Sandy's final bow with the gang
The Miró Quartet is losing its rock.
Second violinist Sandy Yamamoto, who's been with the ensemble for 15 of its 16 years, will play her last concert as a member this Sunday, May 8. With one son about to start kindergarten and another turning 2, Yamamoto and husband Daniel Ching, Miró's first violinist, decided they wanted to give the boys "a little more stability" and have one parent home with them all the time. The prospect of missing out on her sons' childhood years may be the only thing that could pull Yamamoto away from a job she loves as much as her Miró gig. "It was a now-or-never kind of thing," she says. "I don't think I would have this kind of courage to step away ever again."
Imagining the quartet without Yamamoto's blazing passion and strength – her colleagues have told her that she's their rock – may be hard for Miró devotees, but they can take comfort in knowing that she'll remain in Austin and still make music. She will continue to teach violin at the University of Texas' Butler School of Music, where Miró has been the string quartet in residence since 2007, and will play violin in recitals on her own and with other musicians – maybe even as a guest artist with the Miró Quartet, she jokes. Here, Yamamoto discusses leaving the quartet and programming her farewell concert.
Sandy Yamamoto: It's definitely bittersweet, and there are moments when I question: "Did I do the right thing?" We've been rehearsing this week for our concert coming up, and I realized how much playing in this group meant to me. There's something amazing about being surrounded by three very inspiring musicians, and I get so much out of it. I'm going to miss it so much, but I'm very thankful for the 15 years that I had with them, making great music. I had a great time.
Austin Chronicle: How was the program for your final performance selected?
SY: I had played all the fall concerts, but the February concert [the other members] played with someone they were auditioning. This last concert, though, I really wanted to play, because the one thing that was programmed was the Mendelssohn Octet with the Aeolus Quartet, our student group. I really wanted to play that with my group and with them, because we've spent two years so closely mentoring them, and one of the violinists is my student. I also wanted a last time to play quartets with my colleagues. At first, my colleagues said, "Why don't you pick something that you really want to play?" So I thought about this for at least a month, but it was almost impossible because every time I started thinking about what I wanted to play, it made it more sad and nostalgic, and I just couldn't decide. So I said, "Why don't you guys come up some pieces that you really want to play with me?" So the guys all came up with two or three pieces, and the Dvorák A-flat Quartet was the common thread in all the guys' choices. It's a wonderful piece, and it's a pretty nice second violin part, which is cool. It's actually a very appropriate piece, because it's one of the pieces that really made me want to play second violin. I'm just glad that we're playing something that everyone wanted to play.
It's funny, I don't think we really ever discuss things like, "Oh, we all want to play this." In that regard, this is kind of special. It's one of the pieces we all want to play.
The Miró Quartet performs Sunday, May 8, 4pm, at Bates Recital Hall, 2350 Robert Dedman Dr., on the UT campus. For more information, call 471-5401 or visit www.music.utexas.edu.