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Berkeley’s Crowden Music Center PresentsGrammy Award-winners Catalyst Quartet on April 21

Media contact: David Perry /  (415) 676-7007 /

Berkeley’s Crowden Music Center Presents
Grammy Award-winners Catalyst Quartet on April 21 

8 April 2024 – Berkeley, CA:   Crowden continues its 40th anniversary season on Sunday, April 21, presenting the Catalyst Quartet at 4pm. Fresh off of Chamber Music America’s Album of the Year Award, Catalyst Quartet features Crowden alumna Karla Donehew Perez (’99), who returns to her middle school stage for a memorable program of Paquito D’Rivera, Astor Piazzollo, and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson.

Hailed by The New York Times at its Carnegie Hall debut as “invariably energetic and finely burnished… playing with earthy vigor,” the Grammy Award-winning Catalyst Quartet was founded by the internationally acclaimed Sphinx Organization in 2010. Their global accomplishments range from sold-out performances from Cuba to Carnegie Hall, an impressive range of acclaimed recordings including a 2018 Grammy Award-winning 2-disc recording with Cecile McLorin Salvant, prominent residencies with SF Performances, Met Museum LiveArts series, and more. The ensemble (Karla Donehew Perez, violin (Crowden School ’99); Abi Fayette, violin; Paul Laraia, viola; and Karlos Rodriguez, cello) believes in the unity that can be achieved through music and imagine their programs and projects with this in mind, redefining and reimagining the classical music experience.

General admission tickets are $35, with discounted rates for seniors and students, and a free “Meet-the-Artists” reception. Children 8 to 18 can attend free of charge.

Crowden Music Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary this 2023-24 season, presenting illustrious alumni and faculty from throughout its history. Established in 1983 and still the only school of its kind in the country, The Crowden School’s unique chamber music-inspired curriculum for grades 3–8 features intellectually engaging collaborative academics side by side with its esteemed music program. Crowden also serves more than 1,000 community music students of all ages and levels of experience. Flagship programs for the general community include its John Adams Young Composers Program and acclaimed chamber music workshops for youth and adults. Crowden reaches a combined audience of 8,000 with a rich array of workshops, events, and concerts each year.

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Catalyst Quartet:

Hailed by The New York Times at its Carnegie Hall debut as “invariably energetic and finely burnished… playing with earthy vigor,” the Grammy Award-winning Catalyst Quartet was founded by the internationally acclaimed Sphinx Organization in 2010. The ensemble (Crowden School alumna Karla Donehew Perez (’99), violin; Abi Fayette, violin; Paul Laraia, viola; and Karlos Rodriguez, cello) believes in the unity that can be achieved through music and imagine their programs and projects with this in mind, redefining and reimagining the classical music experience.

The Catalyst Quartet, known for “perfect ensemble unity” and “unequaled class of execution” (Lincoln Journal Star), has toured widely throughout the United States and abroad, including sold-out performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., at Chicago’s Harris Theater, Miami’s New World Center, and Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall in New York. The quartet has been guest soloists with the Cincinnati Symphony, New Haven Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá, and has served as principal players and featured ensemble with the Sphinx Organization’s featured ensemble, the Sphinx Virtuosi, on six national tours. They have been invited to perform at important music festivals such as Mainly Mozart in San Diego, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Sitka Music Festival, Juneau Jazz and Classics, Strings Music Festival, and the Grand Canyon Music Festival, where they appear annually. The Catalyst Quartet was ensemble-in-residence at the Vail Dance Festival in 2016 and in the 2021-22 season were in residence with San Francisco Performances where they presented the complete series of works from their Uncovered Project. In 2014, they opened the Festival del Sole in Napa, California with Joshua Bell and participated in England’s Aldeburgh Music Foundation String Quartet Residency with two performances in Jubilee Hall. In 2022 the Catalyst Quartet was named ensemble in residence for the Chamber Music Northwest Festival in Portland and for the Met Museum’s LiveArts series in NYC.

Recent seasons have brought international engagements in Cuba, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and Puerto Rico, and expanded tours throughout the United States. The ensemble’s New York City presence has included concerts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, for Schneider Concerts at The New School, for Lincoln Center’s Great Performers Series, at the 92nd Street Y, and six concerts with GRAMMY Award-winning jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant for Jazz at Lincoln Center, for which the subsequent recording won the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. The Catalyst Quartet launched its New York concert series CQ@Howl in 2018.

Highlights of past collaborations include Encuentros, featuring a commissioned work by innovative Cuban composer Jorge Amado Molina and other voices from across the Cuban diaspora; (Im)migration: Music of Change, a collaboration with the Imani Winds; and CQ Minute, a commissioning project of 10 miniature string quartets in commemoration of the quartet’s 10th anniversary with works by Andy Akiho, Kishi Bashi, Billy Childs, Paquito D’Rivera, Tania Leon, Jessie Montgomery, Kevin Puts, Caroline Shaw, Joan Tower, and two young composers selected from a national call for scores. The quartet premiered “Passage” a chamber ballet by Jessie Montgomery in celebration of Dance Theater of Harlem on their 50th anniversary with Kennedy Center honoree Tania Leon and was ensemble-in-residence for the Vail International Dance Festival, where they collaborated with members of the Silkroad Ensemble and some of the finest dancers in the world. Catalyst Quartet’s largest ongoing project, UNCOVERED, is a multi-volume set of albums on Azica records that celebrates composers of color whose works have been overlooked by the traditional canon. Volume 1, released February 2021, includes the string quartet and quintets of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor with clarinetist Anthony McGill and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Volume 2 features works by Florence B. Price and Volume 3, released February 2023 and recently named Chamber Music America’s Album of the Year, features Coleridge-Taylor, Perkinson, William Grant Still, and George Walker.

The Catalyst Quartet’s recordings span the ensemble’s scope of interests and artistry. Its debut album, The Bach/Gould Project, features the quartet’s own collaborative arrangement of J.S. Bach’s monumental Goldberg Variations, the first ever four-voiced version of the piece, paired with Glenn Gould’s rarely heard String Quartet Op. 1. The ensemble can also be heard on Strum (Azica 2015), the solo debut album of composer Jessie Montgomery, who was a member violinist from 2012-2020; Bandoneón y cuerdas (Progressive Sounds 2017), tango-inspired music for string quartet and bandoneon by JP Jofre; and Dreams and Daggers (Mack Avenue Records 2017), a 2-CD GRAMMY-winning album with Cecile McLorin Salvant.

The Catalyst Quartet combines a serious commitment to diversity and education with a passion for contemporary works. The ensemble has served as principal faculty at the Sphinx Performance Academy at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Curtis Institute of Music. The Catalyst Quartet’s ongoing residencies include interactive performance presentations and workshops with Native American student composers at the Grand Canyon Music Festival. Past residencies have included concerts and masterclasses at The University Of Michigan, University Of Washington, Rice University’s Shepard School of Music, Houston’s Society for the Performing Arts, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, The Virginia Arts Festival, and Pennsylvania State University, and internationally at the In Harmony Project in England, The University of South Africa, and The Teatro De Bellas Artes in Cali, Colombia. The ensemble’s residency in Havana, Cuba for the Cuban American Youth Orchestra in January 2019, was the first by an American string quartet since the revolution.

The Catalyst Quartet members hold degrees from The Cleveland Institute of Music, Curtis Institute of Music, Juilliard School, and New England Conservatory. The Catalyst Quartet proudly endorses Pirastro strings.


Crowden 40th Anniversary 2023–2024 Season Calendar


April 21, 2024, 4:00pm

 Sundays @ Four: Catalyst Quartet

 Crowden Music Center (1475 Rose St., Berkeley)

Grammy® Award-winning Catalyst Quartet, featuring alumna Karla Donehew Perez (’99), tours the world to acclaim for its “perfect ensemble unity” and “unequaled class of execution” (Lincoln Journal Star).


  “But just a minute”, Paquito D’Rivera

 “Farewell mambo”, P. D’Rivera

 “Wapango”, P. D’Rivera

 Angel Suite, Astor Piazzolla (arr. Catalyst Quartet)

 Lyric Quartet, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson


May 25, 2024

Crowden 40th Anniversary Concert & Reception

  Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley

  An unforgettable showcase of Crowden alumni, mentors, and friends at Hertz Hall, including Bonnie Hampton, Audrey Vardanega, the Catalyst Quartet, and more. This program features perennial Crowden favorites paired with special moments, including a work composed by Crowden’s greatest benefactor, composer Gordon Getty, and the world premiere of a new work for two violins and string orchestra by Samuel Adams, commissioned for our 40th anniversary and premiered by two acclaimed Crowden violinists: Nora Chastain, a world-famous soloist and chamber musician and student of founder Anne Crowden, and alumnus David McCarroll (’99), Concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony, formerly a member of the famed Vienna Piano Trio.


 * World premiere! Arches by Samuel Adams (’00): A Crowden 40th anniversary commission featuring globally renowned concert artist Nora Chastain and Pittsburg Symphony Co-Concertmaster David McCarroll (’99), violin soloists

* Octet in E-Flat Major, Op. 20 by Felix Mendelssohn: Award-winning and Grammy-nominated Catalyst Quartet featuring Karla Donehew Perez (’99) with Abigail Rojansky (’03) of the acclaimed Verona Quartet, Crowden faculty, and alumni.

* Carrot Revolution by Gabriella Smith (’05): New music local superstars, Friction Quartet

* Primavera Porteña (from The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) by Astor Piazzolla: Virtuoso Audrey Vardanega (’09), piano, with distinguished summer faculty member Ariana Kim, violin

* Four Traditional Pieces by Gordon Getty (40th Anniversary Concert Honoree): Crowden students

* Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams (an Anne Crowden favorite): Internationally recognized violinist Kenneth Renshaw (’08), concertmaster of a Crowden faculty and alumni orchestra

* Original composition by Nicole Targosz (John Adams Young Composers Program student): The Crowden School Lower School Orchestra


May 26, 2024

 Crowden 40th Anniversary Alumni Brunch

 Crowden Music Center (1475 Rose St., Berkeley)

 Crowden alumni from all programs, alum families from all eras, and current and former faculty from throughout Crowden’s history to join us for a joyous brunch honoring Crowden alums from the past 40 years.