I attended a performance of the Carpe Diem Quartet at Grusin Music Hall on Monday, 26
November. Each member of Carpe Diem is a top-notch string player, and the sum of their
efforts equates to a world-class musical product.
This concert was programmed beautifully for my tastes as they performed several different
styles. The program contained pieces based on ancient Persian tuning systems, Gypsy tunes,
Turkish music, and a set of Americana bluegrass music.
I enjoyed every moment of the performance, but was most intrigued with the last set of works,
the fiddle suite “Montana.” Korine Fujiwara, one of the violinists in the Carpe Diem Quartet,
composed this suite and based it on her musical experiences as a child growing up in
Montana. Korine wrote beautiful melodies over rich chords, but also included energetic
sections that sounded like a down-home barn stomp. It was evident that each performer
enjoyed these sections, because they seemed to both relax their posture and move their
bodies more freely to the bluegrass grooves.
This style of music piques my interest because I have spent quite a bit of time performing
bluegrass and country music on steel-string acoustic guitar. I was enjoying the performance
so much that I secretly took out my iPhone and recorded a few moments for reference as I
I feel strongly that there is an opportunity for music that exists in between the concert stage
and bluegrass and country venues to flourish. Artists have crossed those lines countless times
before. Artists like Yo-Yo Ma, , Béla Fleck, Chris Thile and students in academia across the
nation have crossed from one side to the other. Yo-Yo Ma’s Appalachian Waltz album
showcases his masterful approach to Americana, Chris Thile’s Bach Sonata’s and Partita’s put
him in a classical music category rarely achieved by mandolin players.
But I believe there is both an artistic and commercial opportunity here in Colorado and beyond
to introduce music that exists between the classical and popular styles. Two realities convince
me that this is a worthy argument and endeavor. First, the music industry, particularly
Nashville, has been simplifying and homogenizing popular country music for many years.
Despite the spread of music accessibility on the internet, bluegrass and country genres retain a
large following, as evidenced by the number of festivals here in Colorado. They have retained
a grass-roots popularity, even if the commercial country music business pushes out more and
more music that is synthesized with other popular styles in the hopes of expanding their
Second, the immense pool of talent in the classical world has not diminished, and perhaps it
has expanded. String players coming out of academia, like Korine Fujiwara, Clara Kim, Sharon
Park, Zach Reaves, Eric Haugen can still wow audiences, whether they are performing a Haydn
String Quartet or raunchy bluegrass riff. As entertainment consumers, we want these
performers to blow our minds and melt our hearts. There was a time when the music industry
wondered if digital samples and the electronic reproduction of instruments could replace
human performance. We know that not to be the case because humans love the experience of
witnessing other humans doing masterful things, especially in music, where our minds are
stimulated along with our hearts.
One of my ambitions while studying here at CU is to create and perform music that thrives at
both the concert stage and bluegrass and country venues. For more sophisticated audiences I
want to introduce music that resembles the popular styles that they hear in their everyday lives.
And for audiences that are used to simple, driving popular music, I want to show off the jaw-
dropping talents possessed by these classically trained instrumentalists. The Carpe Diem
Quartet performance stimulated musical interests, touched my heart, and inspired me to
articulate these ambitions.