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Our Mission

"Celebrate excellence in string quartet playing, foster an increased appreciation for the chamber music art form, and enhance the music culture in this country."

Founded in 2006 as a performance forum for outstanding high school chamber musicians, the Saint Paul String Quartet Competition's primary mission is to celebrate excellence in string quartet playing, foster an increased appreciation for the chamber music art form, and enhance the music culture in this country. The SPSQC has garnered a national reputation for showcasing our nations finest pre-college string players and young artists from this event now populate the most prestigious conservatories and music programs in the country.

The competition is open to quartets whose members are 19 years or younger. Unidentified copies of quartets’ audition recordings are reviewed and individually ranked by a preliminary jury of three from across the country. The top scoring quartets are invited to St. Paul to perform in the Final Round event, juried by a renowned professional string quartet. Both the preliminary and final juries consist of members of renowned international quartets.

The SPSQC Awards include $3,000 in prize money, a set of beautiful handmade wooden stands from Anderson Music Stands for the Gold medal quartet, and a set of Lotus Stand Lights for the Silver Medalists.

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Genesis

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Apples to Apples

The exceptional Saint Paul String Quartet Competition (SPSQC) was created to encourage the development of and provide a performance opportunity for pre-college string players from across the country to display advanced levels of preparation and performance of chamber music. Modeled on the proven success of the Banff International, Fischoff National, Concert Artist Guild, and other similar events, the SPSQC has emerged as a unique contest for string quartets. With the preliminary and final jurors having extensive professional string quartet experience, and with only string quartets competing, the SPSQC allows a straightforward and fair comparison of "apples to apples".



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Process

"If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music...I get most joy in life out of my violin" - Albert Einstein 1929

How do you compare several different string quartets? So many subjective preferences go into the equation. At the outset we attempt to level the playing field as much as possible. As the renowned Eugene Lehner of the legendary Kolisch Quartet made plain, "all good quartet players must know Haydn and the Classical Era - the birthplace of the quartet". Thus, the first required element of the competition became clear; a celebrated string quartet by Joseph Haydn.

What else is indicative of accomplishment as a quartet? Each group must show its sonic palette and technical capacity in a variety of style periods. Here a Romantic/Nationalist Era work emerges as important. Beethoven/Schubert and Debussy/Ravel quartet masterpieces frame this range.

How about something modern or contemporary?
For our high school quartets, a work of musical expression from the modern era is vital to establishing the quartet’s complete range of stylistic awareness and technical accomplishment. Some groups choose well-established compositions, others more avant-garde or cutting edge - all to best suit the style of the ensemble and all of it quality string quartet music.

What happens now? Each of the ensembles prepares and submits a recording from the three required musical periods in early March. The pre-liminary jury members listen individually to unidentified copies of the applicants' recordings. They then return detailed written comments on the submitted performances. Each piece is scored in the categories of Tone Quality, Intonation, Ensemble & Balance, and Musical Ideas. The groups receiving the highest overall scores are invited to compete in the Final Round event in St. Paul.



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Apply Now

Come to St. Paul and Meet the Best in Chamber Music

Click the GREEN Digital Applicationbutton below to start the online registration. Make sure you have read over the Rules & Regulations on the Competition page first. If you have any questions contact the Administrator.

Submit your digital application



Eligibilty

About us

Founded in 2006 as a performance forum for outstanding high school chamber musicians, the Saint Paul String Quartet Competition's primary mission is to celebrate excellence in string quartet playing, foster an increased appreciation for the chamber music art form, and enhance the music culture in this country. The SPSQC has garnered a national reputation for showcasing our nations finest pre-college string players and young artists from this event now populate the most prestigious conservatories and music programs in the country.

The competition is open to quartets whose members are 19 years or younger. Unidentified copies of quartets’ audition recordings are reviewed and individually ranked by a preliminary jury of three from across the country. The top scoring quartets are invited to St. Paul to perform in the Final Round event, juried by a renowned professional string quartet. Both the preliminary and final juries consist of members of reknowned quartets including the Arianna, Chiara, Daedalus, Jupiter, Maia, Miami, Miro, Rackham, Takacs and former members of the Artaria String Quartet.

The SPSQC Awards include $2,600 in Gold, Silver, and Bronze prize money, and a set of beautiful handmade wooden stands from Anderson Music Stands for the winning quartet. More important, the performers take away a profound sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well done.


"Where they are now"

Latest News

The 2015 Saint Paul String Quartet Competition (SPSQC), the nation’s only event for string quartets alone, was held in Sundin Music Hall on the campus of Hamline University. Six outstanding high school quartets from a field of quartets spanning the entire country were invited to compete in two rounds of competition judged by the renowned St. Lawrence String Quartet. Once again the preparation and level of the performances was exemplary, and each quartet presented their unique voice to the rapt audience in attendance and online. Chamber music is in good hands for the future. This year’s Gold medalist ensemble was the Atara String Quartet from the Music Institute of Chicago. Their fourth movement of Rochberg Quartet No.3 was outstanding and their rendition of the opening movement of the Mendelssohn Op.80 quartet was breathtaking. The Verita Quartet from the Chamber Music Connection (Columbus, Ohio) won the Silver medals with a lush and expressive performance of first movement of the Debussy Quartet and an electrifying ‘Allegro violent ed agitato’ movement of Ginastera Quartet No.1. The Pike Street Quartet from Seattle took the Bronze medals with a powerful rendition of the last movement of Bartók Quartet No.4 and a beautiful and sensitive reading of Beethoven Op.132 (also the final movement). Pike Street Quartet also took home the coveted Haydn Prize.

The jury for the 2015 SPSQC Final Round was the renowned St Lawrence String Quartet. Prelim judges were Cathy Meng Robinson, violinist of the Miami String Quartet, John Largesse violist of the Miró Quartet, and Laura Thielke, cellist of the Artaria Quartet of Boston. The Saint Paul String Quartet competition was founded in 2006 by Artaria String Quartet violinist Ray Shows. Mr. Shows is the Artistic Director and Administrator of this annual event.

The SPSQC has now presented its 10th National High School String Quartet Competition. Created as a performance showcase for advanced quartet studies, this unique national event has received superlative acclaim by Strings magazine and recognition by Chamber Music America and many of the most renowned teachers in the country. Its stated aim is to “celebrate excellence in string quartet playing (and) foster an increased appreciation for the chamber music art form, and enhance the music culture in this country.”

The Saint Paul String Quartet Competition is open to high school string quartets from around the country and is always adjudicated by a professional string quartet. With only string quartets competing, it is a simple comparison of ‘apples to apples’. Groups from across the country submit CD recordings of three masterworks of the repertoire. These unedited performances are evaluated by independent jurors in the categories: Tone Quality, Intonation, Ensemble & Balance, and Musical Ideas. The top scoring quartets are invited to compete for prizes and cash awards in a Haydn Round and a Final Round.

 

Click here for the web stream link: to the 2015 Competition

Gold Medalists Silver Medalists Bronze Medalists

Distinguished Juries

St. Lawrence String Quartet
Cuarteto Latinoamericano
Shanghai Quartet
Escher Quartet
Pacifica String Quartet
Cavani String Quartet
Daedalus String Quartet
Arianna String Quartet
Miro Quartet
Maia Quartet
The SPSQC has the finest adjudication in chamber music. In addition to a superb cadre of professional quartets for the Final Rounds, the SPSQC has engaged members of the Miami String Quartet, Artaria Quartet of Boston, Enso Quartet, Concord String Quartet, Ames Piano Quartet, Alexander Quartet, Miami String Quartet, Rackham String Quartet, Colorado Quartet, Fry Street Quartet, Bergonzi Quartet, Jupiter Quartet, Chiara String Quartet, and Takacs Quartet to serve as preliminary round evaluators.

 

Distinguished Supporters

Sewell Family Foundation
Claire Givens Violins
Schubert Club
John Waddle Violins
Michael Antonello
Dennis Carey & Bruce Taylor
Anna H. Heilmaer Foundation
House of Note
Peter Dahlen
James & Perry Leger
Artaria String Quartet
The SPSQC receives outstanding and diverse community support for this unique event. Please join us in the mentoring and education of this country's next generation of stellar chamber musicians.You can visit the Support page to see what projects need your financial support.