Enloe’s WCPE String Quartet Heads to the National Stage

Every year, The Classical Station (“WCPE”) sponsors a quartet from central North Carolina. The quartet consists of four of the most talented high school string musicians in the area, and the group travels and competes across the country. This year, two of the chosen quartet members are Enloe students.

Yates (left) and Jung (Center)

Jaeyee Jung, who has been playing the violin for ten years, and Catherine Yates, who has been playing the cello for eleven, are both juniors in the WCPE String Quartet. They recently returned from the Saint Paul String Quartet Competition, which took place on April 9th at Hamline University, Minnesota, where they won Audience Favorite for the event. The quartet also competed in the University of South Carolina Chamber Day on March 26th, where they won First Place and Audience Favorite.

The WCPE Quartet has been active for the last seven years, being formed in 2015. With new members every year and WCPE’s name holding so much weight, joining the quartet has become a competitive endeavor, only accepting the best high school musicians in the area. “It’s been my dream since I was a little kid to be in this group,” said Yates. Members of the quartet are awarded scholarships for membership in the North Carolina Chamber Music Institute (NCCMI), which grants many opportunities to orchestra students. “As one of the scholarship quartets, we get a lot of these opportunities, like masterclasses with world-class musicians,” said Jung.

Being made up of only four members, performing in the quartet is very different from performing in Enloe’s orchestras. “It’s a much more intimate setting, so you really need to know your part because generally, it’s only you on your part and everyone else is relying on you… so it’s important that you have a great understanding of your own part as well as other people’s parts,” said Yates. “Communication is so much more important here. If you want to make a musical choice, you have to communicate that, whether it’s body language or verbally telling them beforehand,” said Jung.

While the quartet’s environment is certainly different from Enloe’s orchestras, the two have found that Enloe’s orchestras have prepared them for their work in WCPE. The two musicians hold leadership roles in their orchestras, with Jung being the concertmaster (first violin) of the Enloe Symphony Orchestra, and Yates is a cello section leader. On the value gained from student leadership at Enloe, Yates explained, “Being a leader in these orchestras means that you have to know your part the best… You’re expected to really provide some guidance to your other members of the section and while playing music, you’re meant to act as an intermediary between the conductor and the section as well.” “Also, Ms. Ju has been so supportive of the WCPE quartet. For example, in our last competition, there was an audience favorite award and she promoted so much through Remind and it paid off,” mentioned Jung.

Their musical selection this year includes String Quartet in G major, Op. 76 No. 1, I. Allegro con spirito by Joseph Haydn as their baroque piece, String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 41, IV. Presto by Robert Schumann as their romantic piece, and Strum by Jessica Montgomery as their modern piece. Strum, being composed by a woman of color, is not a common occurrence in classical music competitions. “In general, these kinds of pieces are not popular, like you’ll typically see Beethoven, Bartok, and Mendelssohn, so that’s why I really appreciated doing Strum because this is actually my first time branching out and doing something like that,” said Yates. 

Regarding what she gained from her experience in WCPE so far, Yates explained, “In WCPE, it’s expected that you play at a higher level and so I think it’s put this sort of positive pressure on me to really get to understand the music much more and it’s given me a much greater appreciation for the music because I’ve gotten to understand it more.” They both noted that participating in the quartet has given them a greater appreciation for NCCMI and its programs.

 The WCPE Quartet in an airport.

The WCPE Quartet will be competing in their last competition from May 20-22 at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition at Notre Dame University, the largest and oldest chamber music competition in the United States. The quartet is competing alongside nineteen other high school quartets across the country who were qualified to compete to win access to more masterclasses and gold medals. 

To stay informed on all things WCPE and Enloe Orchestra, follow @thenccmi and @enloeorchestra on Instagram.