Babies smiled and senior citizens applauded as the Haven String Quartet performed a range of Hispanic songs for more than 30 New Haven residents of all ages Saturday afternoon.
The concert, which took place from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the children’s section of the New Haven Public Library’s Fair Haven location, marked the fifth time the Quartet has performed for National Hispanic Heritage month. The free performance was hosted by Music Haven, a nonprofit that has offered free music lessons and loaner instruments to children in New Haven and Fair Haven for the past 10 years. The music was followed by an “instrument petting zoo” where the performers helped attendees try out different instruments.
“The kids that [Music Haven] serves, many are Spanish-speaking kids,” Quartet violinist and Music Haven Senior Resident Musician Yaira Matyakubova explained.
Matyakubova said the concert was intended to engage and bring together people in New Haven’s Hispanic community by celebrating the richness of Spanish and Latin culture.
The music ranged in style and time period. Some songs were lively with merry pizzicato while others were calming and slow. Before each piece, the musicians paused to explain the song’s history and significance to the attendees.
The pieces spanned 500 years of composition, starting with music from Madrid during the Renaissance and included music from all across South America and Spain. Among the composers were Alberto Ginastera, Jose Padilla and contemporary Mexican composer Javier Alvarez.
Matyakubova has worked with Music Haven — which gets 75 percent of its funding from individual donors and the remainder from grants and foundation donations — for the past eight years. She said the nonprofit is currently working with 85 children in every grade from first grade to seniors in high school.
Music Haven Board Chair Wendy Marnas said Music Haven concerts are a means for outreach in the community. She said there are usually a few families in attendance at each concert that have not previously heard about the program.
Among the benefits of the program is long-term mentorship connections with the musicians that teach the children, Marnas said. These teachers include members of the Haven String Quartet.
“This kind of music is a way of developing children’s skills and capacity to persist and work together,” she added.
Among the attendees were several families whose children participate in the program.
Samantha Stewart, a New Haven resident, said her daughter’s participation has been a wonderful experience for her entire family as her other children enjoy attending both her daughter’s concerts and the free concerts hosted by Music Haven.
New Haven resident Lygia Davenport had two children enrolled in the program last year and intends to enroll another one this year. She said she attended the concert with her children to support their teachers and watch them perform.
“I think it’s an amazing program. [My children have] learned so much about music and appreciation for instruments and sounds,” she said. “They’ve sat through symphonies and developed not only a great appreciation for music but also for their teachers who are phenomenal.”
This year, National Hispanic Heritage Month 2016 began on Thursday, Sept. 15 and will continue until Saturday, Oct. 15.