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VC INTERVIEW | Mark Clodfelter on Delaware University's Graduate String Quartet Assistantship Program

The university's Graduate String Quartet Assistantship Program is now led by the VC Artist Calidore Quartet


The Violin Channel recently discussed the new program with Mark Clodfelter, Interim Director of the School of Music at The University of Delaware.


The University of Delaware was founded in 1743 and offers 148 bachelor's programs, 121 master's programs, and 55 doctoral programs across its eight colleges. How does your music school integrate within this large organization?

The University of Delaware School of Music resides in the College of Arts and Sciences. At first glance, one might think we would get lost in such a large and complex academic structure.

However, we are part of an Arts portfolio within the college and have our own administrative oversight and advocate — the Associate Dean for the Arts, Dr. Suzanne Burton. This organizational structure functions quite well and we feel great support for the Arts throughout the University.


Tell us some interesting points about life in the college town of Newark?

Newark is about 40 minutes south of Philadelphia, an hour north of Baltimore, and adjoins the neighboring city of Wilmington. Newark benefits from a small-town feel, yet reaps the rewards of easy access to major metropolitan areas and all of the cultural richness that follows suit.

Main Street boasts dozens of restaurants as well as shopping, and social venues. It is a remarkable location often characterized by the vitality of student life.


In your music school, you are offering a variety of programs and degrees, from musicology to performance. Can you tell us about the chamber music ensemble-specific programs that you've more recently added? Why do you feel chamber music is becoming more and more important to the future of our industry?

Our growing emphasis on chamber music reflects a recognition not only of the value of the traditional literature, but also the shifting occupational outlook and the emergence of new, progressive forms of chamber music.

In a volatile economic climate, some large arts organizations are struggling to survive. It is more important than ever that students develop high level collaborative skills, critical problem solving, self-diagnostic abilities, and the understanding of how their entrepreneurial ideas can be leveraged to develop a viable career track.

Additionally, we are taking a very broad, inclusive view of chamber music. Though we offer robust graduate funding for our Brass Quintet, Woodwind Quintet, and String Quartet, we recognize that chamber music exists across all genres, and we are intent on integrating a more diverse array of indigenous styles into our emerging Masters in Chamber Music degree.


Your University offers both majors and minors in music. Do you think it can be beneficial for students in today’s world to minor in something totally different from music to enlarge their expertise and work opportunities?

Without a doubt, yes. Today’s market place offers harshly limited opportunities for a siloed, strictly vertical skill set. The value of the acquisition of 21st century skills cannot be over stated. As a student in a creative discipline, a narrow view of creativity is not advisable. Instead, our students should be prepared to pioneer their own place in the landscape. If we only prepare them for what was, we rob them of the opportunity to create what will be. This act of creating is their responsibility if the arts are to continue to evolve.


Can you tell us more about your faculty? For you, what are the main qualities of an outstanding music teacher?

We are privileged to be surrounded by brilliant, creative minds who comprise our faculty. They are a constant source of inspiration to me, as well as our students. The attributes of a great faculty are consistent regardless of the discipline.

A great teacher understands that you can only judge the success of your teaching by the success of your students. They see through a lens of student centricity, always looking for ways to elevate those whom they teach. They have the passion to challenge a student to reach beyond their self-imposed limitations, yet they also possess the compassion to help a student accept where they are on the path in a way that encourages and empowers.


Earlier this year you appointed the acclaimed VC Artist Calidore Quartet to establish and lead the Graduate String Quartet Assistantship program. The Calidore subsequently selected the emerging Abeo Quartet, who were recently finalists in the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York, as the inaugural two-year Graduate String Quartet Assistantship recipients. Tell us about this new program, and how will the two quartets work together?

The arrival of the Calidore Quartet, and through their efforts, the Abeo Quartet, is naturally invigorating to the School of Music. The level of talent, artistry, and energy they all bring is impactful.

This Graduate String Quartet program was developed as an elite offering, both in terms of funding and mentorship. The Calidore Quartet will work closely with the student quartet as a primary part of their role within the School of Music. This type of focused, individual attention is rare, and the results will be transformative. Members of the student group will not only benefit from artistic instruction, but they also will have a front-row seat from which to learn every crucial aspect of the business. This program will be a catalyst, a chrysalis if you will. A student group will enter, and a professional ensemble will emerge.


What kind of ensemble would most benefit from this specialized program?

The ideal ensemble is highly motivated, artistically mature, possesses a well-developed group work ethic, and aspires to greatness.


If students are interested in learning more about the school, and particularly applying to study with your Graduate String Quartet Assistantship program, how can they go about this?

Anyone interested in learning more or applying should be in touch with the Calidore Quartet and visit our website to get the application started at www.music.udel.edu

You may also contact our admissions specialist, Ms. Adrienne Harding at [email protected]


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