Students from The Fletcher Academy filed into the gymnasium this past Monday morning, amid a rush of voices and the sound of heavy rain outside. Despite the dreary weather conditions, excitement was stirring in the room as a special music performance was about to begin.
Of course, this was no ordinary school assembly—the featured performers for the day were the members of the Borromeo String Quartet, an award-winning group of musicians that has played chamber music all over the world. And as the audience would soon learn, the instruments in their hands were no ordinary ones, either.
The morning began with a few remarks from Fletcher Academy Board Chair Jim Goodmon, who explained the Fletcher Foundation’s unique connection to the Quartet’s first violinist, Nicholas Kitchen:
“In 1987, the Foundation received a letter from a professor at UNC- Wilmington, and it said there was a terrific violinist in Durham named Nicholas who was going to have a great career. All he needed was a great violin. We’d never received a letter like that but we were so curious…We looked into it and eventually purchased a Stradivarius violin.”
That violin is now on loan to Nicholas Kitchen. Nicholas has performed for many years on the A.J. Fletcher Stradivarius, but currently plays the Goldberg Del Gesu violin. The Foundation has allowed Kristopher Tong, the second violinist of the Borromeo Quartet, to use the Fletcher Stradivarius.
Throughout the program, Nicholas told stories about the rich history of all their instruments and the musical selections they played. Their musicianship was captivating and vibrant, evoking a wide range of emotional responses from the audience. The students were attentive over the course of the assembly. But at the end of the concert, they erupted into thunderous applause, and even gave a standing ovation!
The students took part in a lively question and answer session following the performance, asking several insightful questions.
Paul Atkinson, Headmaster of the Fletcher Academy, shared a story with us from later in the day that speaks to the profound impact the performance had on the audience:
After the concert, the Quartet led a Science of Sound workshop in the Physics classroom at the Fletcher Academy. At the end of the workshop, I chatted with members of the quartet.
During a pause in the conversation, I noticed a student standing off to the side, eyes fixated on Nicholas Kitchen. I called her over and asked, “Do you have a question you wish to ask?”
She nodded yes and stepped up close to Nicholas.
In a soft voice she asked, “Do you ever get chills when you play music?”
Nick smiled and answered, “Oh, yes! Sometimes I do, and when I get them, that’s a very special feeling, indeed.”
The student smiled and stood there, reveling in the moment.
Wanting to know more, I asked, “Did you get chills at the concert?”
“Oh, yes!” she eagerly replied.
For the students of the Fletcher Academy and everyone who was present in that room, Monday morning was deeply moving. We had a great time with the Borromeo Quartet and are grateful to work with such talented and passionate people!