The members of the Music Haven string quartet lifted their bows, ready to begin the third movement of Mozart’s “String Quartet in G. Major, K. 387.” One note hanging in the air became three, then four, then five, frenetically overlapping as the musicians made quick eye contact and looked back to their stands in the low red light. Behind them, a scale model of the earth bounced into view and began to swell and spin.
Was this a post-Oscars party to celebrate the good fortune of Gravity last weekend?
Nope. Not even close.
It was much, much more: Music Haven’s first annual Gala and Silent Auction, held Saturday at Yale’s Leitner Planetarium.
Aptly named “Music Under the Stars,” the event wasted no time in getting to Music Haven’s mission: community, and specifically the city’s young musicians.
The Gala’s concert portion began with an inspired and inspiring presentation of S. Suzuki’s “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” (in video), featuring Music Haven students Reign Bowman (violin), Isabel Melchinger (cello), Jailene Resto (violin) and Cristina Vallejo (violin) as well as the organization’s stupefyingly good string quartet.
Using the song as her springboard, founder and executive director Tina Hadari explained afterwards that the venue could not be more fitting: “We reach for the stars through our mission.”
Throughout the concert, which included works by Mozart, Maurice Ravel, Arvo Pärt and Benjamin Britten set to a stunning lighting design by Yale’s Heidi Herrick, the musicians didn’t just reach for the stars, they got there. As Colin Benn, Yaira Matyakubova, Gregory Tompkins and Philip Boulanger wowed with their precision and grace, the audience was transported through a series of black holes, supernovas and churning clouds that would have the classical purist and tech enthusiast shaking hands across the aisle.
If attendees felt like they were floating through a magical, melodious galaxy under the planetarium’s domed ceiling, they likely felt it afterwards too as they mingled with Prosecco and placed their bids on a variety of items, the proceeds of which went to funding Music Haven’s various costs of operation
The best prizes of the evening? A baking night with developmental director Netta Hadari, a wine-themed Easter basket, and a romantic New England vacation for two that – if winter ever ends – will be quite the luxury.
Under the glorious din of laughter, a more serious conversation took place about the work Music Haven does. Architect Jay Bright (pictured above), who has been on the board for three years, said of the event: “It’s a wonderful group of people, the musicians, the students, and the volunteers. And it’s not just music lessons for kids. It’s a commitment to the community of New Haven that’s just amazing. And we’re part that. It’s for us too.”
Mike Duffy, a volunteer at Music Haven for two years, added: “It’s an organization with the spirit of community at heart. The fact that they have taught so many children and young adults to play instruments is just wonderful. We’ve watched them [the students] develop and grow.”
Music Haven violin student Sania Eichler shared that beyond a new sense of community, her weekly lessons with Tompkins had given her a boost in confidence: “I enjoy it…I feel more confident.” Her grandmother Ola “Yvonne” Spann, who volunteers for the organization on top of two jobs, added: “Being around other people is bringing the shyness out of her. And I’m very happy, very appreciative…a lot of inner-city children don’t get to be exposed to music. We thank Music Haven with all our hearts.”
Teaching has also had a profound effect on the members of the string quartet. Tompkins, who joined in August, observed: “It’s been really amazing, getting to perform in these venues…especially when I’ve jumped on at a point when there are already so many relationships with the New Haven community. I feel like I really lucked into it.”
Also a newcomer, cellist Philip Boulanger added: “It’s my first season, but I’d been following Music Haven for at least four or five years. There are only a handful of organizations like it in the country who are both centered around a professional quartet or string ensemble and teaching in the community. For me, it’s just the perfect combination of all the things I love…working closely with families, fostering those sorts of relationships, and making music with great people. It’s quite a great fit.”
Veteran violinist Yaira Matyakubova echoed him: “What Tina has started is so beautiful and so inspiring. I feel that it’s a privilege to be part of this mission.”
It doesn’t hurt that the dynamic four have been brought closer together by their involvement in spreading and making music. “We travel in a pack,” Tomkins explained, looking around for the other three at the end of the evening.
When the Gala ended around 10pm, attendees spilled out of the planetarium to take in what had become the clearest of nights. The sky stretched itself like a great tarp over New Haven. The stars glinted a little brighter.
Given the competition still packing their music cases inside, they all but had to.
Music Haven’s next performance is this Friday, 7pm at Sudler Performance Hall at Yale University. Find more about it here.