and teach in the Central PA area. Growing up, we would often perform together as a family.

Who were your most important mentors?
Throughout my career, I have been privilege to have had the opportunity to work with some of the finest violin teachers and chamber music coaches in the business. I feel immensely appreciative and thankful for their belief and extraordinary investment of time and energy in my my future progress.

When and where was your first encounter with chamber music?
My first encounter with chamber music came when I was quite young. I was playing a very simple duet, but was so taken with the incredible sound of two string instruments playing in harmony together. Since that day, I have been playing chamber music ever since.

Did you always envision joining a string quartet?
Playing string quartets is something that I have done throughout most of my professional career. On beginning my undergraduate degree, I founded the Biava Quartet and enjoyed 12 seasons of performances around the world as first violinist. Prior to joining the Pacifica Quartet, I also founded the Indianapolis Quartet that is the resident quartet at the University of Indianapolis.

How do you seek out inspiration when you are touring for a significant stretch of time?
I find inspiration through reading and staying engaged with the community of my friends and family. 

What is on the very top of your wish list, as far as quartet repertoire goes?
One of the exciting things about joining the Pacifica Quartet was learning the complete cycle of works by a given composer. I am very much looking forward to exploring complete works by other beloved and even some forgotten composers in future seasons. 

What do you like to do on flights when you are touring?
Catching up on books and movies is a favorite activity for me on flights- however so is a nap!

What are you reading at the moment?
I have been enjoying historical biographies written by Chernow (Alexander Hamilton) and McCullough (1776), however I am also a Grisham fan and have read most of his books.

What podcasts do you enjoy listening to?
Favorite podcast for me is the Ted Radio Hour. For fun, I enjoy Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me

What country is on your bucket list as you look ahead to future tours with the Quartet?
I am looking forward to heading to Germany and Ireland with the quartet next summer. 

I should also mention that I am married to my lovely wife Hannelies and we have three boys Anderson (7), Beckett (5) and Colson (2).


Talking with Mark Holloway 

Where did you grow up?
I’m from the south shore of Long Island, New York, a town called Oceanside.  It’s just far enough away from Manhattan to be a quick train ride in to the city, yet it’s green, has open space, and is on the water. 

Do you come from a musical family?
My parents don’t play any instruments, though they enjoy listening to music.  My grandfather somehow learned how to play a song or two on the piano, and my grandparents would always have some sort of electric organ around the house for the grandkids to play with.

Who or what was your biggest influence as a young (professional) musician?
I was so fortunate to have wonderfully dedicated teachers in elementary, middle, and high school.  My elementary school teacher recently showed up unannounced at a concert of mine, and I hadn’t seen her in 20 years!  When I got to Boston University and then the Curtis Institute of Music, I was surrounded by some of the world’s best players and teachers.  Then I started going to summer festivals and meeting players and teachers from around the world, and playing at European festivals and getting even more diverse perspectives.  I studied with a wonderful teacher named Michelle LaCourse for my bachelor’s degree, she’s a caring and devoted teacher and fine player who studied with the legendary pedagogue Karen Tuttle (whom I was lucky enough to also work with) who in turn studied with the great William Primrose.  At Curtis I was so fortunate to study with Michael Tree, the violist of the Guarneri Quartet.  He passed away recently and I think about him all the time and wonder how he might have played a certain phrase or what bowing or fingering he might have done.  He was a great coach and friend, a big influence on me, one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.  As a teacher myself now, I find I’m learning so much from my talented students at Indiana University! 

When and where was your first encounter with chamber music?
While it wasn’t my first encounter with chamber music – as a kid I was lucky enough to read chamber music very often with high school friends and their musician-parents – an early experience at Tanglewood changed my life.  I heard the Brahms Piano Quintet played by a very committed bunch of older students, and I was so captivated by the piece and the performance that I decided that I wanted to play chamber music for the rest of my life.  Just recently, after almost 20 years, I met the first violinist of that group and got to tell her how much that performance meant to me, and that was a real thrill.

Did you always envision joining a string quartet?
In a way, I feel like I’ve been training my whole life to be in a string quartet.  My teachers were all chamber musicians, and wonderful ones at that.  One could argue that the greatest repertoire for the viola lies in chamber music, and that the string quartet is its perfect medium, so I explored it early and often.  The quartet repertoire spoke to me since I was young, so I was so grateful to find a group of dedicated musicians who wanted to devote our lives to it!

Have you played with Brandon and Simin and Austin prior to joining the Quartet?
The music world can feel very small and family-like sometimes, so I was very surprised to realize that before I auditioned for the quartet, not only had we never played together before, but we hadn’t even met before!  I had admired them from afar and through their recordings.

How do you seek out inspiration when you are touring for a significant stretch of time?
I love to arrive at the hotel and immediately drop my bags and start walking around and exploring.  I enjoy trying to get a feel for a place and its people and culture.  On the first free morning I usually head to an art museum or galleries.  I take a lot of inspiration from art, and I love traveling to see it.  I also love to go to used bookstores and discover treasures and books I didn’t know existed.

What is on the very top of your wish list, as far as quartet repertoire goes?
The idea of playing Beethoven cycle was immensely appealing to me, and now I get to check that off my list!  His quartets, every single one of them, are complete masterpieces, and we’re so fortunate to have our hands in them daily.  That being said, there are so many composers whose quartets I’d like to explore more, even if I’ve played them before.  Shostakovich, Britten, Dvorak, Janacek, and Ives spring to mind – in each case I’ve played some of their music but I’d like to play more.  I love playing pieces that are new to me, it keeps me fresh and gives me perspective on a composer’s language or a snapshot of his/her world.

What do you like to do on flights when you are touring?
I’m not a great sleeper on flights, though I wish I could be.  Instead, I usually have a stack of newspapers and magazines that I want to devour, crossword puzzles to help pass the time, and lastly, e-mails to answer!

What are you reading at the moment?
At the moment I’m a bit too busy to sit down with a book, though I have hundreds that are in the queue and waiting for me in my bookcases!!  Right now I’m more often reading the news or a magazine like the New Yorker, even though it would probably be more relaxing right now to be reading fiction!

What podcasts do you enjoy listening to?
I listen to podcasts all the time, especially while traveling, but also at home when I’m relaxing or cooking dinner.  I also often fall asleep while one is playing and then in the morning I have to backtrack to the last thing I remember hearing!  I love listening to interviews on NPR, Fresh Air, some political shows, and I listen to a short podcast of the news in French.  To relax, I listen to a bunch of comedy and improvisation podcasts, quiz shows, and there are a few podcasts around the subjects of food and wine that I really enjoy.  I haven’t had a TV since the 90’s but I love to see movies.  I also watch shows online, especially ones that mix politics and satire.

What country is on your bucket list as you look ahead to future tours with the Quartet?
I’ve never been to the Antipodes and would love to travel and play in that part of the world, as long as there’s enough time to recover from the jet lag!  I’m a huge Francophile, and I’m lucky to have spent quite a bit of time in France, though there are several regions I haven’t visited yet that I would like to: the Jura, the Northern Rhône valley, Bordeaux, Corsica, and I’d like to explore Burgundy more.  If you see a connection with wine regions, that’s not a coincidence – wine is one of my biggest passions and I love learning about it, pairing it with food, reading about it, and of course drinking it.  Great wine should taste unique, I think, as it comes from a specific place on the planet and wouldn’t be the same if it came from somewhere else.  In that sense, drinking fine wine is a way of traveling in and of itself!  I have also always wanted to visit Iceland, Portugal, and explore more of Spain and southern Italy.  Actually I’d pretty much love to go anywhere I haven’t been!  Musically or otherwise, I’m so happy to be on a journey!

 

Brooke Quiggins