Courtesy of Mike Grittani

Four new faces will join the Yale music scene next year as the Callisto Quartet begins its two-year residency at the Yale School of Music.

The quartet, composed of violinists Paul Aguilar and Rachel Stenzel, violist Eva Kennedy and cellist Hannah Moses, has been selected as Yale School of Music’s newest fellowship quartet-in-residence. Even as a young group, they have performed extensively, including in New York City as part of the Schneider Concert Series and at Ravinia Music Festival in Chicago. The group has won prizes in major chamber music competitions and, most recently, served as graduate string quartet in residence at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. At Yale, they will study with the Brentano String Quartet — the School of Music’s faculty Ensemble in Residence — and coach undergraduate chamber groups.

“Yale will be a fantastic opportunity because we’ll be able to be teaching undergrad music students,” said Aguilar. “We’re really looking forward to that, we love teaching. Teaching is an essential part of how we learn ourselves. We think it’s one and the same, the way that we teach ourselves and learn to diagnose problems and find effective solutions for ourselves is exactly what we do with other students.”

The Quartet formed in 2016, according to their website. The members met at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where they were all pursuing individual degrees. Kennedy said that their common dedication to the pursuit of a career in chamber music brought them together.

The quartet quickly found success in several prestigious chamber music competitions, winning the grand prize at the 2018 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and the second prize at the 2019 Banff International String Quartet Competition. They were also prize winners at the 2018 Melbourne, the 2018 Wigmore Hall and the 2019 Bordeaux competitions.

“What impresses me especially about them is that they — I don’t want to suggest that this is an unusual attribute — but they are 100 percent totally serious about this, all the time,” said Misha Amory, violist of the Brentano Quartet. “I don’t think I’ve met another young quartet that’s so much in earnest and so determined and focused to hone their art at all times and in all ways.”

Brentano Quartet violinist Serena Canin said the Callisto Quartet’s cohesion manifests in their playing, and they have an “earnest way of expressing themselves” through music.

She also said the quartet’s musicians seem to rehearse well together and enjoy each other’s company. Canin noted that this is not always the case, as sometimes there are tensions between members of a group.

“I’m hoping to help them broaden their vision of music,” Canin said. “I think, when you play in a quartet, it’s very easy to get caught up in playing together, and I’d like to help them see bigger shapes in the music and maybe just get in touch with the larger picture, the larger message of music, so that they’re playing with perhaps greater freedom.”

The Callisto Quartet has also faced adversity in its young career. Kennedy said that one of the group’s main challenges is the limited financial compensation they receive for their work. This has been especially true during the pandemic with the absence of in-person concerts. Since string quartets are individually formed and do not receive institutional funding, performing in one brings financial uncertainty.

According to the School of Music’s website, the Yale Fellowship Quartet-in-Residence program offers a yearly stipend of $15,000 per quartet member, in addition to an annual performance opportunity in Yale’s Morse Recital Hall. The fellowship can support quartets that are no longer students but not “full-blown professionals” either, Amory said. He added that the program serves as a “harbor” for young quartets as they work to establish themselves in the chamber music scene.

“It’s funny to have somebody ask the question, how have we had so much success,” Aguilar said. “I don’t think we would view it necessarily in that way, because there’s certainly been a lot of disappointments, a lot of challenges, and really, for us, it’s about the music, it’s about playing at the highest possible level. So, any successes or recognitions that come along the way are just road signs along that journey that we hope to continue for as long as we are playing together … for us, playing the best we can, learning this amazing music and presenting it to people the best we can, that’s the number one priority.”

The Callisto Quartet will succeed the Omer Quartet — the current fellowship quartet-in-residence.